Putting the "Luxe" In Fashion
By Donna Letterese
Some people are unsure of their passions until well into adulthood. Designer Donte Livingston, creator of the LUXE LIVINGSTON brand, began teaching himself fashion when he was ten years old. Yet, he considers that his true first start came when he was sixteen.
Magazine "Teen Vogue" offers a program for students called "Fashion University." At sixteen, Livingston was one of the first members of its graduating class. To be admitted to the program, he had to show sketches, substantial skill, and to prove how serious he was. Upon graduating with flying colors, Livingston instinctually knew he had chosen the right career. "When I received my diploma from Teen Vogue, I knew I was going to do something big in the industry," Livingston beams.
Livingston also followed an accelerated path when it was time for college. While earning his Bachelor's from the Art Institute of Philadelphia, he began internships in New York almost immediately, including one at Anna Sui. Even though he loved his studies, Livingston's dream had always been to make dresses and to focus more on costuming. Yet, students earning a fashion degree were not necessarily taught to design for themselves. The focus in New York was learning how to design under someone else's command. Thus, Livingston longed for Los Angeles. Having been a fan of designers such as John Galliano, the budding designer had wanted to create works that were true art, above and beyond the realm of standard fashion. His California dreams of working in the entertainment industry and costume design came true when he received his dream internship at Rodarte.
"I submitted a heart-felt cover letter, along with my experience and background, in hopes I could work with them," Livingston smiles. "When I got that internship and came to L.A., it solidified what I had always wanted." Rodarte, a brand founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, became world renowned for their costume work on the film "Black Swan." As Livingston also loves filmmaking, he felt that the ballet-based drama combined two crafts seamlessly. "I gravitate towards fashion and film," he elaborates. "So, 'Black Swan' inspired me, both cinematically and with its costumes. It showed that it was possible to have high fashion be a crucial part of a film."
Currently, Livingston has a tee-shirt line, where the shirts are all adorned with his fashion illustrations. When asked how the line came about, Livingston replies, "I no longer wanted to work for anyone else in fashion. I was continually helping others build their dreams, when I needed to help build my own." Additionally, he wanted a surefire way to get the word out. Creating the tee-shirt line forced him to have confidence, and to quickly expose his works to the world. Essentially, his tee-shirts function as a calling card for his brand, and as an initial introduction to clients.
THE GESTE COLLECTION
"My sketches and illustrations communicate more than I ever could verbally," Livingston muses. "It's so much easier to show flair in a drawing." Livingston particularly wants to communicate that flair to his target market: anyone enamored of costuming, art, and fashion. Fellow designers, entertainers, socialites, and all who wanted custom designs could also potentially be his clients. "People's lives are put into clothing, and no one knows that - no one knows the blood, sweat, and tears that go into dressmaking," Livingston points out. "A person like Anna Dello Russo, the Vogue fashion editor, is someone who I'd love to dress. Her style is amazing - and that comes from her love of dressmaking."
Communicating visually is a major reason why Livingston has written a memoir. The book spans ten years, is both written and illustrated, and chronicles his sketches from childhood until the present day. He often shows the book to clients, so as to better communicate who he truly is. Livingston is currently in the process of looking for a publisher. Once it's released, he hopes to go on a book tour and encourage others. "I want to tell people how I became a high fashion designer in an industry where I am a minority," he notes. "If people know my story, it can help them rise above their circumstances."
In the future, the goal is to put LUXE LIVINGSTON designs into more films, to do costume work, and to dress well-known figures who love fashion. Presently, Livingston is in the midst of drawing his Zodiac collection for the tee-shirt line.
"My birth sign is reflected in my work," he exclaims. "I'm creative and methodical. Overall, I want to continue to love what I do, and let other people enjoy what I love about it."
To see more designs, illustrations, and to learn about the LUXE LIVINGSTON brand, please go to: www.LuxeLivingston.com.
To contact Donte Livingston, please go to his contact page: www.LuxeLivingston.com/contact.html
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