VIP Interview: Designer Mandi Faulk

Mandi Faulk and I at the Saks Emerging Designer Reveal.
Mandi Faulk and I at the Saks Emerging Designer Reveal.

Hello, hello, hello, fashionistas!  I have a fabulous interview to share with y’all today…the interview with the darling designer, Mandi Faulk! She was the winner of the 2012 BFW Emerging Designer Competition. So, without further ado, I present to you, the interview with the fantastic Mandi Faulk!

Heidi Elnora, co-founder of Birmingham Fashion Week, and Mandi Faulk at the Emerging Designers Reveal.
Heidi Elnora, co-founder of Birmingham Fashion Week, and Mandi Faulk at the Emerging Designers Reveal.
  • Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a twenty-seven year old fashion designer from Oxford, Alabama.  I grew up with three older sisters and a huge passion for design.

I began my apparel design degree when I was nineteen at The University of Alabama.  My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after, so I moved back to Oxford when I was twenty-one to help my family.

While back in Oxford, I worked in retail management for four years and took Esthetic classes at a local college.  Once my father was able to work his consulting business again, I moved back to Tuscaloosa in April 2011 to finish my degree in apparel and textile design at UA.

  • Who inspired you to become a designer?

Growing up, my mother designed and made jewelry.  She allowed me to create whatever I wanted, and I believe that was the beginning of my apparel design obsession.

When I was about six, I would set up my bedroom like it was my clothing store instead of playing “teacher” or “tea party”.  I took clothes from my closet and displayed them all over my room for my sisters to come shopping.

In 5th grade, I began drawing my own designs.  I was a fan of the Spice Girls, and their unconventional sense of style inspired me to design new looks for them.

In 6th grade, I started redesigning my own clothes.  I would put something on and couldn’t help but imagine it looking better “like this.”  My parents were always supportive of my designs and encouraged my imagination.

  • It is hard to believe it has been a year since you won Birmingham Fashion Week Emerging Designer 2012. How has your life and designs changed since winning that competition?

Since BFW 2012, I graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in apparel and textile design.

Winning the competition boosted my design confidence, and I have visually designed too many things to get down on paper.  Since winning, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in the industry and have been recognized locally. It’s very surreal and I’m so thankful for such a wonderful blessing.

Also, I am currently seeking a fashion design job and building my website.

Heidi Elnora, co-founder of Birmingham Fashion Week, and Mandi Faulk at the Emerging Designers Reveal.
Heidi Elnora, co-founder of Birmingham Fashion Week, and Mandi Faulk at the Emerging Designers Reveal.
  • Tell us about your design philosophy.

My foundation for design is to be innovative and fresh by using a commixture of fashion-forward styles. I constantly seek inspiration, whether it’s obtained through architecture, nature, textures, or timeless icons. My dreams have been crucially beneficial as an element of inspiration and manifestation.

I like the idea of embracing the beauty of grunge while preserving the sexy, urban sophistication of today’s modern woman. The woman I design for is chic, trendy, and appreciates a fresh dynamic esthetic. I want my customer to feel confident, strong, and beautiful while she makes it look easily natural to others.

  • I adore your “Wanderlust” collection! What is the inspiration behind it?

Thank you!  The inspiration behind Wanderlust came from the idea of combining different styles from different locations.  When someone is asked about their style, I don’t feel they should be limited to just one.  Wanderlust is a mixture of textures and natural colors.  It’s bohemian sophistication with an edge.

  • What is the best advice for aspiring designers?

Don’t second guess yourself.  If you visualize something, draw it.  If you end up not loving it, you can determine what it is that you like about that design and incorporate that into something better.  Second guessing yourself is a good way of bruising your imagination.

To be a designer, you must be self-motivated and really live, breathe, and dream design.  If it’s there, it will only intensify.  If you’re interested more in clothes that you in see in stores rather than ones that pop into your head, you could become a stylist.  It takes just as much creativity and talent to become a stylist as it does a designer.  Some of my friends in design school said that they too had been faced with this life decision.

  • On your website, you talk about “Alabama Forever” and “Operation Prom Dress” charities. How did you become involved with these organizations, and how can the VIP readers help support them?

Alabama Forever is a charity founded by Alex Sokol and Chris Nix.  After the April 2011 tornadoes in Alabama, this charity was formed to help those communities.  I had the pleasure of meeting Alex Sokol at BFW 2012, and his passion for this charity is contagious.  The Emerging Designers from BFW 2012 were asked to design a tshirt for this charity.   This is their mission statement:  “The mission of Alabama Forever is simple-to help our communities in need. Alabama Forever was founded by tragedy, developed by necessity, and inspired by the beauty and strength of what makes Alabama special, its people. Our efforts will all be community based with the sum of the whole being far greater than its parts.” –Alabama Forever

The University of Alabama has a club called Fashion Inc.  I was the Vice-President for that club, and we got involved with Operation Prom Dress.  We wanted to do something for the high school girls in Tuscaloosa that were affected by the tornadoes, as well as those that were financially unable to buy a new prom dress.  Every girl deserves to feel beautiful on prom night, so Fashion Inc. partnered with Operation Prom Dress and we held many dress drives.  Over 170 dresses were donated to us.  I’m beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a humbling experience.  I’ll never forget the profound appreciation and genuine smiles of the girls when they came to pick out their dresses.


  • What are you bringing to the Birmingham Fashion Week runway this year?

This year, I will be showing new designs from my Wanderlust collection.  It is my spring line that covers different types of styles.  It’s a little more casual than my Catching Dreams collection that I showed last year.  I incorporated browns and blacks, which, for whatever reason, has gotten such a bad rap.  Rusts and burnt oranges aren’t typically what you would see for a spring collection, so I incorporated those as well.  I want to encourage people to think outside the box instead of limiting their wardrobe choices.

  • When you are not designing, what do you enjoy doing?

When I’m not designing, I try to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends.  My family is a huge part of my life and spending time with them reminds me of what’s important in life. I’m a Southern girl at heart, so I really enjoy being outdoors.  Whether it be fishing, boating, hiking, or kayaking, I’m going to love it.  As far as my guilty pleasure:  ice cream.  It could be snowing outside and ice cream would always sound like a delicious idea!

  • VIP QUESTION: What is one item in your closet you would never toss out and why?

As superficial as this might be, I refuse to throw out my “skinny” jeans.  Not skinny as in the fit, because they’re flared, but skinny as in the jeans I wore when I was at my fittest.  The knees are worn out with authentic holes and other places have been patched up like a champ, but I refuse to throw them out. They remind me that it is important to stay active and healthy.  Plus, they hold some really good memories.


To learn more about Birmingham Fashion Week, take a gander at their website: If you are interested in purchasing tickets for Birmingham Fashion Week, click here.

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If you cannot get enough of the VIP, check out my articles in The Real Story! The Adventures of the VIP in the Lifestyle section!

The VIP is also on The Real Story YouTube page! Check out the first Adventures of the VIP video here:

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Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

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