By Claire Ala
A vast collection of Vogue magazines and fashion books line several shelves in Wayne Bonner-Bell’s Fayetteville office. Bonner-Bell, a local fashion designer, has a quaint but cozy office, reminiscent of an artsy New York studio in a backroom equipped with sewing machine, work table and a rack of freshly-designed clothes. Although Bonner-Bell said he doesn’t find it easy to be a designer in Fayetteville, he works hard to bring fashion to our small college town, while embracing shopping and employing locally.
“It’s really difficult. If we lived in New York City we would have access to materials and resources. Of course, we would also have 1,500 other people to be fighting with all the time. Here we don’t have that, but also don’t have that community or network…What we try to do is produce stuff that’s locally made, using mostly domestic materials. But the flip side to that is it’s a lot more expensive,” Bonner-Bell explained.
Bonner-Bell started his clothing label, BonnerBell, in 2011. He uses materials that he buys within the United States from Los Angeles or New York. He implements organic material into some of his designs like the jersey he uses. But his clients are there for a different reason — everything is made in Fayetteville. Bonner-Bell employs 2 seamstresses and he sews some of the clothing, too.
Bonner-Bell said he is a self-taught designer. As a child he always loved drawing clothes. Today, he continues his love for design by sketching ideas on his iPad. Bonner-Bell’s designs can take from two-to-three hours or up to two-to-three weeks, depending on how elaborate the idea. His design process is not simple. For this designer, there’s more to making clothes than just sketches.
After Bonner-Bell creates a sketch he wants to produce he has to enlarge the drawing. This means blowing up the sketch, then tracing it on a large sheet of butcher paper. Next, Bonner-Bell uses cheaper fabric to make sure the garment will lay correctly before he decides to buy a pricier fabric like silk.
Beyond the design process, Bonner-Bell sets goals for his company every year. For 2013, a main focus is his message on the importance of purchasing locally crafted goods. He wants people to realize the importance of buying locally because he believes knowing what you wear, and where it came from is just as important as being conscious of eating organically. Shopping locally can also bring you a more customized clothing experience.
“We can really customize a garment to somebody, if they want that. We do wedding dresses, party dresses or special sizing, so that’s a way we can really reach a new person who maybe can’t find exactly what they’re looking for out on the market,” Bonner-Bell said.
Bonner-Bell worked six months on his 2013 spring/summer line, which will be featured in this event. He said inspiration in an autumn trip to New York and walking around Central Park. He describes his new spring/summer clothing as “garden-themed, a lot of color, and lady-like.”
The BonnerBell spring/summer collection will make its debut in the invite-only Design in Bloom show on Feb. 28. Requests for invites are available through Facebook. You can also check out more of BonnerBell clothing at www.bonnerbell.com.