Fashion Designers share their humble beginnings in fashion

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Nine women artists gathered at the Downtown Boston Business Improvement Center on Wednesday to share their stories of passion and hard work in the world of fashion. Comedian and model Bethany Van Delft hosted the show on Oct. 3.

Van Delft said the goal of the night was to understand through these women’s stories that “fashion is not frivolous.” Their stories portrayed the idea that fashion is about the people behind the clothes; the designers, photographers, makeup artists and marketing people.

The audience was invited to participate in the show by answering the prompt “In 140 characters or less, tell us about a time you unleashed your fashion goddess.” The prompt was given to the public to answer anonymously before the show started. Van Delft emphasized the word “goddess” from the prompt, explaining how the word is related to feminism.

The artists’ names were written on scrap paper and randomly picked out of a bag by Van Delft to determine the order of presenters. The first artist selected was Mariolga Pantazopoulus, a Puerto Rican makeup artist, who discussed how she got into the fashion industry.

“Makeup came naturally to me, it was like breathing,” said Pantazopoulus. “I didn’t have to think about it but I never saw it as a career.”

She came to New York and completed her studies in college in fashion merchandising and marketing. Meeting new people and exploring the vast artistic world allowed her to find her passion for makeup.

“By exposing myself to fashion shows, I went to school for fashion, I surrounded myself with people that were doing works of styling,” said Pantazopoulus. “Little by little, I started doing the makeup for the photoshoots, or fashion shows, or theater.”

At the beginning of her career she started doing photoshoot tests, and over time, more important jobs started arriving at Pantazopoulos’ door.

However, she shared that there were also bad experiences that demotivated her to keep working hard in her field. She kept a positive mindset despite the troublesome times she experienced after moving to the U.S.

“They are not failures,” said Pantazopoulus. “Each experience taught me something, [like] living [in] the moment.”

Pantazopoulus emphasized that her passion for makeup was discovered thanks to interactions with people with similar interests.

The producer and founder of Boston Caribbean Fashion Week Althea Blackford was selected to speak towards the end of the show. In the same way that Pantazopoulus found her passion by interacting with people with the same interests, Blackford found her passion for fashion because of her family.

Her Jamaican and Barbadian heritage inspired the creation of Caribbean Fashion Week, whose main goal is to show the city of Boston a mix of Caribbean culture and fashion, although the event is not only for Caribbean designers.

Before Blackford had this idea, she created a show at Boston Neighborhood Network named “Style It Up,” which was a locally focused, weekly fashion show.

She recalled being immersed in the world of fashion since she was young because her mother loved to design and create new clothes for her. She explained that she was the girl at school everyone wanted to dress like because her mom followed the latest trends.

Both Blackford and Holly Nichols, a fashion illustrator from Massachusetts, use visual arts to show the world of fashion, but Blackford’s style focuses on fashion shows while Nichols bases her work on fashion illustrations.

Nichols started uploading her sketches and illustrations on Instagram. She currently has 750 thousand followers and has collaborated on different campaigns, including one with TRESemmé.

Nichols does not think the meaning of the word “influencer” reflects her work on Instagram because she is not influencing her audience to follow certain rules or believe in certain ideas. She wants her followers to be inspired and connected with the art and fashion world.

“I became a slave to social media,” said Nichols. “I got to a point were I would post around three times a day.”

Pleasing her audience became her obsession. The fashion illustrator said she responded to everybody’s direct messages on Instagram and read most of the comments. This situation, Nichols explained, took over her life. She would feel stressed because she needed to create more content, which distanced herself from her family and friends, and set her farther away from her goals.

Currently, she dedicates more time to sharing content she feels happy with and is passionate about, not as a way to please her followers.

Other speakers were Historian and Artist Kimberly Alexander, CEO and Co-Founder of the company 19th Amendment Amanda Curtis, Co-Founder and Chief Merchant at M. Gemi Maria Gangemi, Director of the Fabric Discovery Center Diana Jaye Coluntino, CEO of Dependable Cleaners Christa Hagearty, and Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Peabody Essex Museum Petra Slinkard.

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