By February 12, 2021 0 95•
I’m reminded in these transitional times on so many levels to be thankful. A silver lining is not always what you think it is. There’s more to it than meets the eye.
Q&A WITH DESIGNER & STYLIST AARON POTTS
Via Zoom, I met with Detroit-born fashion designer Aaron Potts in his New York-based design studio. He wore an orange skullcap, a black A. Potts collection original tee and a smile that would light up any room. I asked him about his roots in fashion, his family and where it all began.
A graduate of Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, a division of the New School, Potts has interned with Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis and with Donna Karan at DKNY. He has designed for Victoria’s Secret, Anne Klein, Badgley Mischka, Tamara Mellon, KaufmanFranco and Escada (in Munich, Germany). He has dressed a host of celebrities, including Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, the Williams sisters, Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Underwood.
Potts spoke about his supportive family and about his art teacher, Oni Akilah, at Renaissance High School, describing her as his guardian angel. She researched Parsons, helped him develop his portfolio and put together all the requirements needed for entry into that school, encouraging him to pursue his dream of becoming a fashion designer. He admits he was glad he got accepted. Parsons was the only school to which he had applied.
LM: What references have you drawn on when creating your design aesthetic?
AP: As I matured being in fashion school and working for a lot of 7th Ave companies, you’re always given the same references: Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin, Angelica Houston, and Catherine Deneuve and I got tired of that. I started looking at the stuff I wanted to look at that is rooted in Black history, the Black experience, and Black creativity. I look a lot at native dress, whether it’s Native American, or indigenous people from other parts of the world. Because I think that there is such a purity and beauty in a lot of what they do; and lot of what they do is about practicality but it is also about beauty.
LM: Take me through the journey of how the A. Potts collection evolved to what you describe as the gender-neutral silhouette?
AP: The gender-neutral thing is very important to me, because I believe in making beautiful shapes and beautiful pieces that people can identify with.
There are two things I look at. I thought a lot about how I wanted to create something that people of all sizes could wear and if someone gains 10 pounds or someone loses 10 pounds you don’t have to throw away your wardrobe because you have these pieces that look great and have a little grace in the fit.
The other thing is I look at is clothes as sculpture and how you create these shapes around the body that form these beautiful silhouettes. No matter what angle you’re looking at them from. The silhouettes with volume or I like to call them silhouettes that have air in them look like sculpture. They look elegant and chic and can be made in the simplest of fabrics. But the volume, the cut and the drape add a level of sophistication.
LM: How do you see yourself being elevated in this time with some of the most powerful, publicly visible Black women in the world like Michelle Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris wearing and endorsing Black designers?
AP: One of the things that I have realized is that for me as a fashion designer, I love fashion but that’s not my driving force. My driving force is connection with people, and I use fashion as a tool to do that. When I look at Kamala when I saw her being escorted down the stairs of the capital that morning, I saw my aunts and my mother, my best friends and I thought about how brilliant and beautiful and hardworking and ingenious and inventive they all are.
LM: Aaron Potts you’ve had a dynamic ride in the industry. What’s next?
AP: The biggest thing I’m getting ready for is the AW 2021 collection being shot and I’m so excited. We’re also showing at NYFW on February 15, 2021. I’m not showing live. I’m showing a film and look book. We’re doing something a little unconventional, pulling in a mix of different artistic expressions. We’re also getting ready to launch our e-commerce to sell the A. Potts collection online. I want A. Potts to be something that helps people go deeper inside themselves and find themselves and use the clothes as a reflection of who they find.
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