A warehouse alongside the railroad tracks may seem like a world away from high fashion runways. That was until Project RUnway alumna Amanda Pernaopened up her fashion studio in Delray’s Artist Alley. Behind those doors, art comes to life in the form of House of Perna’s bold, bright, print-driven designs.
Perna always had a love for fashion. In high school, the Coral Springs native would spray paint her shoes and make purses out of cigar boxes and ripped jeans. But she never considered making it her career until she transferred to University of Alabama and discovered the Department of Clothing and Textiles. While in school, she interned for Oscar de la Renta then landed a job at Calvin Klein after graduation. In 2011, she was cast on Project Runway. Although she didn’t win, the experience gave her enough exposure to launch her brand. Between finishing up her latest collection and getting ready for Delray Beach Fabulous Fashion Week, Perna made time to meet up with Boca Raton magazine and discuss her designs.
Boca Mag: What influenced you to become a clothing designer?
Amanda Perna: I was always one of those people who just loved fashion. I was more involved in theater though, so it was a process that started with my obsession with the costume department and seeing how the costumes made me feel like my character. Eventually once I realized that fashion design was an actual career, I wound up falling in love with it. It was kinda the psychology of what makes a women feel amazing and how you could help people feel incredible by creating clothing.
BM: Tell me a little about your design process.
AP: Everyone has their own process. Mine used to be very regimented. I first started with color, then print, then bodies but now I’m kinda all over the place. It’s whatever I feel inspires me first. For me its about not forcing it; [it’s about] loving what I’m doing.
BM: Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
AP: Living in New York as long as I did, [the city] stuck with me and it will always stick with me. I do a lot more things that are architectural since living there. Then just traveling in general and seeing what different people in different places wear. Obviously living in Florida has always influenced me. My choice of color is very Floridian. My choice of prints are always very bold. And then it’s the customer. She always inspires me.
BM: What has been the most exciting milestone for you as a designer?
AP: Really it was getting our space, having a physical place where I go to work everyday. That and being able to work on this full time. It was my five-year plan and we did it in a year and a half. When they put the sign up, I freaked out. My whole family was taking pictures of it. I started in my apartment in New York and now we have 900 square feet that belongs to House of Perna.
BM: How does having your own line compare to working with other designers?
AP: It’s crazy, when I was at Calvin, we were the big dog. Money was no object. We did what we had to do. Owning my own business, I’m a little guy. We’re just starting out so we have to be smart about how we do things. The beauty of it is that I get to create what I see, the way I want the world to look. When you’re working for a brand, they have their aesthetic. You have to get in the head of someone else, whereas here, it’s a free-for-all for me.
BM: What did you gain as a designer from being on Project Runway?
AP: It gives you a very thick skin. It taught me that not everyone’s gonna love me, not everyone’s gonna love what I do, but I need to stay true to who I am and what I believe in as a designer.
BM: Why did you choose Delray Beach for your studio?
AP: Once we launched the brand, we wanted to come back to Florida to be close to family. We were initially thinking about Miami because that’s where fashion is right now. We went down there and we didn’t love it. It wasn’t quaint and cute and fun and walkable. Then we found Artists Alley. We were so lucky they had space for us. I love being surrounded by amazing, internationally known artists. It’s very inspiring.
BM: What is a House of Perna women?
AP: She’s somebody who likes to stand out in the crowd. She’s a powerful women. She’s not a wallflower. She’s proud of who she is and wants people to see what she’s wearing. She’s casual yet sophisticated. She wants to always look chic and fabulous, but she doesn’t always want to make such an effort.
BM: How do you plan to grow House of Perna?
AP: Now that we have a really good sense of who our girl is and what she’s looking for we’re really ready to go and push and make it bigger. We are relaunching our website next week with an e-commerce boutique. We leave Jan. 26 to debut the Fall 2015 line at the Atlanta Apparel Mart. We’re also expanding into a bridal collection, which were really excited about. 2015 is gonna be a big year for us.
Amanda Perna will be showcasing her designs at Delray Beach Fabulous Fashion Week. On Sunday Jan 18. she participated in the Cornell Museum’s “Recycled Runway” show. The line will also be featured at the “Bold in Print” show on Jan. 20 and the Delray Beach Designer Showcase on Jan. 24. Her collection will be available for purchase at the Vendor Showcase on Jan. 24. For more information check out thehouseofperna.com or stop by her studio at 350 N.E 4th Ave., Delray Beach for its open house every first Friday and third Thursday of the month.