Don’t be too quick to discount St. Louis as an unfashionable, less-than-hip Mississippi port town. The fashion landscape here is changing, and our emerging designers are something to brag about.
And local fashion is becoming easier to find. Earlier this summer Soundart, a fashion-meets-rock-show event, was held at Atomic Cowboy, featuring the quirky T-shirt stylings of 99 dealers – including a vintage and original apparel company owned and operated by local designer Juan Mucho. Since his shirts are all over town, it’s likely you either own one or know someone who does.
Or maybe you went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Craft Show (if you didn’t make it, don’t despair; there’s another one scheduled for Nov. 18). The hip event/bazaar is quickly becoming a haven for DIY-ers looking for a place to showcase their wares. It also gives the public access to deconstructed stylings, cool jewelry and unique housewares. If you went, you might have been fortunate enough to run into local fashion-maven Beqi, a seamstress extraordinaire who’s been doling out fantastic frocks in The Lou and online since 2000.
Let’s back it up a bit. I suppose housewares, clothes and jewelry might sound a bit schmaltzy or lacking in artistic sensibility. But art is design, and design – good design – has exploded in our ever-pressing quest to live highly sophisticated lives. The assemblage of our own tastes, designs and styles is the ultimate form of self-expression. How else would we impress others, win friends and influence people? You get the point.
Beqi’s fabric artistry is eye-catching, smart. “Everything that comes from me, comes from me,” she noted when I arrived at her Brentwood home to see, as Beqi put it, “where the magic happens.” As I would soon find out over coffee and a trip to her basement, her penchant for clothing and design is more a labor of love than it is a glamorous lifestyle.
“I am inspired by literally everything I see, hear, feel and even taste and smell,” said Beqi. “My more notable influences are my fantastically stylish friends, pulp-novel covers, old movie stars (new movie stars just aren’t that stylish), rockabilly and punk rock bands, ’50s pinup magazines and socialist revolution poster art.”
These mod sensibilities shine through in her dresses, bottoms, tops and “booty” patterns (otherwise known as accessories or jewelry). Beqi’s work has a late-1950s, leisure-loving-America vibe. Neatly tailored skirts meet vivid landscapes from the burgeoning of the pop-culture movement. Beqi’s work highlights nostalgically slick themes, such as the “Barbarella” skirt in a fabric that features a space-age blond bombshell harkening back to the ’60s Jane Fonda sci-fi flick. Not only does it reek of a kitschy sensibility, but the vibrant colors set off the simple and direct silhouettes of Beqi’s tailoring.
“I prefer to marry either complex patterns with simple silhouettes or plain colors with more intricate designs,” Beqi explained. “Certain designs are almost universally flattering, like three-fourth skirts, peasant necklines and lower waists on pants and skirts. I like for my designs to dress the body, but not overwhelm it, because while it’s good to have an interesting item on, it should never be the only thing people remember about you.”
Prior to my visit to Beqi’s home, I envisioned Beqi working in some elaborate workshop with sewing machines and mannequins galore – something a bit more “Project Runway” than what I found. The reality of Beqi’s work space is definitely less glamorous but infinitely more real. As we headed downstairs to a very average basement, I noticed a makeshift work space tucked back in the corner, a single rack of Beqi’s samples hidden against the wall and shelves with what seemed like hundreds of spools of thread, boxes of scraps and materials.
“I can’t explain my drive to sew. All I can say is that if you’re going to do something for a living – on your own – you’d better really like to do it, and I really like to sew,” Beqi said.
A babysitter taught Beqi how to sew while trying to keep the youngster out of her hair. Over the years her proclivities for sewing grew, and eventually Beqi began making all of her own clothes. After a decade of sewing, people started asking where they could find Beqi’s designs. So it was only natural that after a brief stint as a graphic designer, Beqi obtained the webmaster know-how to build her own online storefront.
Now in her sixth year, Beqi is much more confident as her business grows. Her work has been featured in Glamour, German Elle, Girl, Venus and Bust, among others, and a few items can be found at Fifi’s on Delmar. However, if you want to see her full line, you’ll have to visit www.beqiclothing.com. Online is the only place Beqi showcases all of her work.