About eight years ago, Borris J. Powell made a red silk skirt suit for his mom. It was the first thing he ever designed and made. She still has itbut is forbidden to wear it, he said with a smile.
"My mom was my first and main influence," Powell said. "She was a seamstress as I was growing up and [we] had an old sewing machine. I wasn't allowed to touch it, but I would sneak and play around with it when she wasn't home. I would always watch my mother get ready for church, [or] a night out with her girlfriends. I was hooked from the beginning."
Spring forward to 2014, and Powell has been a full-time fashion designer for almost four years. He is 39, lives in Chicago's West Loop and has called Chicago home, after being raised in Alabama, for the past 18 years. He is a successful, single gay businessman.
"I didn't choose fashion; it chose me," Powell said. "Looking back at my childhood, I was meant to do this. There were signs before I even knew that a fashion designer existed. I was always attracted to beauty."
In 2011, Powell won the fashion-driven Oscar Designer Challenge in Los Angeles, which was one year after showing in London's Fashion Week. "Needless to say, [after winning] I was feeling that I could play in this crazy world of fashion, and make a difference.
"[The award] changed my life and how people saw me. I met one of my favorite designers, talked with and met amazing actors who I had always loved. It has opened so many amazing doors for me. I've dressed many amazing people, including fabulous celebrities. I've had my garments pulled for some Hollywood shows."
Most recently, he was named fashion director of SEX + LOVE, a project in conjunction with Kyle Thomas, and Powell said he is "super excited" for it, though full details have not been revealed yet. "We have the same vision and drive, and this is so refreshing. I was honored and shocked all in one that he asked me to be the [fashion director]. What we have planned for SEX + LOVE will blow everyone's mind. I will give you fashion like you've never seen before and he's bringing you laughter, romance, drama, and the desire to court again."
Powell's FREEDOM Collection, which debuted this past March and will be available in September, was inspired from a trip he had taken to Dallas, where everyone was dressing up no matter the time of day or where they were. "I fell in love with fashion all over," while in Dallas, he said. "It had been years since I've seen this sort of fashion moment. The last time was when I was in Italy where everyone was dressed to the nines. So from this trip to Dallas, I designed a collection that is meant to give us the FREEDOM to dress up again."
Powell has been producing women's wear for almost eight years, and he slowly added men's into his collections in 2013 due to the "natural demand" of needing to expand his brand.
"A very dear friend of mine begged me for years to make him a suit. I finally caved and now he owns seven suits, one tuxedo, and five or six blazers," Powell said. "The men's line has grown so fast. I never thought this would have happened, nor did I think I would enjoy it so much. I love it. In one year, it grew so much that I'm quickly focusing on men's ready-to-wear. I feel that the market is ready for Borris Powell's Men's off the Rack."
Current fashion trend: For now, it's men in bright colored pants, floral printed pants and blazers. "Be bold, guys," Powell advised. "While the guys are being bold in current fashion, the women are being a bit more relaxed, but still chic. It's a very effortless look, but still put together. I'm excited that the comfy dressing is finally taking a back seat. Finally, it's time to pay attention to dressing up again."
Fashion trend that is so … 2013: "Comfy dressing, which I refer to as lazy dressing"
Biggest fashion error you see nowadays: "The continuous wearing of the old school Ugg boots and active wear as a cute fashion statement"
Best part of your job: "To wake up every day doing what I love. Living within my passion. And seeing someone wear one of my pieces and watching the change in their step, or having a client text me that they were stopped on the streets about a piece of mine that they are wearing. That never gets old."
Worst part of your job: "When someone wants luxury, custom items at a flea market price"
Lipstick: He soon will be adding eye shadow and lip-gloss to the mix. He has one lipstick that launched last March, called, RedGarden, and it sold out in three weeks. Two new shades are expected in the fall.