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Whether on the internationally known level or the level of the emerging, GlobalGrind is all about promoting the grind behind the business.

The fashion industry is full of designers on the rise that have begun to make their presence known. Hustle & Sew takes a look at the struggle, the hustle and the bustle behind some of the hottest up-and-comers in fashion design. 

Phylicia Ellis (pictured above), who may very well design Halle Berry‘s next remarkable gown and your wedding dress, probably knows that hustle like the back of her hand. The beauty responsible for Weddings by Phylicia Ellis came from the Bahamas to the States on her own to pursue a dream of having an enjoyable career that could bring her happiness everyday. As a result, we’re on the look out for her edgy and sophisticated work in the midst of the summer wedding season.

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Being forced into her start at the tender age of 6 through her mom’s sewing school, Zig Zag Sewing Adventures, Phylicia wasn’t always in love with sewing and fashion. In fact, at the onset of her career as a seamstress, she hated it. But after awhile behind the machine, sewing began to grow on her and she realized that she had a thirst for fashion.

 Ms. Ellis didn’t know at that time that she would end up bringing bridal wear to the world. After outfitting her sister’s entire bridal party, however, she now knows this is a market she can truly satisfy in the U.S., Bahamas and worldwide. We had a chance to chat it up with Phylicia, see her latest work and find out how she got to this stage in her life and in fashion. Here’s the scoop:

GlobalGrind: What would you be doing if you weren’t into fashion right now?

Phylicia Ellis: What would I be doing?

No clue, fashion is the only answer?

It would definitely be something along the creative line like art.

Above: Designer Phylicia Ellis

Photo Credit: K.L. Studios

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You have an interest in bridal wear now since you did your sister’s wedding, right? What was appealing to you that you would actually want to pursue the bridal world now?

My biggest thing is that there’s a market for it. At the end of the day, I’m here in New York and my ultimate goal is to move back home. Seeing that we’re not as big in the fashion industry as in the States, I wanted to appeal to a market that I would be able to make it in. One thing is that everybody is always going to get married. Back home, people travel to the United States to go to David Bridal and all these places to get their dresses, which costs money. At the end of the day, if I tap into that market, it’s something that could be done at home and I would actually be able to make it. It wasn’t such a bad job actually putting together a wedding. Maybe it was a little easier because she’s my sister, so I know her overall style. But I think it’s something I would enjoy doing and could actually make it doing. 

Who would be a celebrity that you’d love to make a dress, or make anything for?

A celebrity that I would love to dress? I would say Halle Berry, hands down. Because she looks amazing every single time. Amazing! The dress could be horrible but she just look amazing. I think she can wear everything. I absolutely love everything about her.

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Phylicia Hand Beads a Bridal Gown

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography

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What are your favorite fabrics to use?

I use a lot of silk chiffon, unfortunately. I think it’s very difficult to deal with but for dresses and stuff it’s a more functional fabric for a real flowy dress. But I like working with leathers as well. I haven’t done a lot in it, but when I did do it, I loved it. I have to get back into it.

So do you just learn about these kind of fabrics by experimenting with them?

Yes. I think that’s the best way. You could read up on anything but until you actually do it and put it into practice, it’s something completely different. Because the book could say, “Oh, well working with leather is easy,” and you try and work with leather and it’s not easy. It’s just like school. You can always learn everything inside the book but until you actually get out there, doing the hands on work, there’s no comparison.

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Wedding Gown

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography

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Who or what inspires you when you design, sew, or whatever?

I’m a very visual person. So I think my number one thing that inspires me is fabric. I could see a certain fabric and I’ll be like, “Oh my goodness, this would just be like perfect for…” you know. But then, I was laughed at because when I did Islands of the World Fashion Week 2009 my inspiration came from a room. From the way that a room was decorated. It was just so amazing and I just sat inside the room and I started drawing. Because the things that they had, the colors just were like, “Oh my goodness, we need to do something funky fresh.” (Giggles) So it comes from anywhere honestly. I know my collection I did for Caribbean Fashion Week in 2010, came from my friend who passed away in 2009. He was a pilot so I wanted to do an aviation-inspired theme. A lot of technical stuff. It comes from a whole lot of places. I could never say one thing inspires me.

What do you listen to, like what kind of music do you listen to when you’re sewing or designing?

