Woman of Many Hats: Brande Wilkerson


written by reyna lay | photos courtesy of victory vintage boutique
I HAD THE PLEASURE of meeting Mrs. Brande Wilkerson – owner of Victory Vintage Boutique and Design Studio, and self-taught designer extraordinaire – a few years ago after seeing her love for vintage clothing on her YouTube channel. She is not only a mother, a wife, and an entrepreneur who has built a successful business from inside the walls of her own home but, she is also an incredible designer in her own right. Her official title is Owner/Chief Designer and Artistic Developer for Innovative Fashion and Millinery Concepts. Although she’s a very busy lady who wears a lot of hats (pun completely intended), she took a moment to tell Deitra Mag a little more about herself and the future of her business.

Deitra Mag: When and how did your business start?
Brande Wilkerson: I began curating and selling vintage fashion in 1999 where my love of fashion, styling and design grew. I started a fashion blog and YouTube channel dedicated to showing how to wear vintage styles for modern day. That grew my skills in styling and photography. Then I debuted my own line of designs in 2012 when I opened my Etsy design studio. My desire to defy trends and express individual style birthed my own collection of original fashion and costume designs, which includes headpieces and accessories inspired by classic art nouveau and Victorian style. My passion is high fashion, where I am in constant pursuit of the most innovative and creative approach to new designs.
DM: What inspired you? 
BW: Life, people, nature, art and many things inspire me, but what inspired me to start my own line was what I wanted to see and was not available in mainstream fashion. That’s when I started making it myself.
DM: When did you know you wanted to be a designer? 
BW: I did not see myself as a designer; it actually took me 35 years to even embrace the artist in me. It was the freedom of expression, and evolving my work, that opened doors in design for me.
DM: You’re a designer and a photographer, what else do you do in your business? 
BW: I enjoy training and mentoring young models and photographers in the industry, especially those just starting out. I actually still model some of my own designs if I am in pinch.
Wilkerson modeling her own design.

DM: You’re a mother and wife to two girls, does that play a part in your business? 
BW: My role as a wife and mom are number one before anything else. I am so thankful that they support and love my work. My daughters, 11 and 6, have modeled for me at times too. My youngest just designed her first headpiece this summer while working alongside me at the design table. Storing my gigantic headpiece creations and elaborate gowns proves a challenge for our very modest home, so when folks come over they see a gallery of sorts on the walls and shelves. But my family is great about it; they all embrace mom’s business!
DM: How would you describe your brand?
BW: It’s 1900’s Art Nouveau meets [today's] high fashion, with a splash of classic dance all rolled into one!
DM: How do you produce and distribute your wonderful designs? 
BW: I make every piece by hand; I build my headpiece bases myself, and many times make a complete look for an editorial including a full costume set. I will then style and design a concept shoot, or source out a model and photographer, depending on the collection. I also shoot the designs, send out publication submissions, and then list the items on Etsy for sale the following week. Then I start my process over for a new collection, which includes anywhere from 12-30 pieces.
DM: Where does your inspiration come from? 
BW: I pray for inspiration, so really whatever God places in my heart to follow, I do. I research a lot of classic artwork over the centuries for inspiration and animals inspire me a lot, birds especially. I love the Cosmos and sci-fi stories and ideas, and lastly, makeup artists. These folks are amazing and I don’t think they even realize how their talents inspire other artists in different fields.

DM: Since Deitra is very music oriented we’d love to know what you’re currently listening to! 
BW: I am a big dance music fan but my playlist includes a nice mix of genres from alternative to worship and electronic. My three favorite bands right now are Above and Beyond, Chicane, and St. Lucia.
DM: What do you recommend for a person starting off to learn before venturing out into the design world and starting their own business? 
BW: Ask yourself what makes you stand apart from the rest and zone in on that, and define it, then refine it!  Being unique is number one in finding your place in this industry. The moment you copy someone else you have lost your footing and you will get trampled. Second, is to protect your reputation. This is a very small industry and word gets around about the kind of person you are to work with. Whether you are a model, photographer, stylist, or makeup artist, one collaboration or project can make or break your future. Treat everyone with the utmost respect and always watch your attitude.
DM: What assets are most valuable for those interested in what you do? 
BW: Being able to network, build relationships well, styling skills are definitely a must, and start a website.

DM: Where do you see yourself in the future?
BW: I look for a legacy of multiplied fruits in others that I have nurtured and watered over the years. I want to inspire with my designs, not for my own benefit but for the beauty and enjoyment of others for years to come. Relationships that I have built in this industry over the years are the real value of what I do. I look forward to seeing those continue to grow and enlarge a place of blessing, love, and beauty in the fashion industry. I feel like I am just watering my small little section of this great garden!
DM: Lastly, could you give us a taste on your next collection?
BW: Oh yes! Think classic ballet meets an ornate Victorian parlor.
If that doesn’t grab your attention, we don’t know what will! It was a pleasure learning more about Brande, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her and see how she impacts the fashion industry with her avant-garde designs. For more on Brande check out her website, www.victoryvintageboutique.com, and follow her on social media listed below.

Written by Reyna Lay
www.ReynaLay.com
@ReynaLay

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