Earlier this year, I attended Fashion On The Hudson and spotted Imani Lia Whyte’s Collection called ImaniLia. I was captivated by the chicness and classy couture look of her designs. My good friend, also a designer saw my pictures of ImaniLia and knew that Imani had to design her 30th Birthday Dress. During that design meeting, I was able to get to know Imani and take a tour of her previous designs and how ImaniLia was born.
Hi Imani! So, nice of you to let me crash the design meeting 🙂 So, you started designing at 10yrs old, what was your inspiration? Who were your teachers?
My Mom sewed and I would ask her to teach me. She would say she would but, I realized that she was scared to because as a child a sewing machine can be dangerous. She didn’t get around to teaching me so I taught myself. There were four machines in my house. So, I started to deconstruct clothing and reconstruct. Later on I attended Fashion Industries High School where I learned how to drape and my passion took off from there.
*In between Imani was showing me her past designs, from her high school prom dress which she sewed and designed to these hot platform shoes. Yes, she designs and makes shoes and bags! I also got a tutorial in making shoes. Did you know the form for making shoes is called lasts and that for each shape, size and height there are different lasts?? Now, you know! I loved this orange couture corset Imani made in college. I want that for New Year’s! Ok, back to the interview…
When did you finally form ImaniLia?
ImaniLia was established in 1997. When I went to college I had a small clientele. I would send items to NY. It was a lot of work. I went away to school in Savannah and appreciated NY because there were only four fabric stores in the whole city. I was used to a place that had blocks of fabric stores. That certainly makes you a better designer because it forces you to work outside your element. I returned to NY this year from college and relaunched ImaniLia. I’m planning a big show for Fall 2010. I’ll be designing a whole new line. I also make head pieces and headbands. The Fall Show will consist of about twenty pieces and will be a play upon a day in the life of a woman, going from day wear to evening wear. I’m an evening wear designer, so there will definitely be that element mixed with some ready wear and couture pieces.
I always wanted to go into couture! I always felt that after jeans and t-shirts where else am I suppose to go with my designs. It was too simple to stick to just that…nothing about me is simple! I want people to feel special when wearing my clothing so I only plan to release twenty pieces of a particular look. So, you, the consumer, know that only twenty people in the country, the world is wearing that design!
What type of roadmap would you give to new and emerging designers? What should designers absolutely do when it comes to their business and designs and what pitfalls should be avoided?
Know what u want to do as a designer and focus on that! Designers get so caught up with doing multiple things, for example designing mens and women’s wear. That may be a pitfall. I know who my client is. My client is a woman who goes out. It’s important that you know who your client is. Designers get so excited about doing everything. Knowing what your good at is important. In the fashion industry a young designer is 45-year-old. The Fashion Industry is not like acting or any other industry, the process of success in fashion is a lot slower. Designers should be mindful of that and take it slow, not doing everything at once. I’ll eventually do a Men’s Collection, but later down the road.
*Lincoln, Imani’s cat is the cutest. He kept crawling in my bag during the interview.
What did you learn from your various internships, especially working with Tracey Reese?
It’s all about paying your dues. Suck it up and keep going. You have to have patience in this industry! Tracey taught me a lot! She taught me that you can be yourself in this industry. The industry is cut throat but humbling all at the same time. I loved that Tracey kept all her creative control. She draws everything she designs and then has her design team tweak it. D: I often wondered how much creative control designers keep and at what point do you start to feel separated from your creation when you have people designing for you! I think its great that Tracey is so close to her designs. I don’t think it should be any other way. I: Well, you have to keep in mind that at some point you can’t do everything and that you need a team, but you know that the team is there to assist you and has your best interests at heart. As long as you hire the right people. So, it’s not so bad when you get to the point where you are sharing some of your creativity. D: That makes senses! You are so right about paying your dues in this industry, it’s just the nature of the game.
Where do you see yourself in the Fashion Industry a year from now? Five Years from now?
Hmmmm, I see myself in stores, boutiques, high-end department stores. I am determined to see my designs in boutiques. Definitely want to see ImaniLia around the country. In five years, I see myself with more of a client base. Hopefully, I won’t have to focus on my 9 to 5, because I will have a steady clientele.
What word will be synonymous with ImaniLia? What do you think people will think when they see your designs?
Glamour! Elegance! That classiness! I’m all for sexiness but with class and with attention to detail. People will always know that about my designs, the attention to detail. I want them to see themselves and feel good and beautiful when they wear ImaniLia. I want us, as a society, to go back to dressing up! D: I agree! I love dressing up all day, everyday since I was a child! Your clothes certainly will make women feel beautiful and sexy!
Thank you so much for having me here and allowing me to interview you! It was a pleasure. All the best! I’ll be placing my order soon 🙂
No problem! Thank you!
Imani is a great, talented and humble young lady! I am amazed by her talent. She has a great eye for detail and couture looks. You will definitely see her more in the future. Remember , I told you she is the next Tracey Reese! Imani is still taking orders on a first come first serve basis till the end of the year. Imani designs and sews everything herself, so contact her for a unique holiday look!
Fashion Designer/ Stylist