Tops in Design

by Amanda Bedgood

Lafayette designer competes in Fashion Week New Orleans Top Design Competition

This time next week designer Nathan Walker will be preparing for his second competition at Fashion Week New Orleans. A year ago the Lafayette man rocked the stage and took the student competition with a red dress that was high on style. This year the winner returns as a full-fledged designer in the Top Design competition with a collection that continues to reflect his affection for the finer things in fashion. We caught up with the UL student who was hard at work putting the finishing touches on his pieces.

"The collection is pretty diverse. But I stay along the high fashion and the really elaborate gowns," Nathan explains. "Chiffon is one of my favorite fabrics that I'll be debuting in this new line."

While the newest in Nathan's line will reflect his past work, he says this collection is a bit darker.

"What inspires me the most are Valentino and Gucci," he says of other designers that speak to his nature. "How elaborate Valentino is and Gucci's latest lines have been very dark and mysterious. That kind of plays into what inspires me - almost a dark romance."

While the height of design houses inspire Nathan, it is his mother he quickly names for his everyday inspiration.

"She's always there to help and encourage me. I get a lot of strength from her."

While Nathan's true passion lies in dresses, he plans to add a few shorter hemlines and separates to the line to keep things diverse. But, whatever it might be that he's showing on the runway, it's all his life's work. A challenge. A passion. And like all art, it is hard. And worth it.

"I have that struggle that all designers have - will people like it or not like it?"

Nathan says artists need that extra push to keep going despite the odds. That extra push for him is his alter ego - Romey Roe. And when he goes into design mode he's all Romey and less Nathan.

"Romey is there to pick him up and inspire him to keep going ... he's that stronger person on the outside and Nathan is that scared person on the inside. You have to have something that pushes you."

The Top Design competition is slated for Fashion Week in New Orleans, March 20-24, with an aim of shining the spotlight on a new generation of emerging designers. Last year's winner received a retail presence at Vernon, a manufacturing package from NOLA Sewn, editorial coverage in Amelie G, a new sewing machine and funds for fine fabrics along with a photo shoot of the collection.