For one night in November of 2012, pink silk was the biggest thing on Edgewood Avenue. At the Sound Table's Space 2, a raw venue suited more to loud, electronic music than a couture fashion show, yards of the fabric ran along the walls in long, weathered strips. There were dresses, too, worn by a line of models who posed and pranced on platforms in front of the wall. Some of the designs looked trim and precise, others flowing and sack-like, but all were obviously cut from the same cloth that lined the wall behind them. The silk was worn, thin and scarred, stained, torn; it seemed to have lived a life of its own. In fact, it had. After traveling half the distance of the globe with designer Megan Huntz, the silk had finally arrived in Atlanta. Likewise, the evening signaled the arrival of Megan Huntz Dresses.
Huntz took a long and circuitous route to arrive as a fashion designer in Atlanta. She was born here and grew up here, but left in the mid-'90s to study industrial design at the Pratt Institute in New York. "I was novice at everything. I sucked. I was terrible in school," she says, laughing it off now. But studying in a male-dominated, demanding field forced her to be assertive and rigorous in her work. "I learned to stake my claim on my ideas and make myself be taken seriously," she says.
Her résumé now reads like a map of Italy: studying at the Domus Academy in Milan, working for a denim company in Apulia, retailing in Treviso. It was during those years, while doing research and concept work for various brands or selling Dior or Galliano designs in boutiques, that she met a man who sells fabric from a house outside of Treviso.
"It's just this house full of fabrics, in the basement, in the garage, no electricity or plumbing, just full of bolts of fabrics," she says. "The manufacturers work on licensing agreements, so they buy the fabrics that they make the clothing from every season. At the end of the season, when they've filled their orders, they always have some left over and this is where those fabrics end up. These are exclusive, high-end fabrics and they have designer signatures, but they're being sold from a nondescript house."
Using these leftovers from Italian fashion houses, she's able to make dresses with the distinction and quality of fine fabric without having to be in an established firm in Italy or face the overhead associated with it. Now based in Atlanta, Huntz visits this man — she identifies him only by his first name, Christian — twice a year to see what fabrics he's acquired.
Before cutting a pattern, though, Huntz says that she "kind of destroys" the yards that she buys, applying treatments to her fabrics that sound vaguely like torture — hot wax, coffee, paint, burns, oils, dye baths, and so on — with vibrant and delicate results. Her final dresses are recognizable for their flowing, elegant lines splashed with color. None are the same and yet they all feel recognizably similar. Each one-of-a-kind piece retails for $300-$600.
Huntz's distinctive style is now attracting attention. She's been selected for Charleston Fashion Week 2013 this March as part of a competitive showcase of emerging designers. Her brand, Megan Huntz Dresses, is collaborating with designer Trevor White to make a line of silk ties. Later this spring, she'll exhibit her dresses with sculptural work of the Athens-based artists the Paper Cut Project.
Huntz finds it fitting that her dresses will be seen alongside fine art. After her global education, she says that designing dresses now feels much like her earliest hobby: painting pictures. "At some point as a child, I realized I could make some brushstroke and that can never be repeated ever again. In retrospect, that totally relates to the way that I work now."