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Gavin's Underground

Rebecca Fenton

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2013-10-15 -
With this year's Art Meets Fashion now concluded, patrons have gotten a good look at the local fashion scene, both with established names and people on the rise. One of the more breakout names to come out of the weekend was Rebecca Fenton, founder and owner of Haunted Head Fashion, who has a knack for taking already great-looking designs and adding in something extra for an eye-catching look, making her creations a standout at any runway or function.
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Today, I chat with Fenton about her career, starting up Haunted Head and how it's been doing, thoughts on the local fashion scene and a few other topics. (All photos courtesy of Fenton.)

Rebecca Fenton
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Gavin: Hey, Rebecca. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rebecca: Well, I am a bit of a renaissance woman. I teach yoga, can fly helicopters, have been known to build furniture, can bust a mean groove, studied sign language and medicine, worked as an event planner and bookkeeper, love to paint and draw and have a soft spot for video games. Yet, through all of that I have maintained a deep passion for creating clothes.

Gavin: What first got you interested in fashion, and what were some early influences on you?

Rebecca: I guess I feel I have always been around fashion. My grandmother was a model, my mom was a seamstress, my sisters are seamstresses. I just grew up with fabrics, patterns and dress forms.
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Gavin: What drew you to making clothing ,and what was it like creating some of your first pieces?

Rebecca: As I said, I grew up with it; however, I got into it because I have always had kind of unique sensibilities and I could never find what I wanted in the stores, really. If clothes are an expression and I could get the right "words," so I began creating my own vocabulary. What was it like making my first pieces? Ha! It was incredible and awful all a the same time. So even though my mom was a seamstress, she didn't really teach me how to sew. I taught myself, which was liberating. I never really learned the "rules," so at age 11-13, I made whatever came into my head, with no fear, no restrictions. So, I was this child making horribly constructed items and being just so pleased with myself. It was incredible. Thankfully, through time and practice I got much better at construction, but I do still hold on to the feeling of having no fear in my creation.

Gavin: Did you seek out any education in fashion design or were you mainly self-taught?

Rebecca: I was self-taught. However, I have taken classes now, as well; I felt like maybe I should go and see if there are pieces that I missed along the road in my self education. When I went to sewing classes, I learned that I had taught myself pretty well. Now, I am taking some advanced private lessons and that is taking my skill to a new level. I am excited about this!
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Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own clothing line, and where did the name Haunted Head Fashion come from?

Rebecca: I had just been sewing mainly for myself, but with the rise of eBay and people selling handmade clothing online, I wondered, "Why not try that myself?" It just took off from there, like crazy took off! The term Haunted Head is from a song, actually, which I just fell in love with those words; I think it's a beautiful phrase. Then, I figured out that is exactly how the fashion designs come to me. I picture them in my head and they appear as only moments, and if I don’t draw them out or give them life they will disappear. That, and when I would see something in a store that I would actually want, if I didn't get it, it would haunt me. Like "Oh, man, I should have bought that one dress"! Years later, I still remember it. I want my fashion to be like that -- so memorable that when people see it, if they don't own it, it will be like, "Dang it, I should have got that dress."

Gavin: What was it like for you starting out and getting the company up and running?

Rebecca: It was fun. It kind of just grew rather big on its own in the beginning. It was a lot of work but it was organic with its growth. I styled bands, a Broadway star, had clothes in boutiques all over the world and hundreds of clients. Then, I got divorced from a marriage of 13 years. I got nervous about supporting me and my kids with this. I mean, every last part of this business was solely on me. So, I left it and went into the regular job market. That move provided me with a stability that I needed at that time. Years later, now I am married to an incredible man who has refused to see me not pursue this passion that I have always carried, so we are starting it up again and it's doing great!
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Gavin: How did some of your early designs do, and what kind of a challenge was it creating pieces that were unique to the fashion scene at the time?

Rebecca: My early designs did really well. The challenge of doing pieces that are unique to the fashion scene is not too much of a challenge for me. Like I said, teaching myself opened up this idea in me that anything is game. That, along with my already unique aesthetic, works well to generate unique clothes in my head.

Gavin: What's the process for you when creating a new piece, from concept to final product?

