Project:Design! Finalists: Meet Cindy Brown

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Today (finally!) is the start of 2011's St. Louis Fashion Week. For the seventh year, Brown Shoe will be presenting Project:Design!, a competition featuring the work of six designers based out of, or near, St. Louis. The lines of the top six designers, chosen online by the public, will be featured in a fashion show tonight at Fashion Week. Judges will then choose a winner, who will receive prizes including a consultation with 963Collective and coverage in ALIVE Magazine.

Daily RFT highlighted one finalist each day until October 11, showcasing the best talent this area has to offer. Today is the final post in our series.

Cindy Brown, 24, began her clothing line Rebel Tart in March of 2009. She lives in St. Louis.

What is your philosophy on fashion? My outlook and philosophy is to just do whatever you want to do regardless of how people feel. I basically use fashion as an outlet to express my individualism and creativity. I think that should be a vehicle to express what kind of individual you are. For me it's all about being bold and being noticed and being recognized because you have one life to live, so you might as well live it in the best way and the most fun and truest form that you can.

What does your line look like? My line looks like a '50s housewife mixed with a circus. I am not afraid to use prints. In fact, there is not a single solid piece in my line. Mostly, everything is leopard print, polka dots and bows.

I'm very feminine -- a little bit more feminine than I ever thought I would design -- but at the same time it's very edgy and rock 'n roll.

How do your designs reflect on your personal wardrobe? Instead of designing for the masses, I just design what I love. I know that if I wear it and I wear it confidently, other people will end up doing the same thing. It is absolutely a reflection on everything that I wear. In fact, everything made for my sample sizes are my own pieces, made for my wardrobe. They're very loud, they're very obnoxious, but they're still very feminine and kind of bad-ass.

When did you become interested in fashion? My mom taught me how to sew when I was seven. She started sewing when she was ten. When I was growing up I would watch her make clothes for me for every holiday occasion. I had some of the ugliest dresses, looking back on them now, that she let me put together. Watching her really got me into the construction aspect, so probably around ten or eleven I started ripping apart my clothes just to see how they were put together. From there I've just been a sewing bandit.

How are you feeling about 'Project:Design!'? I am pumped. I have been waiting for a big show since I started sewing. A lot of times it was very back and forth on whether or not I was good enough to do this. I attempted Project:Design! a few years ago and I was just so naive about it I didn't get anywhere near making it. This year I knew I was going in with my best work and the best representation of myself as possible. Now as dramatic as it is with the deadlines we have to meet and decisions we have to make and having to have our hand in everything, I am more pumped than nervous. I don't even care about winning, I'm just fortunate to get to show. I'm excited people can see what I can do.

What do you think will be the most valuable part of the experience? It's hard to say. You get to meet so many different people within the industry and really see how a fashion show goes. I've yet to be in that kind of setting. Watching that unfold and seeing what all goes into that is really valuable. The Midwest is a hard place to do fashion and St. Louis is trying to get them coming by having Fashion Week here, so getting that exposure is going to be key in anything I do in the future.

Who do you look up to in the fashion world? My No. 1 favorite designer is Betsey Johnson. She is the kookiest lady I have ever seen in the industry. She's easily well above her 60s and still doing cartwheels on the runway. She's got visible weave extensions in and she's just a hot mess in the best way possible. She's crazy with her patterns; she's fearless with silhouettes. She just goes for it.

Gwen Stefani with her L.A.M.B. line -- she's always been such and icon in fashion and she has a keen eye for looking so put-together. She's one that I think is doing great for the industry and bringing in new things and cultures.

What is your long-term goal for Rebel Tart? My long-term goal, first of all, is to see any one of my dresses on a red carpet anywhere. I just want to see one celebrity, or semi-celebrity, wearing it. If nothing ever happens from there, I would be a happy camper.

Realistically, I would love to be doing Rebel Tart full time. I have a full-time job and this is my passion, but unfortunately I have to do it in all of my free time. I would love to be able to live off if, even if I'm just barely getting by. I would love to open a boutique and go online.

What do you want people to know about you? I want people to know that I am the exact representation of my line. This is not a show, not a facade. Everything I put out is a realistic version of my self expression. I put more into my line than every other aspect of my life. I'm the one who sews it, I'm the one who designs it, I'm the one who finances it. It is every part of me. I embrace exactly what I do. I don't do this to make money. I do this because I absolutely love it and could not see myself doing anything else, ever.

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