Meet the Designers

Three up-and-coming designers and models are set to compete on the runway as part of the inaugural Mobile Fashion Week festivities. Their new collections will hit the catwalk both Friday and Saturday nights, leaving the audience to judge whose designs make it on Private Gallery racks this fall. Here, get a sneak peek at their looks.

All week, MFW pass holders can reap major deals at more than 16 local boutiques. Friday night’s high-end runway show showcases looks from the top three designers. Audience members will then vote for their favorite. The winner will be announced during the final runway show on Saturday night. Check out the winning line this fall at Private Gallery. VIP week pass, $100; general admission week pass, $50. VIP week passes come with swag bags and guaranteed seats. Individual show tickets, $20; after-party tickets, $10 (21+), $15 (under 21). Benefits The Penelope House and Camp Rap-A-Hope. Tickets: MAC Cosmetics counter at Dillard’s in Bel-Air Mall or online.

August 8 -13
Mobile Fashion Week

Caroline Smith learned to sew from her grandmother, who always made clothes for her and her cousins growing up. “I named my line after her, ” she says.

In college, at the University of the South, Smith became involved in the theater department’s costume design, which led to her pursuit of a graduate degree from Parsons The New School for Design in the U.S. fashion capital, New York City. After interning with designers Kay Unger and Yigal Azrouel, she left the Big Apple to return to her Southern roots. Smith is thrilled to be competing for top designer in Mobile Fashion Week.

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Research plays a huge role in Smith’s design process. After culling through old photographs for weeks, she puts pencil to paper. Then, Smith gathers swatches and goes back to the drawing board to edit her sketches before tracing them in marker. Finally, it’s time to cut and sew.

Thanks in part to her costuming background, Smith pulls a lot of her inspiration from the past. Her fall collection of high-end cocktail dresses is a nod to late-’50s, early-’60s Hollywood glamour. “I try to do everything with a modern twist, designs you can wear a bunch of different ways, ” says Smith. She uses silks, chiffons and taffetas to create the perfect LBD or work ensemble.

Left, on Sequayah: The fun and flirty detachable skirt can also be worn as a cape. “I wanted something very versatile, where you could buy one piece and have different looks, ” Smith, right, says.


Taylor Yates has been a dancer all her life. She stumbled into fashion design when she began making her team’s costumes. Yates later became involved in the pageant world and even created some of her own gowns. Now, instead of designing looks for the stage, she is focused on making ready-to-wear pieces. “I want to give women the opportunity to find fashion-forward clothing for great prices, ” she says.

The Auburn University grad draws inspiration from everyday life, so it’s only natural that, living in a college town, some game-day dresses pop up in her collection. She keeps her pieces light, airy and, most importantly, comfortable. Yates says that understanding her market is huge. “I think about the client — what they want, what appeals to them, ” she says.

Each of her looks starts with a sketch. Then, Yates chooses her materials. For her, fabric is key and plays a huge part in what her designs become. From there, it’s a play process — mixing combos of prints and solids. Next, Yates works with a prototype, which later becomes the final piece.

On Ashley, right: The black and red dress, with a T-strap detail, is a perfect fit for any Alabama or Georgia fan. Yates, left, designs to fit different body types. “The cowl neckline will enhance your figure, ” she says.


Bradley Parnell has always needed a creative outlet. As a kid, he kept a sketchbook at hand, but he admits his journey from a dot on the map in Alabama to an internship with Karen Kane in West Hollywood, Calif., hasn’t been easy. “Coming from a small town, it was kind of hard to take that first step toward being known as a fashion designer, but now it’s really fulfilling, ” Parnell says interning with the designer helped him learn more about the business aspect of the fashion industry, as opposed to the creative side. It gave him the opportunity to follow the production process of a design all the way from sketching to meeting with buyers.

The University of Alabama fashion design student creates both men’s and women’s clothing. The major difference between the two, he says, is that menswear involves more pieces and more sewing. Parnell wants to be able to give men the same amount of options that women have, without taking away their masculinity. “I get bored wearing the same thing all the time, ” Parnell says.

Nature, music and global culture are at the forefront of Parnell’s designs. For this line, he focused on the harmony between hard and soft elements found in nature. The collection’s musical muse was Billie Holiday, which is why a lot of the cuts are from the ’30s and ’40s.

On Key, left: This statement piece, which can be worn multiple ways, combines earthy tones and a leaf-embossed print. “The jacket really transforms whatever the model is wearing underneath, ” Parnell, right, says.


Mallory Boykin

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