An Interview with Amber Zaraza of Phea Jean

First time ASCB booth mates Jamie Williams of Dop Dop Designs and Amber Zaraza of Phea Jean interview each other and find out what is in store for the upcoming bazaar! This first post features Jamie’s interview with Amber of Dop Dop Designs.  Enjoy!

How did you find sewing and what influenced you to turn your skill into a business?  I began sewing around the age of 12. I found my mothers old Kenmore sewing machine and an assortment of my grandmother’s notions and thought I could make things. I didn’t have any fabric so I cut up clothing that I got at the thrift store.  Of course I had no idea what I was doing but managed to make a very simple cross body handbag out of an old blue and white houndstooth polyester suit. I took a crystal clasp off of one of my mothers sweaters to use as a closure and wore that bag for years. I was immediately hooked! I took sewing classes in high school where I was able to hone in on my skills and really learn proper techniques. I went to college for fashion design and during that time made handbags for myself, and then friends, and soon after strangers were asking me where and how to order. So in 2005, phea jean was born, sort of by accident, but once the ball started rolling I just went with it and I love it! It’s still funny to think that I originally set out to be a bridal designer!

 Where did the name phea jean come from?  Settling on a business name seemed daunting at first- what name would I always want to be associated with and never be tired of?!  phea jean, of course, had to be it…phea (Phyllis) and Jean are my two grandmothers, both wonderful and strong women in different ways and both very dear to me.

Describe your personal style and how that translates into phea jean.
I love vintage clothing…dresses, coats, hats, etc. The fabric really draws me in, as I find the bright colors and bold patterns hard to resist. I use primarily vintage fabric because I find it so intriguing, I, too, sometimes find inspiration in vintage styles. For example, one of my hat patterns is loosely based on the cloche style made popular in the 1920’s. I also just really like unique, funky pieces. I like when unexpected fabrics are used for traditional silhouettes. I love mixing fabrics and patterns which I do in my designs. In my personal style, I pretty much go for it- wearing and mixing things that other people wouldn’t think to, but somehow (most of the time) ends up working. I never take fashion too seriously, but I want to look good. I want people to look good (great!) in my designs but I also want them to have a good time with the pieces and mix and match them together.

What inspires your work?
I am inspired by all the vintage fabric patterns and textures. I “treasure hunt” in attics, basements, estate sales, thrift stores, etc for fabric and I never know what I will bring home, so I have to let each piece speak to me and inspire me as it comes. I’m even often inspired by buttons and will sometimes start with the buttons and design around them. Everything I make is one of a kind and even though I have patterns in place, I do very little planning when it comes to the production aspect of sewing. My process consists of looking around my studio and seeing what catches my eye at the moment.
My clothing designs are definitely inspired by women, of all shapes and sizes. I really try to accommodate different body types and design pieces that will fit a variety of sizes. I want anyone to come to my booth and be able to find something flattering and leave feeling confident.

In a literal sense, I am inspired to make things that I want or need for everyday life. My head is cold, therefore I should make hats. I need a specific size/shape handbag so I’ll make it.

What items will you be bringing to the bazaar? phea jean will be bringing things to keep you warm:  Plenty of hats and scarves of course. I’ll also have my unique wrap tops and ponchos for stylish winter clothing options.

What item is perfect for gift giving?  The scarves are a great gift and an easy way to spruce up any outfit. At $35-$45 you really can’t go wrong.

What other artists at the bazaar are you excited to check out?  Considering the shows are our only chance to do our holiday shopping I am excited to see and support all the other vendors!  First thing, I’ll be hitting up my booth mate dop dop designs for a housewarming gift. I’m also a huge fan of miss millie and will be dropping hints to my partner on which of her latest work I need to have. I’m interested to see the coffee drip cones from Melissa Weiss Pottery and the jewelry by Maureen Duffy.

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