The April 2013 Teen Vogue Issue featuring Ashley Greene opened up a world of possibilities for Mississippi based Fashion Designer, Natalie Ford, who grew up wearing uniforms throughout her private school upbringing.
"I never had an expansive or expressive wardrobe...so when I opened up my first Teen Vogue, I saw something I had never seen before...women having fun with what they wore."
Natalie often reflects back on her middle school days whenever she flips through the magazine that kick-started her design inspiration...
"I was the bullied loner who tried really hard to fit in....I've come to realize that 'fitting in' is just not worth it. All I want now is to be true to who I am and surround myself with people who love me for me and all of my quirks."
Speaking of quirks, Natalie's obsession with her hometown grocery store, Fresh Market, has become the inspiration for her undergraduate Fashion Design Thesis Collection.
“I have a slight obsession with grocery stores….it’s a unifying concept. All over the world, there are grocery stores. Yes, they sell different [things], but they are essentially broken down into the same categories: you have your meats, your cheeses, and your local assortments. Cross-culturally, each grocery store is representative of the people that inhabit the area.”
Natalie thanks Fresh Market for being integral to her coming of age... "the continued excursion is symbolic of me growing up". This “magical adventure” is where Natalie strolls freely down the aisles, choosing exactly what she wants. “I love to look around and choose the food that I want… it’s like choosing your own destiny.”
Naturally, the Fresh Market food aisles are the closest thing Mississippi has to a New York City Catwalk. Natalie's view of her hometown grocery store as her own personal runway dates back to the phenomenon of the 50's 'housewife', where Natalie draws silhouette inspiration for her undergraduate apparel collection.
"These women would get dolled up to go to the grocery store and gossip...a social outing...this was extremely essential to women's fashion in the 50's."
As we celebrate Black History Month, Natalie delves into the importance of staying authentic to herself and remaining mindful of the strength and magnificence showcased by the Black Community throughout history.
"The essence of Black History Month is celebration and education; celebrating black heritage, yes, but more importantly, remaining committed to educating ourselves about black history. So many accomplishments and achievements of our community continue to remain unnoticed and uncelebrated. Personally, it is a time for me to be proud of who I am; my struggles, my accomplishments, and ultimately my journey of self-love and pride in being a black woman."