Michael Wiernicki's Charleston Fashion Week debut last March featured models decked out in metallic tribal prints and futuristic shapes, a Judy Jetson-meets-Mayan princess mash-up that earned him a spot among the emerging designer finalists. Post-CFW, he settled back into his previous routine of working in the College of Charleston's theater department while quietly creating new designs in his free time.
"It's kind of like a Batman thing, where during the day I work here and just have the nine-to-five job with the theater department, and at night I go home and live this secret other life and work on the designs," Wiernicki says.
Though Wiernicki has stayed mostly off the grid the last few months, CFW organizers didn't forget about him. In fact, they invited him to return as a featured designer in 2012, and he recently launched a Kickstarter fund to help cover the expenses for his new collection and the show, including everything from runway fees to fabrics to shoes for the models.
Wiernicki's line is called Mystery School, "a reference to the secret societies that have this really long lineage from the beginning of civilization," he explains. The 2012 collection will have similar themes to last year's, but Wiernicki says his new work is more wearable and practical. Early creations were more like one-of-a-kind works of art made from rare vintage and handmade fabrics. Now he's concerned with making clothes that can be reproduced and worn in real life.
"I would love to inspire a look for people," he says. "Instead of just putting out a spectacle to make people say 'ooh' and 'ah,' I want people to see it and think, 'That's really cool. I could look like that. I could dress like that.' I want to have a visual and aesthetic presence on the street."
Wiernicki plans to apply a more practical approach to his production process as well. "In the past I kind of let things grow organically," he says, "so what I'm doing now is trying to have the whole thing designed ahead of time." He's currently in the early stages of production — all of the sketches are done, the fabric has been ordered, and he's starting to piece the garments together. Mystery School is definitely a one-man-show.
One element Wiernicki plans to carry over from his previous work is his use of uniquely patterned textiles, which he designs himself using Photoshop. You can also expect to see a similar color palette, with a blend of metallics and neutrals. "Up until a year and a half ago, everything I did, everything in my life was super bright and colorful," he says. "And then I just kind of did this complete 180. There's something I just love about blacks and neutrals now. They all look so good together."
If there's one thing he learned from last year's CFW experience, it was to seize the moment and promote himself. "I heard a lot of positive responses to my work and what I put out there, and I was kind of dazzled," he remembers. "It was the first show of that scale that I had ever been involved in, so that was huge for me, but I kind of got so caught up in it at times I didn't necessarily do the smartest thing, like try to capitalize on the moment. It really is something where you have this small window of opportunity where all eyes are on you, and that's not something that lasts very long. You really have to make the most of those few moments."
He adds, "I'm just trying to be a lot more clever about what I do with the attention I get and really try to grow my label and brand."
Contribute to the creation of Wiernicki's new collection at kickstarter.com/projects/81701995/mystery-school-a-w-2012.