Creator of acclaimed fashion label Trash by Tony, Tony Oliver is perhaps most recognized for his early collections featuring glamorous trash bag couture, a combination of Oliver’s one-of-kind style and his passion for eco-friendly fashion. Recently, Trash by Tony is showing more traditional textiles, but Oliver’s work stays true to it’s roots as he continues to create fabulous wearable art from cleverly recycled materials.
CF: How long have you been designing?
TO: I have been designing clothing since I was 5 years old. It started by sewing a button onto a pair of slippers for one of my aunts without even being taught. I guess you would say this artistic creativity just came to me naturally.
Where are you based out of?
I am based out of my home in Shoreline, WA where I run my business and do all of my sewing, designing and sketching in my large family, it’s a very crowded front room!
In the early days of your career in fashion you designed gowns that were constructed solely out of plastic trash bags-which is where the name of your label, Trash by Tony, originates-do you still incorporate garbage bags into your designs or have you moved on to other materials?
I no longer design garments out of trash bags. I was trying to make a statement about my line when I first came into the Seattle fashion scene. The statement being made was that we as consumers of clothing have a tendency to waste so much, especially in an age of recycled fashion. I have actually moved onto donated clothing materials to construct my garments *very green and environmentally friendly and not talking up landfills!* I have also created garments out of fabrics that I have bought from suppliers as well as fabric stores to create one of a kind wearable pieces of art!
What is the hardest part of transforming recyclables into apparel?
I would have to say not having enough of a fabric to finish a garment. So I usually have to come up with another design to fit into the amount of so called fabric I have left unless it is fabric I have already bought wholesale and at yardage or by the bolt.
You previously worked as a hair and makeup artist, and frequently collaborated on Chance projects, what encouraged you switch into fashion and design?
I did work as a make up artist and hairstylist for 9 years, getting my start with a local photographer on photoshoots and then branching out into backstage fashion shows, music videos and television, as well as having my work featured on billboards in Los Angeles and Hollywood California for Smashbox Cosmetics. I honestly think I should have been a creative director because I always have visions in my head about hair, makeup, how the model will look and pose, what the model would wear, and what background scenery goes with a shoot to tie the idea together. I stopped doing makeup because it was a very competitive world. I know that Fashion is very competitive as well, but since I was sewing at the age of 5 and I’m now almost 40, it took a long time to realize what my actual passion is and fashion is just that! If you are not doing what you love or living your dream then what is the point of your existence?
Would you say you’re inspired more by mainstream fashion, as opposed to underground/indie influences?
I am not inspired by either or. I do not follow trends. I make trends. I personally believe following trends is a bad idea because it is blocking out your creativity as an artist. You have to allow yourself to step outside what we call the “norm of fashion box,” and create pieces that are different but still something that a consumer would be interested in. And besides, I consider myself an original!
Why did you choose Chance Fashion as an outlet for your brand?
I heard about chance 5 years ago and have been with them ever since. I decided to launch my brand with them because they were the only venue and community I know that allow anyone to have Chance, it pretty much was the only way I was able to showcase my collection, but they have opened so many doors and opportunities for me to showcase in other avenues with my career. The whole staff is very supportive and I would say we grow together as artists and feel like one whole family!
You’ll be presenting at Chance Fashion’s 2017 Spring/Summer Fashion Show this April, what is the name and concept of the collection you are showcasing?
I call this collection a Dark GothicMystery. My concept is pieces you can wear with your swimsuits to an event but they are also very couture. My collection consists of crinolene dresses with freehand embroidered skulls, and I have made individual material flowers and sewn them by hand onto my garments. I have also added sequins and bugle beads to some of my garments.
How long have you been working on this collection?
This collection has taken me 4 months to put together because besides the bikinis and swimsuits, everything else is sewn by hand and not machine. Every flower, every bead, and every embroidered piece is all done by hand.
Where can future customers see and purchase your designs?
Customers can get a hold of me on Instagram under the name TrashbyTony, and Facebook under TrashByTony “Dresses.” Pieces are available for purchase through my Etsy site at Trash by Tony. One of a kind affordable couture!
What’s next for you and your brand, any upcoming projects?
I have recently applied for Project Runway Season 16 and have signed a disclosure agreement with them. I will know if I have made the cut onto their show on April 21st. I also recently had a fashion show with RAW ENTERTAINMENT at Studio Seven and I worked last year as a seamstress backstage for Seattle Fashion Week. Some of my collections will be shot in Europe in August and I am very excited for that. I know with hard work and dedication, being humble and putting positivity out into the universe that my brand will succeed. I just have to keep pushing, working hard and not give up hope.
Tony Oliver will be showcasing at Chance Fashion’s 2017 Spring/Summer Show on April 8th.
Purchase your tickets here: chancefashion.strangertickets.com