Local designer Vara Ayanna brings bold expressions and inclusivity to fabric of fashion industry

Color, cut and composition are the backbone of great design, and one ASU fashion design student is using a knack for novelty and networking to take those to a whole new level. 

Stylist and designer Vara Ayanna, 24, has been sewing since age four and now is preparing to take her talents to even higher levels as she puts the finishing touches on her latest line and projects. She is as passionate about diverse fabrics as the diversity of the humans wearing them. 

"What’s missing now to me (in the fashion industry) is an appreciation for diversity," Ayanna said. "You see a lot of the same faces, same skin color over and over, and that’s what our American base is saturated with … one race, one color ... We should be opening people up to creativity and showing them different types of beauty."

For Ayanna, diversity should be important throughout the entire industry — a virtue that must be expressed equally through models, designers and buyers. 

A photo posted by Thriftqueened! (@thriftqueened) on

Her eccentric threads are not targeting the typical mainstream consumer. Ayanna said she wants to appeal to the people on the outskirts of fashion.

"I'm targeting people who are wanting to make a change in any type of social issues," she said. "Definitely people who are more liberal and creative ... It's definitely not for any Hollister or Abercrombie. It's on the other end of spectrum — how can you push the envelope with fashion and how can you be different?"

Pushing this envelope is something she is constantly doing as a designer, from the soundtrack that fuels her design process to the ways she's been able to display it. 

Ayanna said she is heavily inspired by the themes and beats of the music that put her into a "crazy mode" when she's designing.

Her journey has been long and vivacious, and Ayanna said she is ready to finish her fashion design degree as soon as possible so she can keep pushing toward her next step.

Ayanna's local journey took off with the success of her styling movement, Thriftqueened

In February 2013, one of Ayanna's editorials was picked up and featured on Vogue Italia's website. That same year, she also attended L.A. Fashion Week, where she paid to showcase her line and said she was able to connect with a huge amount of people. Back home, she said she began showing her line in fashion shows put on by The Underground Foundation at ASU, where she started working before she even came to the school. 

From the glossy glamour of Vogue Italia to the edgy eccentricity of TUF, Ayanna's path has been all about connections.

Alexis Kim | Courtesy of Myles Vara Ayanna

"I don't have (a set team I work with); I just have a personal network of photographers and makeup artists, stylists, designers," she said. "People who want to do creative projects, and we have the same caliber of work."

For Ayanna, boundary-pushing artists are not only the people she strives to create with, but the ones she wants to create for. Thus, the concept for her upcoming Marauders streetwear line was born.

"This line is playing with different textures," she said. "Usually, streetwear is very simple cotton and jersey fabrics. I’m playing with different fabrics that are more avant garde ... It's a crazier side of streetwear."

In addition to amping up everyday street style, Ayanna said Marauders will dial back couture pieces into something a little less flashy and a little more accessible.  

"I'm gonna make couture gowns and ball gowns and stuff out of stuff street wear is normally made out of, like jersey," she said. "This new line is definitely about experimentation."

Ayanna said Marauders will not only push past conventional uses of fabric, but past the gender binary as well. 

"I’ve always done men's and women's in styling, but for this I really don’t want 'oh, only guys can wear this,' or 'only girls can wear this,'" she said. "Anybody can wear it! ... I want to just kind of include everyone under an umbrella."

Ayanna said Marauders is set to drop in L.A. by the end of May, followed by a showcase in Phoenix soon thereafter. Until then, she’s putting the finishing touches on the line and working as fashion editor for Blum Magazine, which she says is still looking for local artists and Phoenicians to submit things like fashion editorials, art and writing pieces.

"I feel like I have a duty to bring ... awareness to the different social issues and different things that are going on with our generation," she said. "I feel like I have to bring that to light and really show people how we can bridge the gap between ourselves and look beyond everything that’s happening and skin color and really just bring people together through fashion and show that everybody is the same and that if we learn to appreciate differences, we can get somewhere."

Related links:

Clothes Minded supports local fashion designers

Graphic design student inspires others through chalk art


Reach the reporter at celina.jimenez@asu.edu or follow @lina_lauren on Twitter. 

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