"Send us your denim, and we send back Art". What looks like a funny slogan is an honestly meant promise made by the Chicago based denim upcycling label, Steven Powell Garment formely known as CarterandPowell. The founders Steven Powell and Phailar Carter want to encourage customers to send their denim to be transformed to wearable artwork and threaded with inspired strands by distressing, patch working and painting. With the help of the social web the designers have already made a lot of fans. Founded back three years ago and packed with a lot of love and passion for denim as a pool of endless numbers of possibilities as well as long-time experience in the fashion business. Most recently Powell and Carter decided to separate due to Phailar's decision to go back into music which he was in before Powell brought him on board. Here, Steven Powell talks about his motivation, the fascination of denim and God as source of inspiration.
Why do you start your label Steven Powell Garment. What was your idea, your aims and your background to start your own denim upcycling company?
My background started as a child, watching my grandfather get dressed for church and from there observing the styles of my aunt Dina and other family members. Simeon Vocational high school in Chicago is where I became aware of my fashion sense; Virginia Union University gave me pride to do it. Parsons The Newschool of Design cultivated my sense authenticity. On these informal and formal roads of fashion, I was blessed to have Ozwald Boateng and Nana Boateng as my mentors.
And why do you decide to go into upcycling? Was is also for reasons such as sustainability and saving resources?
Our decision to upcycle denim was based on the consistently changing denim trends coupled with our love for colors and texture. Everyone has a special pair of jeans that fits great however, those jeans may have fallen off the fashion radar. Our denim upcycling process brings new life to those favorite pieces in your wardrobe. Our procedure adds life by embellishing with upcycled patchwork, colorful paint and occasionally tapering the legs of pants. There is something magical about converting old or discarded materials into something wearable and often beautiful.
What’s the fascination about working with and designing of denim and jeans for you?
Denim is like water! You can shape denim and change the color to your imagination. Same goes for art and fashion... Denim is a part of my culture! From observing photos of how Marvin Gaye wore denim, to appreciating how denim made me develop a passion for music set the tone for our fascination!
What do the collections look like? How many collections do you offer with how many pieces? Which products and what price ranges a collection does contain of? What are the terms of delivery and through which stores are the pieces sold?
Our varied clients require that we demonstrate a high degree of creativity, communication and flexibility as the give us a wide array of pieces to design. We have recreated oxfords, cotton twill jackets, canvas shoes, as well as colorful suede pumps. Still, our original aspiration was reconditioning denim jeans. Steven Powell Garment’s passion is to utilize elements that tantalize a creative buyer. Our moto is, “be one of one.” Each of our designs is created specifically for the client.
What are your sources of inspiration for your designs?
God, the love of my life, family, my African culture, my travels out the country, and our education.
Can you remember your personal favorite piece you’ve ever worked on or do you love all of your stuff the same?
A memorable piece would be the denim we did for Terry Crews. We had just started this journey and Nana Boateng sent a pair of denim with the request "to be creative"! Little did we know, during the creative process we were told the jeans are for Terry Crews! We were really nervous but honored at the same time. Those jeans helped our confidence and reassured what we were doing was heaven sent.
What do you know about your clients?
Our clients are very loyal and passionate about the brand! Mainly because they appreciate art and desire to add something dear/ sentimental to a favorite jeans or another type of garment... It's like having your mom make your favorite dish for you!
Is Steven Powell Garment already a full-time job or do you still have other involvements?
Steven Powell Garment is a 24/7/365 passion of ours. However, I'm blessed to be employed by one of the best luxury brands in fashion at the same time!
What future plans do you have concerning collaboration and line extension?
We have a fashion collaboration coming up with Corey Gilkey from Leaders 1354. Also, we will continue to do work for Nana Boateng and hopefully rocking out something stella with my man Zo from Fashion Geeks and Eric from the Silver Room in Chicago!