Pittsburgh Fashion Designer Keeps It Haute and Classy
Local fashion designer and owner of Haute Cocoa, LLC Amy Stewart, has been turning heads with her original designs. From the sensual feminine appeal of some of her pieces - to the edgy-chic looks, there’s nothing Haute Cocoa can’t design and produce.
Haute Cocoa is an apparel brand that specializes in making custom one-of-ones and collections, but what really makes it special is the personal touch of everything being hand made by Amy. She specializes in womenswear, menswear, loungewear, outerwear, and accessories. Her brand is truly a jack of all trades when it comes to fashion.
Multi-talented designer and seamstress, how did it all begin?!
Fashion came into my life very early. My dad is an artist so he taught me how to draw as soon as I could hold a pencil. Like most girly girls, I loved playing in makeup and playing dress-up as well. As I got a little older, I started to rip my barbie doll clothes up and sew them back together with my mom’s sewing kit. Then when I got to middle school and I began experimenting with my own clothing by distressing them or sewing on patches.
My mom saw that I took an interest in fashion, so she suggested I apply to CAPA. She explained to me that it was performing and creative arts school, and that I could pursue my passions there. I got accepted into their Fashion & Costume design program where I officially learned how to sew, drape, fashion sketch, and the list goes on. Everything pertaining to fashion I learned at CAPA and my experience there really developed me to who I am today.
Have You Ever Hosted Your Own Fashion Show?
I hosted a fashion show of mine in High School. It was called Project CAPA, inspired by the show Project Runway. It was amazing because I was very young then and I only really knew I wanted to have a show, but the turn out was bigger than I expected. I also got to donate the money I raised to an organization that means a lot to me, called Kierra Keeps Giving.
Any new shows coming up?
I have the Clarion Fashion Show in April, I'm really excited about that because I love working with them and the other designers that participate. I also have a really dope event for the city in the works and I’m so excited to drop the details when the time is right.
What's your favorite piece or collection you've created thus far?
My favorite pieces from 2019 were all my maternity outfits. I never made maternal outfits until given the opportunity to, and what I made turned out so beautiful. My customers had maternity photoshoots so it made me really proud to add to such an important moment in their life.
How would you describe your personal style? What are your top go-to looks?
I switch between being comfortable and fashionista. My go-to looks: a sweatsuit, easy to throw on and comfortable; and a jumpsuit or bodysuit. I like showing off my curves in those with dope shoes.
Have you styled any influencers or icons?
My first time styling ever I got to help style the singer Danileigh during fashion week. It was a really cool experience and she was really sweet.
How is your hometown expressed through your style?
I’m from Pittsburgh, the northside to be exact. I grew up very sheltered despite living on the northside and I went to CAPA Highschool from the 6th to 12th grade. My style has always been a perfect mesh of both experiences. I was the girl that had multiple gold chains and name earrings but would rock it with something I made or thrifted.
Do you own a storefront or want to own a storefront in the future?
I definitely want my own store one day.
Do your family and friends support your endeavors? Do you feel you have that network of support here in Pittsburgh?
My family and friends are my number one supporters. They were the first ones to buy anything I made - and still are any time I drop anything now. My mom has even taken on the role of being my momager and it’s the cutest thing. She helps me with everything and I appreciate her because she’s very business savvy. My friends have supported me so much as well, especially my college family. I feel like I do have a network of support in Pittsburgh and that makes me really happy because I was nervous about that originally.
When you want to pursue anything your always scared initially if people will support or acknowledge what you do so with that in mind when I started I went into launching my business with this attitude of ‘I don’t care what people think. This is my passion. I’m doing this because it makes me happy!”. I feel like that really manifested the support as strange as that sounds because I wasn’t so focused on it.
I’m so grateful for all the people I don’t know personally that support me too. It's fascinating to me when a stranger supports you simply off who you are or the message behind your brand. I call those people my Hauties! They are my tribe of customers and supporters that go hard for me and Haute Cocoa without knowing me personally.
What models & photographers do you absolutely love working with? Who do you want to work with in the future?
For models and photographers, I’m always looking for new people to work with honestly. I like to try someone new every time I do a project. My go-to for marketing and promo is @YaceYase. They do all my videos and I stick with them because they make all my visions come to life no matter how big.
How do you plan your projects? What gives you inspiration?
My project planning process is crazy but it works for me lol. I like planning 3 months out before I do things. I'll come up with a theme or aesthetic for what I want to do or make, set a deadline and then devote all my time and energy to it.
Tell us about a funny moment early in your fashion career.
The funniest moment for me was the first fashion show I did for my brand. I was in the Levels Fashion at the Mueller Fashion Show and it was my first opportunity to have my brand in a show. I have some modeling background myself, so I came up with an amazing set where they would be modeling and dancing while rocking Haute Cocoa. The day before the show one of my models dropped out of my set and that left us not only short a girl but throwing off everything we practiced.
My models, plus everyone that seen us practice, suggested that I fill in for my girl since I knew the routine and had the experience. So I agreed and we killed it! My ladies and I opened up the show and a lot of people admired our vogue styled dancing. I was originally really nervous and embarrassed to have to do it - but it ended up being a highlight moment in my career so far. Now people book me to have my brand in shows and for me to work with the models which makes me happy because I’m passionate about both.
Did you set any resolutions for 2020? What do you want to accomplish this year?
I just want to continue to expand Haute Cocoa. We had a successful first year & I just want to keep the momentum. I have so many projects planned this year and I’m so excited to share them with everyone that supports me. My overall goal is to be intentional with everything I do.
What places are on your travel bucket list?
My fashionista travel bucket list is to hit every fashion capital in the world. So that leaves me to hit Paris, London, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid and Tokyo since I’ve been to L.A and New York.
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