Artist Spotlight: An Interview with Fashion Designer Cartier Dior

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Designer Cartier Dior at Utah Fashion Week, next to her model wearing a dress made from satin, tulle, and holiday decorations.

I created On A Hot Wire with other artists in mind. I want to write things they’ll enjoy and relate to, but I’ve always planned to feature their art here, as well. I thought that Cartier Dior, an incredibly talented young fashion designer from my city, would be a great first artist to spotlight on OAHW. She never fails to stun me with her ingenious use of material, creating classy silhouettes and funky details with recycled homework assignments and repurposed home decor. I’m also so inspired by her drive and entrepreneurial spirit; Cartier has already achieved a lot of success in her brief artistic career, and I know she’ll rise to high places. Answers are Cartier’s; questions and bolding are mine.

Introduce yourself!

My name is Cartier Dior and I am a 16 year old fashion designer and model based in Pocatello, Idaho. I specialize in avant-garde and unconventional designs. My specialty is fabric manipulation, which means that I use methods like painting and hand sewing to create one of a kind, custom fabrics.

How would you describe your art form and style?

I create out of the box formal dresses. I like to take classic cuts and manipulate them to make something new and exciting. I also use unconventional materials, like holiday decorations, paper, and plastic, and use them to enhance and design and make it unique.

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Dress made from National Geographic world maps.

What’s your artistic journey been like?

I started designing when I was nine years old, and I am completely self taught. I worked only in unconventional materials until about a year and a half ago. I am still defining my skills in fabric, but I’ve come a long way since making paper dresses. While I still wish I had some formal training, I think that the self taught route has helped me to learn how to use my resources and solve problems creatively.

How do you practice your art?

Toiles. Lots and lots of toiles. A toile is basically a draft of a design that is sewn in muslin or another cheap fabric. When I make a design for a client, I drape an initial pattern, then make the toile from that. I then fit the toile on the customer, then take apart the altered toile, clean up some lines and curves, then use that as the pattern. Making the toile is a cheap way for me to get a three dimensional feel for what a design is like without wasting expensive satin.

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A dress from Cartier’s Ijskristallen collection at Utah Fashion Week, made from satin and holiday decorations.

What inspires you?

I like to think of fashion design like storytelling, so a lot of the work I do is inspired by my own life experiences. Form wise, my inspirations are avant garde designers like Alexander McQueen and Iris Van Herpen, who take classic silhouettes and manipulate them into something new and modern.

What do you do to power through a creative block or other rough spot?

For me, creative blocks are generally caused by stress. If I am having trouble working creatively, I try to make time to relax and take care of other priorities in my schedule so I can think more clearly.

Where do you display your art?

My work is displayed in fashion shows, which happen periodically through the year. The major show I do is Utah Fashion Week, which is in late winter/early spring.

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All of Cartier’s Utah Fashion Week looks (plus, Cartier wearing her own hand-painted Starry Night dress, my whimsical favorite).

What progress would you like to make with your art? Where do you hope to see yourself in the future with it?

I would really like to get an education in fashion and improve my construction and design process. After that, I want to open my own design house. My ultimate goal would be to show a collection at Fashion Week alongside designers like Dior, Chanel, and others major names in fashion.

What are you doing to gain an audience or make a name for yourself?

I lean on social media for all my promotion. It’s simple, free, and helps me to get my work seen by people in bigger areas.

What do you enjoy about the fashion / clothing design industry that might be different from others? What are problems you’ve encountered?

I love the outreach fashion has. Even here in Pocatello, the clothing we buy has been influenced by haute couture collections. That being said, Pocatello is definitely not a fashion capital. The nearest place with even an ounce of a distinct fashion industry is Salt Lake City, which means that I have to travel 2 hours every time I attend a fashion show or even buy high quality fabrics.

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Dress made of U.S. History assignments.

What should someone expect (at least from your experience) if they want to get into the industry?

Getting into the fashion industry requires lots of work and, in turn, very little sleep. It is incredibly common for me and other designers to work all night trying to finish commission and collections. As an artist, it’s also very common for people to expect you to do work for free. This is definitely a quite annoying thing to have to deal with, but at the end of the day, your work has value and it’s worth it to keep working towards your goals anyway.

How can someone see more of your work?

