Local Designer Spotlight:

      Over the course of my childhood, I think I had about 15 different answers to the age-old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I have an athletic mother who worked at a gym in my younger years, and thus during that time I knew that I wanted to be an olympic gymnast. Especially after I watched Kerri Strug stick her vault landing with a broken ankle in the '96 games. A year later, I wanted to be a full-time artist after I won the chance to have my Christmas artwork printed on the cover of my grandparents' church's Christmas Eve program. At one point in junior high, I considered orthodontics because I had convinced myself that I was a pro in that field after years of metal wires in my mouth. I even decided that MAYBE I could play pro baseball after feeling inspired when Mark McGuire broke the homerun record. Oh, childhood aspirations...

      All of that being said, there was one desire that stuck with me much longer than the others. When I was 11, my art teacher had us paint a picture expressing where we thought we would be in 20 years. I drew a picture of some imaginary actress wearing a beautiful, colorful, sequined gown that I had designed. Yes, that was it. The clouds parted and rays of sunshine with angels singing were shining upon me. That was my calling in life.

      However, after doodling and trying to draw some sketches over the next few years, I learned that maybe fashion design wasn't in the cards for me. No doubt I loved clothes and once dreamed of being the next Diane Von Furstenburg, but it just never proved to be my niche. And hey, that's OK. It's like a turtle wanting to be an alligator. It's just...not going to happen. No offense to the turtles out there. Though it wasn't my particular cup of tea, I've always had tremendous respect for those that can do it. Especially those that can do it well. Fashion design, like any other field of artistic design, takes such an eye for every element. It's understanding aesthetics. It's knowing how particular colors, shapes, textures, fabrics and light all works together to create something that's visually appealing.

      It's an industry of trial and error. It's experimenting and playing with ideas, hoping that someone out there will see your vision and support your fashion. Many designers go years unnoticed, hoping to create designs and masterpieces that stand out amongst so many other dreamers. It's a tough world to break into, and the select few that find success are those that push for their dreams and have the impeccable talents and creative minds to make their visions come to life.  I love to watch the fashion world evolve and expand. Even more so, I love it when I can watch it from my backporch. Not literally, I can't see anything but my neighbors' houses from my back porch, and I'm pretty sure they're not designers. But you get my drift.

      Austin, Texas, is the fastest growing city in the nation for the third year in a row. Every year, hundreds of thousands move down here for any of various reasons and our community continues to expand. This city is known for its artsy flare and funky residents. I'm continuously blown away by the creative minds I see everyday and love when I hear about local artists making a big stamp on the map in their particular industry. Among these locals building a presence, is designer Christi Craven and her clothing line, Lilly Lorraine. Christi grew up loving fashion and spent some time studying it at the University of Texas, before she transitioned into the Interior Design industry. Her experience with interiors opened her door to textiles and fabrics and broadened her knowledge of the sport. After experimenting with this type of design, she created two garments with her own textiles for a fashion showcase in Austin in early 2012. She recieved incredible feedback and was inspired to launch her collection, Lilly Lorraine.

      I recently had the opportunity to swing by the local showroom to browse the gorgeous pieces and I was awestruck. Christi has such an amazing grasp on the needs of today's woman and is spot-on with her creations. She's focused on creating high-quality, gorgeous pieces that are realistic and flattering to the modern day woman. The designs are tailored to perfection, unique and show-stopping. From cozy tunics, to tailored separates, to avant-garde couture gowns, Lilly Lorraine is a woman's wardrobe dream. The collection has a touch of classic elegance mixed with whimsical romance and a dash of subtle sexiness.

      The cozy Austin showroom has the perfect atmosphere for fashion lovers. It is quaint and shabby-chic, with a few rolling racks of the designer's favorites, a curtained dressing room and a workshop viewable to those browsing through the garments. I enjoyed getting to view the design process from start to finish. From baskets of fabric and supplies on a sewing table, to draped and pinned textiles on a dress frame to the ready-to-wear completed items hanging on the racks. It's truly a studio that inspires anyone to work hard to pursue their dreams.

      In her most recent collection, "Rendezvous in the Moonlight", Christi was inspired by the soft colors, patterns and romantic air of the nighttime sky. The pieces play with texture and unexpected silhouettes, creating a romantic ambiance that makes you want to take a midnight stroll under the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. Her basics include staples like a wonderfully sculpted tunic, cropped sweater and a blazer and skirt combo. Each of which were made out of a uniquely woven wool and bamboo textile that is so delicious to the eyes and even more yummy to the touch. I immediately wanted to curl up by a fire in a cabin in the mountains wrapped up in the fabric. She has gorgeous high-waisted, leather-trimmed pants and stunning mini dresses. Her couture pieces are whimsical and feminine - with designs in tulle, sequins, florals and lace.

      Lilly Lorraine has a wide variety of fashion for today's woman. Her pieces can be worn to the office, lunch with friends, out on a date night or custom-designed for those big events! They are garments that are so wonderfully made and so gorgeous to look at, that they're sure to make a statement in any outfit. Christi's stunning creations are quickly winning over the hearts of fashion lovers everywhere. Last year, the designs even caught the eye of Grammy winner Esmeralda Spalding, and she donned one of the collection's gorgeous couture gowns at a local performance. In February, Lilly Lorraine will also be walking the runways in NYC in the designer's first major runway show at Nolcha Fashion Week.

      With so many great things in the works, Lilly Lorraine is certainly a designer to watch. Christi Craven has masterfully tuned the art of fashion design and I can only imagine the opportunities and collections that are to come from this line of women's wear. If you're in the Austin area, make an appointment to browse the showroom and learn more. Whether you're in the mood to shop or are just appreciative of the hard work that goes into this type of fashion design, it's certainly a place to enjoy.

      Cheers to an Austinite who knows what she wants and is using her talents to create gorgeous pieces of art! The fashion industry is sure to love the masterpieces of Lilly Lorraine. Can't wait to see this line bloom!

For more information and to view the latest lookbook, visit the designer's website here.

**Stay tuned for pictures of the new line from the Nolcha Fashion Week show**

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