Rebecca: Sometimes, the image will come into my head and I have to get it down on paper right away. Other times, I will see a piece of fabric and automatically I know what I want to create with it. Yet other times, I see a work of art, a texture, a color and it just begs to be translated into a wearable version of itself.
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Gavin: Do you find yourself making changes along the way, or do you try to stick to the design you start with?

Rebecca: Both. I like to stick to my original design, yet there are moments when a piece takes on its own soul. As with a lot of things in creation, they can each be pliant to what you want it to be or they can steer themselves into what they want you to make them into. I think good artists know the difference between the two when either scenario presents. I also believe that is the magic of creating, the conversation or dance that happens between myself and the vision and the materials.

Gavin: When did you break into doing runway shows, and how was it seeing your work displayed in that kind of environment?

Rebecca: My first runway show was the RAW artist show in February of this year. Frankly, there is nothing like a runway environment for seeing your work come together. It is incredible! I love it.
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Gavin: To date, you're one of the longest-running fashion designers in the state who hasn't taken off to work on the coast yet. How has it been for you staying a regional designer and still appealing to a national audience?

Rebecca: Well, I live here in Utah, but I have traveled many places. I also believe in research and connection with a larger world on a consistent basis. So, appealing to a national audience is not difficult. And let's not downplay the fact that Utah has amazing talent and artist community. I think Salt Lake's artistic quality and potential is immense. It's an undiscovered country.

Gavin: What's it been like expanding the company and growing it into a thriving business?

Rebecca: I am not going to lie, it has been a lot of work. However, it is something I can't imagine not doing, so the work is worth it.
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Gavin: Keeping with that longevity, what kind of challenge has it been for you to stay up-to-date with styles while creating new works for people to see?

Rebecca: I have never really cared about staying up-to-date, per se. I like to think I have always had my own voice, and as long as I am speaking my truth in my designs, it has less to do with staying up-to-date and more to do with expanding a point of view; changing perception or perspective to grow with who I am now. I don't want to do what I have done before because my voice is ever-changing. Also, the term "staying up with" denotes that I am tracking the crowd and moving with them. My ideal is to be running my own race and people follow because they like where I am headed.

Gavin: You recently participated in Art Meets Fashion. What was this year's event like for you, and what did you think of the turnout for designers?

Rebecca: I think this year was great! AMF is such a fantastic way for local designers to be heard and discovered in this community. I am so grateful for this forum and for all the work that Heidi, Madison, Taylor and all the others who put in to make this real. The designers this year are such powerhouses! I was thrilled to be showcased with them -- designers like Mckell Maddox, Heggy Gonzales and Pretty Macabre. I am one lucky girl to be counted in with them!
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Gavin: Are there any plans down the road to expand Haunted Head, or are you comfortable where you're at now?

Rebecca: Contented at where I am at, yet always with an eye for expansion. You have to be happy with where you are and what you have accomplished or you become miserable or ungrateful. Yet, you always have to strive to live a bit larger, shine a little more, break out of the zone and try something new. We will see what that is for me.

Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the Utah fashion scene, both good and bad?

Rebecca: I am new to the local scene, really, since I started my designs when international and national was almost from the block. I like what we have going on here. It is growing and I am so excited about that. We need more people in the outside world to notice us. We also need to make sure we stay more in touch with the rest of the world and less caught up in only our small, yet wonderful, world.
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Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Rebecca: Make big noise I think people like to be big fish in small ponds. I say break out of that. It doesn't mean you have to leave the local scene,;in fact, stay and invite the world to start coming here instead of going elsewhere.

Gavin: Do you have any favorite shops you like to work with or shop from?

Rebecca: I actually mostly shop Etsy. However, I love Urban outfitters and Uptown Cheapskate
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Gavin: What's your take on events like AMF and SLC Raw and the part they play in supporting local fashion?

Rebecca: These events are undeniably invaluable. They take work -- loads of work -- but as an artist/designer who has been catapulted by these events, I can not recommend them enough to other talent. We need more and more of these types of things. I think if we did, people outside Utah would notice, as well.

Gavin: What can we expect from your over the rest of the year?

Rebecca: I have some huge projects that I want to accomplish, designs for photo shoots, more publications, hopefully, and RAWards! I cant be shy about it, I want to win the RAW Utah Fashion Designer of the Year, go on to compete in nationals and win the RAW Fashion Designer of the Year! That would be a kick in the pants; in the really hot, well-designed, delicious pants! Come to that show and vote for me!


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