Christian values and couture collide Saturday night as organizers bring the first-ever Christian Fashion Week to Tampa. For its inaugural outing, the event condenses a week's worth of shows into a one-night extravaganza. Thirteen designers from across the nation will showcase looks in synch with a religious world view that emphasizes "modesty, boldness and true style," according to the event website.
The youngest is Tampa's own Julia Chew, 18, creator of Xiaolin Design. The teen entrepreneur already sells her hand-sewn garments at etsy.com/shop/xiaolindesign. We caught up with Julia as she put the finishing touches on her 10 nature-inspired looks.
How did you get into designing clothes?
I have been sewing my entire life. I was homeschooled my whole education, which gave me time to really work on my sewing and designing skills. I started with quilts. When I was younger I would make all my own clothes. So, being a fashion designer is always something that seemed natural to me.
Why did you choose to participate in Christian Fashion Week?
I myself am a Christian. So when I heard about Christian Fashion Week, I was excited because the people who were organizing it had the same values.
Does being a Christian affect your designs?
It affects my designs very much. As a Christian, I like to present women and girls with clothes that are feminine that also honors their bodies. I like to make clothing that I think looks beautiful but I try to stay away from things that are obviously revealing.
So, no short skirts or plunging necklines in your latest collection?
People have different levels of modesty. So, I try to stay away from saying my clothes are being modest. … Christian Fashion Week had given guidelines and rules, such as they didn't want skirts to be shorter than 4 inches above the knee. That really helped. And that's a decent amount. I want women and girls to know it's not just what they wear, it's how they present themselves that matters.
Will you continue your fashion education?
Absolutely. I will not be going to college because I've already established a business and I'm hoping to continue to release a line every six months like a Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collection. I'm not sure how fast this business is going to grow. I may have a storefront and employees one day; who knows? As of now, I'll continue working out my home in Tampa.