For Liberian designer May Roberts Elliot, the creative process starts with a fever pitch. Her unique approach to fashion design does not end until a full garment emerges from her sewing machine. She likes to finish what she starts, and will work until every last grain of energy has left her body. She works with passion, and in fashion, only the passionate survive.
May Elliot’s path to fashion started in the African nation of Liberia where she grew up and attended school until blood-filled civil war divided her nation. To flee the panic and chaos, May and her family escaped through the neighboring country of the Ivory Coast before migrating to the United States. Once on U.S. soil, May found herself lost in a new country and in odd-jobs until she discovered that fashion was her passion. This propelled May to attend a fashion school in Sacramento from which she has recently graduated, and has shown her second collection in the American River College Identity Fashion Show that was held on May 6, 2011.
May’s new collection is titled “M.E.” for her initials, and is a mirror of herself and her struggles. The collection was inspired by her homeland of Liberia, which prompted her to paint with a color palette of African colors and to use ethnic textiles. The feel of the collection is very African but the design is American with the use of traditional lines and patterns.
May’s design philosophy is simple but powerful. Her views also extend beyond just the clothing as they give a nod to the green movement. The young designer believes that everything should be just as beautiful as it is usable, and this is why May took top honors at the American River College spring fashion show. May won “Best Re-purposed Designs” because she managed to create a new creation with its own identity from old and dated African textiles that originated from an African dress given to her by her mother. This resourcefulness extends further, as May has made it an initiative to make each of her garments completely reversible–you could start the work-day wearing a blue blazer and later transform the look by flipping it inside-out, re-wearing the same garment as an eye-catching yellow or red jacket. This feature extends throughout her other garments in the collection, including tops and skirts.
This type of innovative thinking is what makes May Elliot stand apart from the rest. People want more than just clothing. They want things that push the boundary of what is normal, and they want it made in a way that they can feel good about. May’s designs caught our attention because of her unique techniques, and she is already on the road to becoming a fashion star. The designer is now inundated with calls from new clients who want custom-made apparel, and almost all of her original garments have already been spoken for. From escaping civil war, to acclimating in a new country, and now moving toward a third collection and an accessory line, May Elliot is a true vision of the American Dream that has become a reality.
Profile by Alicia Alvarez
Photos Courtesy of D and M Studios