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December 25, 2014

Local luxury: Designer Borris Powell comes home for the holidays

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Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2013 1:41 am | Updated: 6:54 pm, Tue Jun 17, 2014.

Borris Powell hasn’t been home for Christmas for a couple of years now. But this week, the most notable fashion designer to come out of Piedmont will be home for the holidays. And he’ll come bearing gifts — two of his high-end designer handbags, combined retail value $1,000 — to be raffled off during a meet-and-greet at Solid Rock Café Monday.

“I have so much love and support coming out of Alabama and my hometown,” Powell said last week, in between finishing up a cape for Patti LaBelle and picking a name for his first brand of lipstick. “I want to give something back, and I would love to see someone from my hometown carrying one of my bags.”

Powell, now based in Chicago, captured the national spotlight two years ago when he won the Oscars Designer Challenge. His evening gown, a design he called “the Black Swan,” won an online voting competition and was worn on camera during the Academy Awards.

Since then, Powell has made clothing for Natalie Cole — a signature dress in red; Chaka Khan — a floor-length black dress covered in fringe; and that cape for Patti LaBelle — navy blue with grey pinstripes and glamorous silver buttons. (He didn’t get to meet the celebrities, just their stylists. But he does know their measurements.)

The coming year will mark a turning point for Powell, who learned to sew by taking classes at Jo-Ann Fabrics and who used to construct luxurious evening gowns on a sewing machine in his apartment kitchen.

He has opened a big, new design studio in Chicago, and signed with a sales team that will pitch his work to high-end boutiques across the country.

“It’s my first time being introduced to the market on a big retail level,” the designer said. The strategy is to have his women’s clothing and handbags sold in 20 boutiques next year, then another 20 boutiques the year after that, then another 20 — then he’ll be positioned to go after the big department stores.

Powell is also branching out into makeup, and will soon introduce his first lipstick. It will be red — his signature color. All of his clothing collections include a red dress, as a tribute to his mother, Sarah Keller, who still lives in Piedmont.

Powell’s lipstick will debut in March, along with his latest — and biggest ever — collection. Clothing for men and women, along with handbags (and the lipstick after it is introduced), is available for sale at borrispowell.com.

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