I listen to everything. It depends on my mood. I listen to classical music when I don’t really need to hear the talking, when I just need to hear something, because I always need to hear something. So I listen to classical music when I just need to focus myself. So maybe when I’m drawing or when I’m having a problem and I don’t really know how to figure it out, I’ll put on classical. But when I’m in the zone, like making something, I will be listening to Soca. Soca music, soca and reggae. So I listen to everything: R&B, rap, I listen to it all. 

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Wedding Gown Beading and Ruffle Detail

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography

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How would you describe your style or the style of your designs?

I think It’s more chic. Simple, classy, but yet elegant. That’s what I always like to aim for, just to be as elegant as possible, but still stylish and classy. So if it’s simple, then let it be simple. But there will be something that stands out, that makes it different and elegant.

What are your favorite trends right now?

My favorite trends? That’s a hard one. Wow!

Or what kind of look do you go for usually?

I love like the high-waisted trousers, the loose, short-leg trousers. Love them. Just keeping in white and cream, the light colors. I love it, like for the spring/summer look, I wear a lot of white jeans and stuff. I think that’s my favorite. Keeping it simple but still like classy, sexy. Love it. And the wedges, but wedges are always in, I think. They’ll never go anywhere.

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Maid of Honor Gown

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography

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So do you find it hard to balance your personal style with the style of your designs?

It is very hard because you have to appeal to not necessarily everybody, but you have to appeal to a wide variety. And everybody’s not going to have your same style. So it’s something that is very difficult to work with, knowing what someone would like. It is difficult.

Who would your target market be, like what kind of person do you design for?

My target market would be anywhere from 18-35 years old. Well actually, I don’t know. It’s kind of difficult again to say a target market because when you think about a wedding my target market would be from 25-45 years old. But with some people they’ll get more casual stuff, someone who’s like prettified would be like, ‘Oh my goodness, I want that.’ So I mean, I can’t say that my target market is 18-35, when it’s really like it could be up to 45. But then people would be like, ‘Why would someone who’s 18 want to wear something that a 45 year old would be wearing?’ You know what I mean? So it varies. But I could say that it’s very broad. 18-50, let’s say 18-50 … weird number. 

That’s good that you think you could be able to appeal to that many people. There are things that 50 year olds and 18 years olds can do, and both look good in it. 

Yeah, it’s just how you put it together differently. Maybe a variation in like some things maybe.

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Maid of Honor Gown Back

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography

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That goes with your personal mantra, “Fashion has no rules once there is style.” Where did that come from?

Oh my goodness. That was so long ago I don’t even fully remember. But I remember always saying, when my parents would be like, ‘You cannot wear this. That is just against the rules!’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? Fashion has no rules so you can’t tell me that it doesn’t look good together.’ So I just started saying it all the time. It was so bad, they hated it.

What are some of the major steps you’ve taken to advance your career?

I think the biggest step was actually deciding to move to New York. It was a hard decision because my family and everybody that I know is in the Bahamas. So it was just like, ‘OK, either you have to do this or you’re gonna get nowhere.’ So I was like, ‘OK, let’s move.’ It’s hard, everyday is a challenge but I just keep in mind my goal, and the goal is fashion so I think that everything will work itself out.

Do you think it was a good move so far?

Yes, definitely. I’ve learned so much from just being out here and working with Victor De Souza, the guy I intern for, he’s amazing. So of course it was the best move. 

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Mother of the Bride Gown

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography

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Are there any newcomers to fashion, or even vets that have been in it for awhile, that you think that people should have their eyes on? 

Honestly, this might sound corny but the guy who I work for now, Victor De Souza, he is beyond amazing. His creativity and his whole thought process and the way that he comes up with things it’s almost a trial and error type of thing. He’ll sketch something at first and that’ll be the way. But then he comes up with some amazing ideas, just like playing around. It’s like, ‘OK, I would have never thought of that but you know what? It works.’ So, I think that people will be seeing a lot from him very, very soon. 

Do you have any advice for other aspiring designers? 

My main advice would be to just definitely go after it. If it’s something that you want and if it’s something that you love and if it’s something that you’re passionate about it, regardless of what people think, just do what you have to do to get where you want to be. Don’t let nothing hold you back from where you want to be and where you think fashion could be. 

Above: Weddings by Phylicia Ellis, Mother of the Bride Gown Back

Photo Credit: Dede Brown Art Photography