A couple months ago Top Buttons had the opportunity to attend Christian Fashion Week -- a Tampa-based event whose mission is "to create a series fashion shows and events around the idea of fashion from a Christian worldview, reflecting common values such as modesty, boldness, and integrity." For a closer look on the event, visit our recap articles about day one and day two.
What was most captivating about Christian Fashion Week was seeing the exquisite designs of a 19 year old fashion designer named Julia Chew of Xiaolin. Julia's cutting-edge designs, eye-popping colors, and three dimensional textures had the whole audience charmed with delight.
In recognition of her raw talent and success at such a young age, Top Buttons thought it was fitting to capture Julia's story to empower YOU that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. We've even incorporated some of Julia's favorite photos and designs for your viewing pleasure!
1. How long have you been designing fashion and what age were you when you truly decided this was something you wanted to do with your life?
"I’ve always enjoyed sewing and art. When I was in about 1st grade I started sketching fashion designs. My grandmother sews and wanted to pass the legacy of this skill onto me. I learned quickly and well. Knowing how to sew my own clothes was helpful because i struggled to find clothes in stores that I liked and also fit me. When I was 17 years old, I participated in my first runway show with 5 of my designs. Shortly after turning 18, I participated in Christian Fashion Week. During this time, I started talking with different boutique owners and they were interested in carrying Xiaolin garments. I took one step at a time and viewed opportunities as open doors to keep walking through. It has been very interesting and there are valuable lessons learned along the way. I meet people regularly who affirm my decision to do what I am passionate about. Often, people say they wish they had pursued what they desired when they were my age."
2. We noticed you use a lot of unconventional elements in your designs such as things like beetle wings and peacock feathers, and we LOVE IT. What inspired you to incorporate these things and what's your main source of inspiration for designing?
"My father, an outdoor enthusiast, frequently took me out hiking and camping with him. He taught me to appreciate nature, and together we collected colorful flowers, feathers, and seashells. I would collect small objects from nature and bring them home to admire. When I find natural materials with an interesting color, shape, or texture I bring it into the sewing room and find a way to incorporate it into a fashion design. I enjoy using these materials found in nature to embellish my garments in a way that is unique. For example, many designers use sequins or jewels to add color and sparkle to a fancy dress. Instead, I use jewel beetle wings or vibrant peacock feathers."
3. It mind boggles us that you're so successful and talented at such a young age. What are some words of encouragement you would like to give to young girls that could encourage them that they can do anything they set their mind to?
"Life is like a journey through hills and valleys. There will be mountaintop experiences and great disappointments. I have been taught that one key to success is finding balance and being steady and consistent whether things are going great or not. Another word of encouragement would be to keep your eyes on the big picture and not get discouraged with small disappointments. When something goes wrong, it is easy to just want to give up. But there is always a lesson to be learned and tucked away for future use when things don’t go “my” way. Keep trying and little by little you will reach goals you set for yourself."
4. Do you integrate faith in God into your career and if so, what role does your faith play into your designs and your lifestyle?
"I design from a Christian worldview and strive to run my business with integrity according to Biblical principles. Concepts of commitment, loyalty and faithfulness are important to me. I try to see projects to completion and stay within deadlines. I strive to be loyal to people. I aim to be faithful to God and ask His guidance daily as I make decisions."
5. What is your favorite thing about fashion design and fashion in general? As a designer yourself, is it harder for you to buy other brands/designers?
"I view fashion as an intimate form of art. A painter hangs his masterpiece on the wall, but I get to wear my creations and share this experience with others. Fashion is like a drama. By putting on a certain outfit, one can be transformed into whomever they wish to be similar to an actor on a stage. I do find myself checking the seams to see how well the garment is constructed when I go shopping. I have appreciation for better fabrics and well-crafted garments. That being said, I do prefer the clothes I sew for myself."
6. We know that an industry like fashion design can be competitive, so was it hard for your parents and family to support you in the beginning stages?
"I am blessed to have been placed in a family that has always supported me and my aspirations. I still consider myself to be beginning since I am only 19 years old. Parents and grandparents have a wealth of knowledge to share. My grandparents own their own business and have done so for 40 years. They have an entrepreneurial spirit and desire the younger generation to have a strong work ethic and succeed. My parents have always encouraged me and my sisters to develop our God given talents. I was home educated and was allowed freedom to explore areas of interest. I am giving my best and hoping God will bless my efforts."
Hearing a story like Julia Chew's is always inspiring. We want to encourage you to find something you're passionate about, offer it to God, and chase it whole-hardheartedly. For Julia, it's fashion, but it can be something completely different for you. Here at Top Buttons we embrace diversity. So, whether you're gifted in the arts, academics, or even athletics ANYTHING is possible.
"I can do all things through Christwho strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13
Feature Photo of Julia Chew - Photo by her mother Cheryl Chew