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[VIDEO] Local fashion icon creates high-end screen printing

Wednesday, Apr. 30 | By Hannah Dellinger
Project Runway star, Wendy Pepper, on her front porch open studio space in Middleburg.
Photo by Doug Stroud
Designer Wendy Pepper is branching out her Middleburg studio and her line to incorporate custom screen-printing.

The Project Runway first-season finalist has experience in many different realms of the fashion world. She’s created custom riding apparel, denim, knits, formal dresses and has put on New York fashion shows with professional models.

Now, she wants to make music-inspired T-shirts.

After running into a local up-and-coming musician, Pepper found that working with other artists in the early stages of their creative self-discovery is very inspiring to her.

“I’m very excited to be getting into screen printing right now,” said Pepper. “I was lucky enough to run into a local musician, Luke Johnson from Cryface, and he was saying that they’re getting starting with developing their music. And I was like, ‘Well, I’m developing my screen printing, why don’t we work together?’”

Pepper was able to create a design that evokes the sound of the band – guitar strings swirling out into the contrails of metallic, blue fish.

“I found that their whole approach inspired me to want to create imagery to go with their music,” she said. “So, I’m thinking that this is a direction that I really want to go in, working with small bands that are just starting. They’re still finding their way. That’s a stage in artistic creation that I’m particularly interested in.”

Pepper said that she finds herself being drawn to the energy and creativity of other local artists.

“I’m lucky that because of what I do, I tend to draw a lot of creative people into my world, because they know that I like to collaborate,” she said. “That’s really where I draw a lot of my energy.”

Carolyn Conell, an artist who works with Pepper, often calls on Pepper to make pieces for her yoga clothing line, Sweet Carolyn Yoga Clothes. Conell says that working with Pepper has helped her creative process immensely.
“She’s very unique,” said Conell. “I’m here for her to bat her ideas off of me. We each see things that the other doesn’t see.”

Pepper has also started a line of T-shirts called “Fantasy Village.” The shirts have quaint, old-timey images of horses, dogs and other farm life staples of Middleburg. The twist is that the logos on the shirt are for made-up businesses that poke fun at the local lifestyle. For example, one shirt reads, “Aerobic Equitation.”

When she isn't making custom clothing, Pepper has been working on creating an open studio space so that the community can watch her creative process.

“The thing that I mostly stand for is being accessible to people,” she said. “I think in this day and age when clothing is largely manufactured away from people’s awareness, I like to provide people the experience of coming in and building their clothing from the ground up. It’s a very personal experience. I like to collaborate with my clients, so that they feel like they have a lot of input.”

Pepper is setting up her front porch on her studio house right behind Red Horse Tavern, with her T-shirts and other work on display for the public. She hopes that anyone who is interested will stop and watch her manufacture clothing from start to finish.

Pepper says that her talent comes both naturally and with many years of refining her craft. She never received formal training, and she is the only one in her family who can sew.

“I have just always had an affinity for textile arts and anything to do with clothing construction, color, the lines,” she said. “I’m very interested in the message that clothing sends and how we dress and why we dress the way we do in different stage of life and what it means, what you’re communicating to other people, and what you’re saying to yourself.”

No matter what style of clothing that Pepper creates, she wants her clients to feel good about the choices they make – and how they look in one of her custom prints.

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