designs by Ali Egan
Erica Eichelkraut Zilbauer
I’ve noticed a trend in Buffalo. A growing group of individuals have formed the fashion equivalent of farmers markets. These sites offer similar educational opportunities where consumers and designers meet and share their ideas and experiences concerning fashion design, fabrics, and production. As with “slow foods,” a broader understanding is established concerning the clothing we wear, enabling consumers to become more involved with the garments of their day-to-day lives.
Think of it as “slow fashion.” In the forefront of this movement we find designer Ali Egan.
Egan was born in Buffalo and is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Upon completion of her degree, Egan spent the next two years working in New York City’s fashion industry as a designer, improving her skills and dreaming of the day when she could strike out on her own. She returned home and spent the next year developing a business plan that in 2010 resulted in the opening of Anatomy by Ali Egan. Located on Buffalo’s own fashion runway, Elmwood Avenue, Egan’s shop offered a solid collection of her imaginative designs. More uniquely, though, Egan also established a madeto-order custom design service, providing women an opportunity to be part of the design process, and have oneof- a-kind creations made especially for them.
“It’s a rather new concept for Buffalo,” says the entrepreneur. “I still get people who come in here and say, ‘Oh, you’re a seamstress?’ I politely say, “I’m a designer,” because it’s just a change in the vocabulary. I want to keep my integrity as a designer.” Egan’s shop is now located inside Hotel @ The Lafayette, where she and Anatomy are new residents. The Hotel’s efforts to become Western New York Bride Central were attractive to Egan for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that her made-to-measure business had begun to include more and more bridal dresses.
I approached the new boutique at the hotel imagining myself to be a bride on the search for my gown. I was a woman who had already visited the various temples of tulle but was looking for a personal experience—for something that would be customized. As I entered the shop, I noticed its ornate and meticulously restored architectural details, dramatically lit by natural light streaming through the Hotel’s enormous windows. The effect was almost like an ornate wedding cake.
Egan, a slight and graceful young woman, greeted me with a big smile. I asked her to explain how the made-tomeasure process worked, for brides or anyone looking for something special.
“Well , any one can come in and choose any piece I have in my collection,” Egan explains. “I make a pattern to fit them and they choose the color and fabric (and any modifications) they want. When it comes to brides, they can do the same—or they can come in and verbally describe what they are looking for. I’ve had people show me their Pinterest page, or they have brought in tear sheets. I’ve also reconstructed old garments. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of those things!”
I asked about the bride’s participation in the creative process of designing a gown. “[Sometimes a] client doesn’t see in sketch form exactly what she wants,” says Egan. “I’m working with a woman now who will actually be dying her own fabric for her wedding dress. So I did a full rendering for her so she could see what it would look like. It’s going to be purples and blues ombred similar to the Alexander McQueen Rainbow dress.”
Then Egan let me know that she had scheduled a fitting with a bride who was kind enough to allow me to sit in on her visit. “Today I have a fitting with a client named Stephanie who’s getting married in March,” says Egan. “She first came to me and liked one of the silhouettes I had. It’s the ivory lace shift dress—she said she wanted that, but to the floor, which changes my pattern a little bit. So she’ll be coming in today. This is the first time she’ll be seeing her dress in the actual fabric.” The final fabric is ivory Chantilly lace over a four-ply silk crepe, so that the dress is fully lined.
Our bride Stephanie arrives with her mother Linda. As she slowly steps out from behind the screen and sees her reflection, she says, “It feels like a dream.”
Joan Fedyszyn is a costume designer and buyer at O’Connell’s Clothing.