Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series profiling designers participating in this year’s Austin Fashion Week, which began Saturday and runs through Aug. 21.
SavannahRed fashion designer Anslee Connell sat at Lift Cafe on South Lamar on Thursday afternoon looking like a vivacious Betty Page in a bright, colorful ‘60s dress.
Connell designs what she calls “curvy-friendly fashion” with a vintage and eco-friendly flair, and says she’s taken it upon herself to help change what she deems an industry focused on skinny models. SavannahRed will be showcasing her designs on the south steps of the Capitol with 37 designers in a free fashion show Thursday night.
After Connell followed her friend to Austin from south Georgia three years ago, she discovered fashion at “Stitch,” a local guerilla art and fashion show.
The Daily Texan: Can you describe “curvy-friendly fashion?”
Anslee Connell: Honestly, I don’t understand why models have to be a certain size. I’m not really sure how or why it got that way, but my approach to fashion is to try to encompass this unifying concept that each person is individually beautiful. That’s one of my life ideals is that people can just see each other for who they are without having to adhere to some kind of standard. We should focus on our strengths and mind our weaknesses.
The whole obesity issue always comes up when it comes to plus-sized women. It’s been suggested that health is not an issue for the plus-sized community, and I definitely don’t think that’s the case. “I am beautiful” is not saying, “I don’t have all these issues.” I am pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant, take all these medications, exercise and have a trainer. To think that someone who is plus-sized and in the fashion community isn’t health conscious is largely untrue.
DT: What do you want people to take away from your fashion shows?
AC: I want to challenge people. I really like when people challenge me because there are daily challenges that help make us better. So I’d like to think that I’m showing a certain size can be beautiful and fun. I grew up when Lane Bryant was the only option, and looking back now I’m thankful. No one else was doing [plus-sized fashion].
DT: Where did you come up with the name SavannahRed?
AC: I see SavannahRed as my creative alter-ego, but really it’s just me. I had flaming red hair in college and it was a great time for me exploring things, being really passionate and getting into singing jazz and blues. So my dad said to me, “You know singers usually have a stage name. What about SavannahRed?” It turned into my photography business name and then later my fashion line.
DT: Any fashions that you hate?
AC: Two things I hate for plus-sized women: caftans and stretch velour. Just stab me in the eye. I want something more provocative.
DT: Any hopes for the future?
AC: I might go soft-core on this one and say I would like to have a storefront one day. I also really want to be a pro surf photographer for Roxy Pro Surfing Company and would love to dress Queen Latifah.
WHAT: The State of Fashion
WHERE: The south steps of the Capitol
WHEN: Thursday at 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Free