This week we’re delighted to introduce local maker Charles Josef of Charles Josef Bridal, a full-service atelier offering bridal and evening collections, alterations, and custom bridal design services out of Asheville, North Carolina. Charles’ exquisite creations have been shown locally at The Fashion Excursion, a charity fashion show in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as at New York Fashion Week twice a year. It was such a joy to learn about Charles’ inspiration, artistic background and life passions—we know you’re going to enjoy his interview just as much!
My day starts with …
“Wrangling my two dogs into the car and maybe a quick stop at the local coffee shop for a chai latte. Then it’s straight to the studio to work and prepare for appointments with private clients and filling orders. I usually take a look at the work day the night before so I always wake up with a sense of what needs to be done and I get right to it. Breakfast for me and the dogs is prepared and consumed at the studio, as are most meals, and I usually work until 11 a.m. which is when I receive my first appointment. The rest of most days is just a mixed bag of creative endeavors.”
I fell in love with making goods when …
“When my G.I. Joe doll wanted a prom dress; although, at the age of 5, I must say that commerce was not on my mind. At that young age, my grandmother who was a sample seamstress allowed me to entertain myself by sewing scraps of fabrics into crude doll clothes. I still remember the day when she demonstrated how pants were cut after seeing me try to make a miniature pair in a cookie-cutter shape of pants. I was absolutely fascinated! Although it became my true passion on that day, I did not realize that it was for several years after. I didn’t sew on a machine until my teens and shortly after that, I taught myself pattern-making from a book that my aunt gave me. Before then, I would draw and draw and draw all the clothes that I imagined in my mind. The day that I combined the drawing with the technical skills of sewing and pattern making is when I became a designer. I design and sew to bring forth the ideas in my mind and luckily I get to sell them and create more the next day.”
When I’m in my atelier…
“I am at home with all of my raw materials and tools within reach. There is always something to keep me occupied. When I need a break from sewing and design, I can work on a sculpture or lose myself in old world lace making using the Torchon method. My dogs have their own room there so if time gets away from me, as it often does, I don’t have to worry about rushing home to tend to them. It is a magnificent creative space and I love it.”
Who or what influences or inspires your work and why?
“My primary inspiration comes from places, events and architecture. I challenge myself by creating the perfect garments to wear in certain settings which can be anything from a dinner in Paris to a beach wedding in South Carolina. My secondary inspiration is the human body in its many forms and combining the perfect style features to present it in its best light. Everyone is perfect in their own way, I love to enhance that perfection and show it off with my clothing.”
What’s in your toolbox as a maker?
“A pencil or pen and paper are always handy for when inspiration strikes. I am lost without a measuring tape, pins, needles, safety pins, small buttons, pre-waxed thread and tailor’s chalk. I keep all this in a portable plastic box and there is a smaller version that I keep in my car. I can accomplish many things with this collection of tools, but it pales in comparison to my warehouse of necessities which includes an array of sewing machines, boxes of fabrics and any sewing notion that has caught my eye. I love having the right tools for the job and my man cave has them all.”
My proudest accomplishment over the last year is …
“The collection of new prints that I created and printed on Sport Lycra with Spoonflower. It’s such a great feeling to see all the samples made in the new prints and having designed everything right down to the textile makes me love the collection even more. It was icing on the cake to show them all off at New York Fashion Week twice this year.”
What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“My Boston Terrier dress shirt. I love men’s dress shirts in fun fabrics. It is what I wear all the time and what many of my clients buy from me regularly. My two Boston Terriers. Peppi and Petey, are my biggest source of joy and it simply makes me happy to wear a shirt with their images on it. The shirt is fun, happy and easy, which is how I live my life. My men’s clothing is inspired by and designed for men who are fun-loving and have a young spirit. At the end of the day my menswear collection is just an array of things that I have designed for myself, but am willing to share with others.”
Before starting a small business, I wish someone had told me …
“To take time for myself. As a creative person running a business, it is easy to allow my passion to get away from me and lose focus on other things. I have learned the hard way that it is a great big world out there and it is my responsibility to get out there and enjoy it. These days I take care of myself and give myself free time; the result is more productivity when I am working and a sharper mind to create beautiful things. I make certain that I take a vacation and when I do, I take a good one. The past two years I have combined vacation with education and I have spent time in Belgium learning how to make lace by hand. The experience always leaves me energized and ready to create when I get home.”
How does Spoonflower meet your business needs?
“It allows me the opportunity to offer something exclusive and unique to my clients and to set my offerings apart from others in the marketplace. Before Spoonflower, custom printed fabrics were not an option, just a dream in the back of my mind. It’s great when dreams come true!”
What has been an important resource to you as a small business owner and why ?
“My friend, travel companion and photographer, Eric McKinney of 6:12 photography who has for several years now captured the beauty of what I create in pictures. From the North Carolina mountains to New York Fashion Week, he has taken my work and presented it in a way that attracts attention and people to my business. In the past I felt I did not need fancy photos of my work. Now I don’t know how I went without them for as long as I did.”
What’s your favorite Spoonflower textile to work with?
“Sport Lycra because I use a great deal of Lycra and having my own custom prints is a huge benefit. In the past I was always disappointed with the selection of prints available to me from retailers and large minimums made custom Lycra cost prohibitive. Spoonflower allows me to order as much or as little as I desire, and that gives me a lot of creative freedom. I do also have to mention the Chiffon which is just amazing. The look and feel goes beyond what I expected and while I have only just started using it, I anticipate that I will be using a lot of it.”
Charles Josef is a North Carolina-based fashion designer who has sewn since the age of five when his grandmother taught him how as a way to keep him entertained. It must have worked, as today he designs a line of bridal attire as well as a line of men’s swim and resort wear. His menswear highlights his colorful and fun designed prints. See his creations on his Instagram feed.
Photography by Eric McKinney of 6:12 Photography