@cartierdiordesigns on Instagram or www.facebook.com/cartierdiordesigns. Commission information is available by email at cartierdiordesigns@gmail.com.

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You Can Have It All

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My mom gave me this Sylvia Plath necklace as a graduation gift. It’s a line from The Bell Jar, the novel that inspired my poem.

A few months ago, I wrote and read this spoken word poem in my literature class. Just a few weeks before graduation, I was feeling anxious about my future and overwhelmed by the infinite options I could choose from. Luckily, I had an outlet to voice these feelings, and I incorporated a Sylvia Plath concept, advice from my ever-wise lit teacher, and the perpetually frustrating question of “Can you have it all?” into one sort of pessimistic, really earnest piece.

I’ve been thinking about these words as my first day of college draws nearer, and with it adulthood and “the real world.” Today’s my 18th birthday, and it all feels so close. It’s a bittersweet feeling, I guess.

If I’d known the poem would get the attention it did, I would have memorized it like my teacher wanted me to—but, of course, I read it from my iPhone (so ignore that!). The video’s a bit blurry, and the audio isn’t perfect, but the poem’s meant to be heard as well as read.

Watch the video here: “You Can Have It All”

you can have it all

Here’s the text:

“You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.”

She is my lit teacher,

A formative feminist influence,

And her words ring with the wisdom of 35 years of teaching teenage kids

Hungry for and scared to death of their huge futures.

“You can have it all”

The doors are there, she’s telling me, every door I want to enter,

Every achievement and position,

Power and prestige,

If only I dare open them.

“But you can’t have it all at once.”

The catch.

Here are all the doors.

A line of doors extending miles

Their paint blue and brown and glossy

And if I open one door

Hear the creak of its protesting hinges

A deadbolt down the line slides shut.

The more knockers I lift

The more boards get nailed against the jambs of all the other doors.

 

I am a somewhat unstable teenage girl who likes poetry

And like most unstable girls with loves of poetry I like Sylvia Plath,

I read The Bell Jar in tenth grade and thought she’d written it for me,

The older I get the more solipsistic I become in that regard.

She writes of a towering fig tree

Branches heavy with fruit.

Each fig symbolizes some fantastic future ahead.

One is a happy family,

Another the life of a famous poet

Another a position as a brilliant professor

An editor

Foreign lovers with foreign names

Travel.

If you choose one fig, clamber up the trunk to a single branch and pick one fig,

Pluck your forbidden fruit of choice,

The rest fall and rot in the dirt

Their possibilities lost to you.

No takebacks if you pick the wrong fig. Store policy is no returns. So instead of inching up the tree,

Instead of pursuing your fig with all your vigor,

You stand at the base,

Paralyzed with fear.

Rather than choose the wrong one

Or choose one at all

You abstain from fig-picking completely.

The fruit drops before ever touching your fingers

And the tree withers away

Felled by your fatal uncertainty.

 

“You can have it all”

But I know I can’t

I know that having one thing means losing another

And nobody believes any different.

I know it because when I wanted to be a doctor

People told me I wouldn’t be a doctor

They said I’d get married instead.

I know it because when I told my dad I wanted to be a journalist

He said I couldn’t do what I love and not starve to death.

 

How can you choose when every choice is equally attractive and repulsive to you?

 

I want baby blankets and sticky fingers and I want lullabies and forced piano lessons I want the joy I can have when I make something out of my own body and blood

And I want pantsuits and I want a professional position and I want glossy photos and blocked typeface I want red pens and people that answer to me

And I want conflict and war I want tears and shrapnel I want to talk to refugees in dirty desert camps and I want to cover rebel soldiers in clandestine locations I want to get captured and held for a ransom no one will pay for a lowly war correspondent

And I want long Saturdays shut up with a keyboard in a shaded office on my home’s second floor and I want the smell of Sharpie and my signature on a page and I want my name on a dozen front covers in glossy script

And I want a Dr. before my name, a name written upon a chalkboard every fall and I want to teach impressionable college students to do something bigger than themselves and I want to spend my whole life cramming my brain with knowledge

And I want to learn how to play upright bass and join an indie band I want to tour the country playing music I make to audiences who don’t give a damn what our clever band name is.

