Charlene Linhard: Emerging Fashion Designer

Charlene Linhard is an emerging fashion designer on the Denver scene. Classically trained in Apparel Design at the University of Hawaii, Charlene is a recent graduate and is just beginning her career in Denver after a whirlwind summer tour of the New York City fashion industry.

As a little girl, Charlene wanted a way to stand out from sisters, and differentiate herself. Like all little girls, Charlene wanted to get some attention, but unlike a lot of little girls, Charlene went ahead and did something about it. Now, she is gradually turning that into a career as well as a passion.

Charlene decided the way for her to stand out was to become her own fashion designer, and she made her first outfit in high school. It was a pair of pajama pants for a project in her sewing class, and ended up being a unique pair of clown-like pants, mixing patches and prints with bright solid colors. She knew she was on the right track, but needed some serious knowledge, so she signed up for a fashion camp in L.A., and for her second major project was given one hour to come up with something: she made a t-shirt into an off the shoulder dress. The fashion camp was put on by FIDM as a three day workshop, and Charlene attended two summers in a row. She was actually going to go school at FIDM, but came to the conclusion that Los Angeles was just too superficial, and she ended up pursuing and winning an academic scholarship to The University of Hawaii.

I never get bored! Its fun to find the industry cycles, play with the changes, and work with your hands.

Hawaii was a great experience for Charlene. filled with international professors who exposed her to all levels of the industry. The program was very “old school” according to Charlene, which she loved. Almost no technology, no CAD – the program emphasized a very hands-on approach, draping, sewing, doing things the the hard way. Charlene says this gave her a deeper understanding of fashion, by exposing her to all the steps an “old-word designer” had to go through, to move an idea out of their head and onto a client.

Charlene Linhard

Charlene Linhard

Her final project at the University was a collection of ten pieces, for the Fall Season of 2010. Charlene developed a specific style for the collection, what she calls a “grassroots, country style, country girl gone chic”. The most important lesson she learned was “don’t procrastinate!” “Good fashion takes way longer than you think!” Now that she has more techniques down though, and figured out timing, Charlene likes to challenge herself more, playing with more difficult patterns, and integrating a variety of textiles.

As part of her new dedication to challenging herself, Charlene decided to throw herself into the most difficult fashion industry in the country, and spent a few months in New York City, beating on doors across the town. “I wanted to get my feet wet, and see the heartbeat of the industry up close.” She lived in Brooklyn, and visited studio and after studio, and fashion houses, and agencies, leaving her resume every where she could find. “I never got past the receptionist. It really comes down to who you know. Period.” So she came back to Denver, still wanting to challenge herself, and a little wiser about just how harsh the industry can be.

Good fashion takes way longer than you think!

The bottom line is that Charlene just loves fashion, loves the way it is always changing, and seeking its own roots in fashion’s past all at the same time. “I never get bored! Its fun to find the industry cycles, play with the changes, and work with your hands.” For Charlene, its not about reading, its about understanding that can only come from doing it. “Making patterns, buying cloth, and shaping it into garments that reflect your ideas and feelings.”
“Style is a tricky concept, it means so many different things to different people” says Charlene. “My goal is to not be pigeonholed, but to be aware of trends without just following them.” Right now Charlene is taking a lot of inspiration from vintage clothing. “I like old things, things that are warmer than contemporary. Modern feels cold to me so much of the time, and I want to bring back feelings from the past, and tell more stories.”

Charlene is currently working on her spring 2011 collection, which will debut at the nxt|FASHION Show on March 11th. When asked for a few words to describe her new collection, Char comes up with angelic, innocent, pure, breezy, simple, laid back. FRENZY took a look at the emerging pieces, and found that the pastels, beige, white and lavender silks, combined with linen lace and light fabrics that flow, are coming together beautifully and do reflect the feel of spring. Charlene’s new collection is clearly inspired by the colors of the spring seasons, and have a sense of uplifting and rebirth.

Her goal is to feature the collection by showing it in several shows, producing a new portfolio, and taking it on the road. Beyond the collection itself, Charlene is saving money, so that she can travel, and get more inspiration. “I don’t have a ‘plan b’ – I will succeed in fashion, nothing else excites me,” says Charlene. She truly feels that Denver is a great place to be right now, with more potential to grow as a city and a place for fashion design and culture.

She does read a few magazines to keep her finger on the pulse: W, Womens Wear Daily, Vogue, and Marie Claire all help Charlene to stay updated on style and designers, and she says she is on “ all the time”. Her favorite designers include Ralph Lauren and Elie Tahari. She admires Betsy Johnson for her daring, and McQueen: “Its so in your face, but not ready to wear. Its crazy, entertaining, extreme – its fun, but I want to make clothes people can wear.” She doesn’t pay much attention to haute couture, saying “its just a status symbol”.

Although she says her dad doesn’t understand it, he does support her dreams, and her mom supports her as well, sharing clothes from her past and her Philippine and Chinese culture. “My sisters think I’m weird, and don’t get my fashion sense, but they support me anyway,” and friends have hired her to do custom pieces for them. Charlene is convinced that their is no limit to creativity, and plans to just keep making clothes, wear what she makes, and get it out in the public eye. Charlene is from Denver originally, and although she is going to travel for inspiration, its here in Denver where we will see her make her splash.

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