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Meet Verneccia Etienne

Today we’d like to introduce you to Verneccia Etienne.

Verneccia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a child in Plano, Texas, my need to express myself through fashion often came at the expense of mother’s bed linens and curtains that, to my mother’s dismay, served as the raw materials for my early designs. Cutting up sheets and curtains to make Barbie clothes was my favorite pass time. I had always known I wanted to be a fashion designer, but after high school when it was time for college, asking my parents to go to fashion school to become a designer felt like the equivalent of telling them I wanted to be an astronaut or a princess when I grow up. Although my parents would have agreed, it was my own fear that prevented me from asking. I received my degree in Psychology and Counseling from Texas A&M University-Commerce, but while I was there, I started producing fashion shows with my own designs to raise money for various nonprofit organizations. Going to class and studying Psychology was the least of my worries! Teaching myself how to sew and training models ignited a passion in me that I always knew was there.

Needless to say, I somehow managed to graduate and relocated to Dallas, Texas where I progressed to creating one of a kind pieces for agency models and photographers. The Dallas fashion scene back then was tough for me to navigate, but what I found even tougher was the scorching hot summers. The summers were so unbearable it is one of the main reasons for my relocation to Chicago! I was driving to work one morning in May and suddenly my air conditioning clunked out. The very thought of going through just one day without air in my car was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I was working full time and freelancing as a fashion designer. I immediately turned the car around and headed back home, called my boss, quit the job, and then called my mother and told her I have decided to move to either New York or Chicago. When I got home, I Googled apartments in both New York and Chicago and found that Chicago was more affordable. “Chicago it is!”, I said. Within two weeks I flew to Chicago, with one suitcase, no job, no plan, and no knowledge about Chicago in general. All I had was faith in my talent and work ethic.

I decided to go to The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and get that Fashion Degree I always dreamed of but was too afraid to go after. I had nothing to lose, after all, I had just pretty much ruined my life by uprooting everything I had going for me in Dallas. I had a few clearly defined reasons for pursuing this degree. I was a self-taught designer so at times I felt kind of like a brilliant pianist that only plays by ear, but didn’t have a clue how to read sheet music. I wanted my technical skills to match and support my imagination. I also wanted to prove to myself that I was a great designer. I had always had friends, family, colleagues, and industry professionals I had worked with telling me I was talented, but I always wondered if people were just being nice and blowing smoke. I wanted to the opinions of my art professors because all of them at this school were either currently in the industry or have had experience in it.

Relocating to Chicago has been an amazing journey for me! I have had my design work internationally published, participated in Chicago Fashion week, and have had my collections featured on Access Hollywood Live, Fox News, and Windy City Live – Chicago and also won 3rd place in the Driehaus Design Initiative. My most recent accomplishment is a true manifestation of my hard work! I competed in a bridal fashion design competition on national television. Under the direction of New York-based designer Hayley Paige, I and three other contestants battled to create a wedding reception look for ABC’s “The Bachelorette” Kaitlyn Bristowe and WON! The reality show “Hayley Ever After: The Dress” is now airing on TLC. Because I was the only Chicago based designer on the New York-themed reality show, I hope to let this victory serve as a victory for all Chicago designers.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have seen some great days and experiences many victories, but we all know that working hard on something means there will be obstacles to overcome. For me, my main obstacle has been to aim for and achieve what I want and not what other people think I deserve. The fashion industry is very cutthroat, and in some instances, your background can either make you or break you. I had a hard time being a very petite Louisiana born, Texas-bred girl trying to be taken seriously in the luxury, higher-end market. In many cases, my work would grab the attention of someone, but when they met me and learned I was a small American girl from Texas, it would almost discredit me in their eyes. Although this may seem like an awful thing to go through I am very grateful for it. Because of this, I have always been more ambitious than most with my creativity, aesthetic, and work ethic.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Verneccia Etienne and Etienne By S-Squared – what should we know?
In all things, I try and encompasses the word “Apotheosis”, which means the highest level obtainable, or elevation to divine status. My inspiration comes through dreams! I keep a sketchbook by my bed just for this reason. I currently work with brides and those seeking custom formal wear. I also, have a ready to wear line of unisex hand knits and menswear accessories named “Etienne By S-Squared”. I also do personal and corporate fashion styling.

With so much fast fashion happening right now in addition to everyone simply following trends because they haven’t found and cultivated their own style. I pride myself on being the designer that still pays immense attention to detail and the stylist that gets to know and listens to their client. You will find that every piece I design looks just as beautiful on the inside as it does on the outside. This is my homage to old school haute couture! And for my clients utilizing me as their stylist, I get to know their personalities, struggles, likes and dislikes as opposed to simply pushing trends on them. Working with me is a very personal experience.

Currently, I am working on her first book and working with gorgeous brides and men & women wanting to find their personal style. I also work on the advisory board of Monarch Thrift Shop, the non-profit I helped shape that aids in helping the homeless transition back into society.

I currently run two collections:

Verneccia Etienne consists of bridal, formal, and couture.
VERNECCIAETIENNE.COM

And

Etienne By S2 consists of androgynous ready to wear oversized knits, outerwear, and accessories.
ETIENNEBYS2.COM

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
In every capacity, I pay immaculate attention to detail, the classic and timeless concept of luxury, artistic expression, the understanding of high-frequency vibration, and how my creations can be used as a means to send a message without speaking. My success is a result of my perseverance. Fashion is a huge part of who I am so I never listened to anyone who told me my goals were too big or gave up when things were hard. It is extremely hard! I went through a period of time whilst working on a very intricate collection where I would cry every morning in the shower…..but I still never took a short cut.

Every aspect of work that I do, I put all of my heart and soul into it. With that said be assured that if you are wearing one of my creations, you will be wearing a work of art and that you deserve it.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Leicester Mitchell

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