EXCERPTS FROM THE STORY
Below are exceprts from the October 23, 2017 Broadway World interview with Brian Francoise and Stephen Wise about the event, "Confessions of a Designer."
By Charles Shubow
INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN FRANCOISE AND STEPHEN WISE
INTIMATE APPAREL is the third play by Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage to be presented at Everyman Theatre (the others were BY THE WAY MEET VERA STARK (2014) and RUINED (2015). The production runs until November 19. Everyman is going the extra mile for this production. According to Managing Director Jonathan K. Waller, "We invite audiences to join us in deepening the experience by exploring how the play's themes connect to our lives and history here in the Baltimore area...we have more opportunities to do this than ever before thanks to a growing circle of committed and connected partners."
These programs include a costume exhibit, a tasting involving local restaurants, a film screening, a discussion about labor and sex work, a walking tour of Baltimore's historic garment district, and a community conversation with local and regional fashion designers. This free program is entitled "Confessions of a Designer" which will be held on October 27, 2017 at 6 p.m. (with a reception at 5:30 p.m.) led by Everyman's Director of Community Engagement, Brian Francoise and menswear designer Stephen Wise.
Broadway World: What is Confessions of a Designer and how does the event connect to the play?
Brian Francoise: Hosted by bespoke menswear designer Stephen Wise of SWB Atelier (City Paper 2016 Tailor of the Year), "Confessions of a Designer" is a community conversation exploring the "inner lining" of the independent fashion design world and its artistic, professional and personal impacts on esteemed local and regional designers. The event is a platform for community building and learning that unites audience members with makers in our community. Like the characters in INTIMATE APPAREL, whose sense of identity and purpose is defined by their work, Stephen will bring these voices together to share the dreams, hopes, struggles, and stories of love and belonging that are behind their craft.
BWW: How did this collaboration come about?
Stephen Wise: It came about completely organically. From the start of our conversations and the inception of this collaboration, the common denominator has always been "community"--and how by merging what Everyman is doing with what I am embarking on with this designer panel discussion can blend different worlds to form something unique and special. We were both passionate about how combining these two entities can create something new, and now we're here!
"These designers will bring a sense of clarity to what being an artisan is like through their eyes and perspective, and it will also merge the generations of the old guard, the new guard, and those of us who are somewhere in-between."
BWW: Briefly explain who each of the individuals are who are involved in Confessions of a Designer and what you hope they will bring to the discussion.
BF: For me, this group models the power of intergenerational collaboration and dialogue. Participating designers include Earle Bannister, Adira Bunch, John Cash, Brian Collins, Sally DiMarco, Crystal Joines, Dino Hartfield, Sehar Peerzada, Seleh Rahman, Stacey Stube, Richard Swartz, and Brandon Warren. The youngest designers in this group are in their 20s, the eldest in their 70s.
SW: In two words, each of these designers is "different" and "authentic." These two characteristics can coexist but at the same time occupy their own space, and that's what these designers represent. We all live in Baltimore, have garnered clients from Baltimore, have made and are making a living in Baltimore doing what we love--but each of our stories is and will continue to be different. The intergenerational dynamic that this panel has to offer is second to none. For example, we have Richard Swartz, the fourth-generation furrier and owner of the 128-year-old Mano Swartz Furs beside 22-year-old women swear designer Adaira Bunch. These designers will bring a sense of clarity to what being an artisan is like through their eyes and perspective, and it will also merge the generations of the old guard, the new guard, and those of us who are somewhere in-between.
BWW: Can you describe your background?
BF: I came to Everyman Theatre in January of this year to become the Director of Community Engagement, as part of the theatre's mission to deepen its connections and foster new partnerships within the greater Baltimore community. I want to lead a department that extends its reach into currently unaffiliated communities and neighborhoods, weaves connection in Everyman Theatre's immediate neighborhood through creative placemaking strategies, builds platforms for dialogue and civic engagement, and co-creates and co-curates programming with community leaders (artists, educators, entrepreneurs, etc.). In so doing, we will build a wider array of support for Everyman Theatre and, eventually, a broader and more diverse audience and set of stakeholders.
SW: I am a menswear artist and merchant whose business, SWB Atelier, is located at 216 N. Pace Street, directly across from Lexington Market. My background stems from a place of never "fitting in," and finally coming to grips that I'm just not meant to. I have been in this thing called the "fashion industry" since the age of 14 but I've had this entrepreneur vibe since about the age of 3, with no formal schooling--just some amazing teachers. We are a menswear fashion and lifestyle company that creates and constructs our original clothing designs (otherwise known as "wearable art") from start to finish completely on site in our shop here in Baltimore. Our goal is to make each of our male clients feel like the superstars they are in our clothes.
BWW: How do you foresee this experience and this play influencing your work?
SW: I really feel like this partnership with Everyman Theatre will further expand my appreciation for the performing arts community and how I can incorporate the theatrical dynamic into what we create. I really encourage those attending as well as those on the panel to come with an open mind. This is about exposing the world to who we are as designers both professionally and personally. Designers and other artists alike share similar woes, struggles and victories. I hope people walk away with a better understanding of what our world is like as well as being less judgmental of artists of all genres alike. I also look to close the communication divide between our predecessors in the industry and those of us who are still new. I want a conversation to be created between everyone in a language and attitude that hasn't been before. Lastly this is called "Confessions of a Designer" for a reason--it will be a transparent and authentic look as to who we are on multiple levels.
Intimate Apparel is on stage October 18 - November 19, 2017.