And I want to run a girl’s orphanage in Peru I want to mother fifty girls and make sure they have bras and tampons and lunches and all the things I’ve never had to ask for

And I want to own a small bookstore I want to buy secondhand paperbacks with pen in the margins I want to recline on a leather chair all day reading Aristotle and Austen and Poe

And I want to live in Buenos Aires I want to live in Spain I want to live by dirty canals and hear song in a hundred languages I want to live in a jungle or a savannah I want to live somewhere where for the first time in my life I can get a tan I want to climb to the top of the world and see what I can see from up there

 

I want everything

And I can’t have everything.

The tree is so vast

And I am such a slow climber.

I can’t have it all

And I definitely can’t have it all at once.

 

Perfect Bodies


Today while listening to Regina Spektor’s “Folding Chair,” I was struck by a few lines in the middle of the song. I thought her words—gorgeous and wise, as they always are—might impact others as much as they did me, so I doodled up some eyelashes and wanted to share. 

Spektor expresses so earnestly a truth that I think all of us forget: our bodies are faulty and flawed, flabby and bony, pockmarked and scarred, but ultimately perfect just because they do what they’re supposed to do. It’s easy to get caught up in everything we dislike about our bodies, but there’s such beauty in their gloriously simple, incomprehensibly complex functions: in the details of a fingernail bed, the process of a breath, all the millions of synapses that spark speech and thought and movement. It really puts into perspective, for me, just how wonderful it is to have a body at all, especially one that performs relatively well. For today, at least, I am finding joy in the simple act of being in my body (my perfect body!).

The Exuberance and Exasperation of Making Things

hand collage

 

Making things brings joy.

Making things also sucks.

The exact second I started this post, thinking about how “making things brings joy,” I got a text that read “Making stuff sucks sometimes.” I realized I couldn’t extol the merits of artistic expression without acknowledging that truth. While I wholeheartedly believe that creating beautiful or thought-provoking things can be a source of fulfillment and happiness, I also have to acknowledge the flip side: it’s also frustrating and sometimes fruitless, often infuriating and rarely lucrative.

Do it anyway.

Making something awesome might feel like pounding your head against a wall. You might not be able to get the impressions in your head down on paper quite right. Your hands might not cooperate with the clay or paintbrush or computer mouse the way you think they should. You might spend hours on something you love, only for it to be underappreciated and ignored.

In your attempt to make something beautiful, you will encounter writer’s block or paint that dries too quickly. Your sketchbook will be streaked with eraser marks. You’ll have hit the backspace button one hundred times too many. You will show your creation, cradled in your hands like your own fragile child, to people who will not grasp its meaning or your effort. You will trash a draft, then trash another. You will revise and peer-review and agonize and edit until you claim to have given up.

You won’t, at least for long.

Because you know there’s something more there. You’ve felt the itch to form something in your fingers. There are ideas in your head begging to be shared with the world. From the moment you lay out your supplies, the blank space in front of you full of possibility, to the planning stages and the end details, you can lose yourself in making something great. When all that exists is you, your medium, and an inspiration, you’re in a pretty sacred place. Your entire creative process is a liberation.

When you finish, when you sit back surveying your work, you’ll be proud. You will inspect every stitch and line and decide that, finally, you’re done, and for a few hours you’ll keep glancing back, surprised every time at how lovely you think it is. When you show your friends or your mom figure, they’ll squeal or send a row of exclamation marks. They will be proud of you, too, of all the cool things you can make. You know you’re not doing it for the attention, but still, it feels pretty good.

And if you haven’t felt that yet, get on it! You might be terrible at drawing or poetry—don’t worry, my human portraits used to look like goblins, and I still haven’t figured out how to rhyme. Your art might have a high suck-to-joy ratio at the start, but I promise that you will feel the gratification of improvement as you work at it.

I’m still struggling with making things. I get short spurts of pride and long stretches of discouragement. But I’ve decided to challenge myself to practice more frequently, share more widely, and create more passionately. Right now I’m excited. I know that’ll turn to exhaustion eventually, but any aspiring or established artist understands that we have to cling to our moments of joy.

That’s why I started On A Hot Wire: so I can share my joyous things and yours. I’d love to see what you create; I have plans to showcase your art here, and I’d like this to be a place where everyone’s ideas and creations are welcome. Art, whether traditional and unconventional, is something we should celebrate and further while discussing realistically. And it’s something we should keep making. It’s exasperating; it’s exuberant; it’s necessary.