Emerging fashion designer Torry Strayhorn, creator of the Victoria Cullinan brand, describes herself as a minimalist who creates pieces for all ages that are modern yet classic. On April 27, the Charlotte native launched her brand in her hometown during two private showings of her Fall 2017 collection held at the home of neighbors and friends Aundrea and Stephen Wilson, a fellow textiles-obsessed artist.
A world traveler who's influenced by her experiences exploring different countries and cultures, Torry's inspiration for the collection was kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to mend broken pottery. "It makes the pottery more beautiful and valuable yet you can still see the cracks," Torry says. "To apply that to clothes, I used very clean lines, gold chains and slightly off-kilter angles."
A self-described perfectionist who likes for things to be done properly, Torry travels to L.A. and New York City to find material that meets her standards. "I have to touch it and see it myself," she says. Sustainability is also very important to her. She estimates 93 percent of her materials are natural fibers - especially silks, wools and cottons.
Along with designing her creations, she also embellishes them herself whether it's painting on the fabric or making the crushed velvet pieces in the collection by hand. "It takes an iron, water and a lot of patience," she says of the process.
As a young girl, she was always sketching clothes and using her big imagination. Originally interested in dance, she would take apart her tutus and redesign her dance clothes, and she made her own prom dress. But it was a Fashion 101 class at Savannah School of Art and Design that convinced her that she wanted a career in fashion.
While still a student, she won the prestigious YMA CFDA Competition and the Cotton Inc. Design Competition. That set her on the path of working in New York City with designers Rebecca Taylor and then Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein. "He's brilliant," she says.
She describes working there as an incredible place to learn and grow, but the hours were crazy. She often worked until 3 a.m. and then had to be back in the design studio at 7:30 a.m. So she decided to return to Charlotte and launch her own brand. To challenge herself, she applied to show at the 2017 Charleston Fashion Week and was one of 16 from a field of 600 who made the cut. The positive feedback convinced her she had made the right decision to go out on her own.
From a bright design studio in her home, she works on her collections and makes bespoke pieces for weddings and special events. She also loves to create custom couture for her mother, Kerry Strayhorn, including a Mother of the Groom gown and jacket when Torry's brother was married.
The age range of Torry's clients generally falls between 20s and 60s. Here's her fashion advice for those 50 and up:
The basics. "Keep adding classic pieces to your wardrobe. They make you feel put together."
The key piece. "Coats transcend any age group. If you want to cover your arms, coats can do that and they tie a look all together.
Age is just a number - explore, have fun and try different colors. "Why do we hold back? Why do we have to live in fear? Always be open to trying something new and updating your wardrobe."
The one rule you should never break. "Clothes should not be too tight."
Don't look at the size, look at the fit. "There is no standard sizing anymore. Sizes can be completely different from one company to the next."
To learn more about Torry's designs, go to www.victoriacullinan. Follow her on Instagram @victoriacullinan.