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Designer Chriztina Marie has a history seeped in art and fashion.  After years of successful denim design work, she’s now added fitness wear to her list of impressive credits.  The new Eagle Rock WERKSHOP line of leggings mixes performance with personality and her own original artwork designs.  We are more than happy to share the good news of her Kickstarter fundraising campaign, which has been a huge success and draws to a close next week.

Hello Chriztina!  You have an impressive history in the arts, beginning with your first fine art exhibition at the age of only 16.  How did that transition to fashion design?  

When I was 17, my sister and I backpacked through Europe and stayed with family along the way.  We spent a good bit of time in Ljubljana, Slovenija where my Great Uncle had a shop selling his hand-made ballroom dancing slippers.  Seeing his shop changed my life.  I had an epiphany and immediately decided that I needed to express my art through fashion.

When I got back to the states, I started looking for design schools because the college that I was planning to go to didn’t have a strong fashion program.  I applied to both FIT in New York and FIDM in Los Angeles.  FIT sent me a $35 application fee and FIDM offered me their “Designer of Tomorrow” scholarship.  Obviously, I said, “Hello, palm trees!” and headed west a year later.

How important is formal education to a career in fashion design?  

I actually believe that passion and dedication are worth a lot more than a formal degree.  While I actually graduated from FIDM twice, once for Fashion Design and another time for Advanced Fashion Design, I probably wouldn’t have taken the second degree had it not been for the full-tuition scholarship that they offered me.  I have always been a bit of an overachiever, though.  When I was in my first quarter studying at FIDM, I was sneaking into seminars for students who were nearing graduation and I taught myself the 2 years-worth illustration techniques that were on queue for me.

Your denim design work can be seen from Macy’s to GQ Magazine.  Are you allowed to drop brand names?  And have any celebrities been spotted wearing your handiwork?  

The brand I have been designing for the past 5 years is called Ring of Fire.  It’s basically an exclusive to MACY’s, although we have shipped to several other major retailers, including JCPenney and Kohl’s under a different name.  I have also worked as a lead technical designer at Roxy/Quiksilver and in the design room for several premium brands, including PRATT’s Motor Spirit where I worked under Philipe Naouri of Antik Denim and Christophe Souvat of Antik Batik.

I have had a handful of notable men wear ROF including Jesse Metcalf, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Luca Sulic and Stjepan Hauser of Two Cellos, Fabio Viviani from Top Chef and my friend Yogi Lonich who is a phenomenal guitarist.  I have also had a few sensational famous instagram-yogi-honeys wear my leggings in the last few weeks… including @laurasykora @fitqueenirene and @mackenzieyoga .  Love them!!!

In your expert opinion, what differentiates your WERKSHOP line unique from competing products?

One word : Quality  =)   The Quality of the design/sublimation as well as the fabric/sewing.  I went through SO many fabrics trying to find a balance between quality and price.  What I came up with was nothing short of remarkable.  The fabric is Olympic-Quality and is imported from Italy.  It is leaps and bounds above anything else currently on the market. But it is definitely not cheap (otherwise everyone would use it)  If I were to dive into the market solely via traditional wholesale, they would cost well over $120. But I am focusing on direct-to-consumer sales where I can offer an exceptional product at a reasonable price.

Also, all of the leggings feature flat lock seams (which are vital for any high-performance activity) as well as a diamond gusset and hidden pocket at the waistband.  These are all things that you never see on fashion leggings, or even the most fashionable attempts at active wear.

Every designer I’ve interviewed loves to talk about fabric.  What goes into the making of your leggings, and how does that differ from working with denim? 

Oh!  Denim is a whole different universe when it comes to fabrication.  One single roll of denim can be washed 5,000 different ways.  I have actually shipped entire collections made out of a single fabric and the average person would never know.  Every single pair of jeans, regardless of price point, is finished by hand.  Whether it’s sanding or spray potassium, no two pairs are ever alike.  A piece of denim is like a blank canvas.

The fabric I am using for Eagle Rock WERKSHOP is also a blank canvas, but for an entirely different reason.  The fabric is called PFP, or “prepared for print” and is ready for the sublimation process.  Its bright white, and ready to become vibrant magic.  All of the leggings are made with a single fabric quality, yet there are 17 distinct designs available at the launch.

How has public and private response been to your Kickstarter campaign?  Any warm/fuzzy moments you’d like to share?

The feedback I have received so far has been sensational.  I started promoting the project in July 2013, before I had a single sample to show.  Back then, I was posting only my illustrations and concept art on instagram, etc, and people kept asking me when/where they could buy the leggings.  I garnered a pretty nice following on instagram through my artwork and then the social media really took off once I had physical samples to show.

I adore hearing all the positive feedback.  I have ‘virtually’ met some amazing women through this campaign from all over the country and even internationally. People bond over a love of yoga and fitness.  I am completely blessed to have found such a supportive and inspiring community.  Also, I think that the timing couldn’t be more perfect: people are living in their workout clothing.  I see more women wearing fitness leggings while out doing errands than I see wearing jeans… so offering a fitness collection that blurs the line between fashion and function makes perfect sense to me.  After all, I am my target customer; and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

With a successfully funded Kickstarter nearly behind you, production begins soon.  When can we expect to see products available?  

I will be diving directly into production as soon as I receive the bulk of the backer surveys letting me know what style/size people would like.  I already ordered 1K meters of fabric in anticipation of the close of the campaign.  The first delivery is scheduled for March 2014 and is almost sold out.  The second delivery is estimated for April 2014, but I am pushing to get everything out ASAP.

Parting words:  what best advice can you give to a new fashion designer, just starting out in the industry?  

Fashion is 2% glitz and glamour and 98% hard, hard, HARD work.  Sometimes your favorite design will be the worst performer in retail while a design that you might be embarrassed to claim will become the bread and butter for the business. I guess my #1 bit of advice would be to roll with the punches learn to take constructive criticism. When you are dealing with a major retailer, etc, it’s not personal … it’s business.

More info about Chriztina and Eagle Rock WERKSHOP at:  www.werkshop.com  and  www.chriztinamarie.com