As the rainclouds began to overtake the sunny skies on a hot summer day, Washington, D.C.-based fashion designer Philip Hawthorne expressed both anxiety and excitement over his upcoming presentation at the 2011 Baltimore Fashion Week.
“I’ve been so busy getting ready for the show for the last couple of months,” says the designer who describes himself as a man of many talents when it comes to the arts. “But I’m ready for it!”
On Sunday, Hawthorne, who is gay, will be among several fashion designers to show off his latest collection to the fashion press, buyers and the general public at Baltimore Fashion Week taking place August 18-21 at Harbor East. This year’s theme is “the Mystique of Fashion,” and will include international designers from Ireland and France.
The path to Baltimore Fashion Week has been in the works for many years for the designer. “I have been designing since I was 5 years old, I basically grew up around fashion,” Hawthorne says. His mother, Carolyn, has been a dressmaker and seamstress for more than 40 years and he recalls sitting under her sewing machine for hours, “watching her make at the time what I thought was magic.”
Hawthorne, armed with a strong emerging talent, would find himself consulting his mom’s clients on the outcome of their outfits. “I would sketch out something and they would love it.” In high school, he majored in drawing and black and white photography and is now in his second year at the Art Institute of Washington majoring in fashion and retail management.
“Effortless, classic and elegant” is how Hawthorne describes his current collection and personal style, whether he’s wearing jeans and a deep v-neck or a nice pair of slacks with a vest or a sweater. “Relaxed fit jeans and slim/straight leg pants for men and the Grecian couture look for women,” are what he prefers.
On a rooftop overlooking the city, he shared a preview of his collection. “I love vintage and period pieces,” he says. “So when you see my dresses you can see a modern version of something that may have been worn in the ‘20s and ‘30s.”
In fact, his collection seems to borrow from the power suit that Yves Saint Laurent feminized in the 1970s, which was inspired by the fashion icon Katharine Hepburn during the ‘30s and ‘40s. Hawthorne wants to bring a modern twist to that. Not only is he debuting a 20-piece collection that ranges from sportswear and high fashion, he will debut as a menswear designer — all in one show. That is a feat that can be very stressful for any designer at any level. Very few top designers such as Marc Jacobs or Rick Owens show their men’s and women’s collections all in one show. “It’s a great challenge,” says the Baltimore native.