In March, local fashion designer Tiffany Saini sent an eight-piece collection down the runway at Charleston Fashion Week — the largest fashion event in the Southeast. Saini, who lives in Arden and studied in Manchester, U.K., had participated in runway shows before, but nothing on the scale of Charleston Fashion Week. She describes it as “a big learning experience and overall a great experience.” Of the more than 300 hopeful designers who applied to Charleston Fashion Week, Saini was one of only 20 accepted. Since that accomplishment, she’s been approached by fashion events in Charlotte and Columbia, S.C., though she has not yet committed to show at either.
Saini says that she loves Western North Carolina, but is working toward a move to either New York or Los Angeles where she’ll have better access to material and labor. Currently, she’s at work on a line of apparel that will sell this spring at Cary, N.C. boutique The Peachy Keen, and she’s also looking for a boutique that will carry her designs in Asheville. Saini gets some sewing help from her mother, but is aware that, as her fashion career grows, she need access to more production assistance. Plus, “here, there are no wholesale shops, really, and some fabrics are hard to find,” she says.
What the designer does get from WNC is inspiration. “I remember one time I went with my boyfriend to Chimney Rock,” she says. “Nature and the colors and how things grow,” like a patch of moss that caught her eye, have impacted Saini’s apparel ideas.
“I feel you can find inspiration in everything,” she says. “Usually when I’m traveling, I take my sketchbook with me.”
The designer, who comes from a Sikh background, finds support in her roots. “My religion gives me strength when I have my doubts,” she says. “I have strong family support and I’m definitely thankful for that — this is not a conventional thing for a first-generation [American] Sikh girl to do.”
While where she comes from provides Saini with a strong base, it doesn’t necessarily play a role her design aesthetic. Instead, she describes her current work as “easy streetwear-inspired ready-to-wear.” Most of the fashion shows that Saini has taken part in have come with their own themes, pushing her to craft sculptural and editorial pieces. Charleston Fashion Week gave the designer her first opportunity to “make the collection that I wanted.” She chose to work in menswear shapes, rendered in feminine colors.
Next up, Saini hopes to find work in the fashion industry. She’d like to be employed by a label where she can work her way up through the ranks. Plan B is to open a boutique where she can sell some of her own designs along with other ready-to-wear lines.