Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Venny Etienne Reflects On His Recent Study Abroad Trip To Paris

For many, Paris is a dream destination. For recent Wade College graduate (class Salutatorian no less!) and emerging fashion designer Venny Etienne, the dream became a "life changing" reality after a sports bomber jacket and tailored pants, inspired by athletic shoes translated into ready-to-wear concepts, garnered him the top prize in the Fashion Group International Scholarship Competition. Etienne had entered the prestigious competition twice before but always left empty-handed. The third time was a charm with him taking home three prizes – a cash scholarship and two grand prizes – for the FGI’s Best of Sewing Award resulting in an industrial sewing machine plus the coveted FGI Paris American Academy Couture Award. This past June 30, Etienne packed his bags and headed to the fashion capital of the world for an all-expenses-paid, study-abroad program.

On his time at the FGI Paris American Academy Etienne muses, "The professors at the school have 20+ years’ experience in haute couture - working for houses such as Nina Ricci and Christian Dior just to name a few. My professor, Xavier Brisoux, was chief in pushing me outside of the box. I knew to leave whatever ego or knowledge I had of fashion at the doorstep in Dallas and come to Paris with a clean slate to learn. There were many times I would have a one-on-one session with my professor about an inspiration idea, and he would know how to take it 3-4 steps deeper. Seeing his process of how he dissects a concept to its core was beyond belief to me. He would be able to connect nature with science to pop culture and join it all back to the inspiration. Witnessing this had me reflect on my own design process and how all along, I’ve only touched the surface of a concept.

Etienne in front of the Louvre museum in Paris
During his months in Paris, he met with designers; took rigorous classes in advanced couture techniques, fashion design, pattern making and product development; visited renowned museums; and explored architecture for inspiration. Among the many high points, he got a rare opportunity to work behind the scenes during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week where the biggest names in fashion – think Chanel, Dior, Valentino and Elie Saab – took to the runway, attracting celebrities and media from across the world.

"I remember walking the streets late at night with my sketchbook in hand, sitting on the steps of the Seine River simply sketching away for hours. Ideas would run through my head like a racing car at the Indy 500. It can definitely get like that while in Paris because everywhere you turn is an inspiration. Paris in itself is injected with so much history and beauty even the details of windows, balustrades, balconies or a door knob inspired me," said Etienne.

"Paris allowed me to understand my aesthetic and gave it more meaning and substance. That is the major key and vital component that I learned while in Paris that will be with me for my entire design career." The 28-year-old merchandising and design major, who lives at Southside on Lamar, expects to graduate in September 2015.

This year Etienne also was named the National RAW Artist Fashion Designer of the Year title, defeating hundreds of up-and-coming professional designers from America’s top cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and more. As part of the prize package, he’ll showcase his spring 2016 collection at LA Style Fashion Week this October. It’s a huge boost, as standard fees to show usually range from $4,500 to $45,000! Clearly, this designer is one to watch. You can check out his line Levity at http://www.levenity.com.

photos provided by Venny Etienne