Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Upping the Standard in the Pittsburgh Fashion Scene

Fashion designer Bradford Mumpower is fine breaking all of the rules.



  
photos by john altdorfer 

 

There’s a nondescript space heater that’s failing to warm a 7x7x7 display window in the former Kaufmann’s building downtown. A fluorescent light glows from a contractor’s lamp rigged to the wall, and the floor is covered with rolls of fluffy, polyester Buffalo Snow and stacks of shiny, Mylar-covered bubble wrap, each cut into the shape of a flower petal.
 
“They’re actually the bags that Blue Apron meals come in. I knew I would do something with them eventually,” says designer Bradford Mumpower. He picks up one of the petals, reaches for a handheld stapler, and begins layering them over a billowing, floor-length skirt he made from trash bags, displayed on an mannequin that will be unveiled for Light Up Night.

Some might see a ballgown being created with useless garbage. Not Mumpower. “The more difficult it is, the more interesting it is.”

Unconventional materials as well as color, texture and pattern are his calling cards, statements often punctuated by his preference for African Wax Prints, cotton fabrics printed using a combination of wax resins and dyes that produce mesmerizingly bold results. “I like using things people expect, unexpectedly. When people say, ‘I never would have thought of that,’ it’s the best feeling. You have to be edgy in fashion. You have to start pushing the envelope as far as you can push it.” 

Like making fetish clothes using fabric constructed from recycled plastic bottles. Like the Bert Dress. Bert as in “Sesame Street.” It was designed for a fund-raising drag show. Now, it’s hanging in his Lawrenceville studio. Big sequined eyes, orange nose, pink smile adorning gold lamé fabric. Some people hate that dress. “It’s irreverent,” they say. “It’s juvenile.”
 


 

“It’s a statement piece,” he says. “No one’s going to forget it. And OK, it’s really tacky, but it’s not tacky. It’s Bert. Everyone knows who Bert is, and it’s hard to look at it and not smile. I want to make people smile. … So, I love it. Very much.”

Mumpower arrived in Pittsburgh in 1991 to study architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. Soon after, he came out to his parents, received an ultimatum, and found himself on a path that included neither a college degree nor his parents. Instead, he became certified in massage therapy, developing a keen understanding of the body while listening to women clients lamenting over clothes that were too tight, too loose, never the right fit. “The design bug was always there, and I am sad to say that ‘Project Runway’ kind of pushed me into wanting to do clothes. I thought, ‘If they can make dresses in a day and a half, I can.’”

When his Spring/Summer 2018 collection debuts this month, it will represent a trajectory that began in 2007 with a simple pillow he made at Cut & Sew Studio in Morningside, gained momentum with pattern-making skills learned online via Craftsy, and started turning heads with a strapless A-line dress: 13 layers of white kitchen and black lawn and leaf trash bags, sliced open, quilted together, and texturized with a heat gun, winning the 2016 Salvation Army Garbage Bag Gala design challenge.
 


 

“I didn’t go to design school so I’m fine breaking all the rules, but I am a perfectionist,” he says of his obsessively meticulous cuts, seams, designs; a hyper focus that’s become a rarity. 
  
“If you go to fashion shows in Pittsburgh, so much is not finished. Hems undone, seams undone. … I think that Pittsburgh is not holding itself to a high enough standard. Not that the standard is low. There’s no standard. We have enough talent here to make a big splash in the fashion industry. But the people that are running the fashion scene aren’t designers and we’re not going to get attention from anyone but our friends and family until what we make is buyable and marketed. That takes work. From the designers, and the city.”

Acknowledging that change begins in the proverbial mirror, he considers his January show to serve as a coming out party; for himself as a designer who is ready to be in the marketplace and as a dress rehearsal for future fashion shows — both solo and collaborative — with an eye on a collective effort to move Pittsburgh fashion forward.

“In the past, I’ve been afraid of success with my design and creative endeavors, but something has changed,” he says. “I’m ready.”  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

5 Great Ways to Enjoy Picklesburgh

The city’s fourth annual pickle festival will feature more food, more music and even pickle-inspired beers.

Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

When her last child graduated from college, Ingrid Meenen did something she had been wanting to do for 20 years — renovate the first floor of her Upper St. Clair home.

Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Return to your roots before your relationship blooms into a beautiful marriage.

Three of Pittsburgh’s Green Spaces Nominated for National List

Some of the city’s parks could earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places by 2020. So why should you care?

Watch: Mister Rogers' Wonderful Sense of Humor

We stumbled upon this old clip of Fred Rogers' appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in February of 1982. It includes an amusing clip in which Mister Rogers loses a wrestling match with a tent.

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Tax Credit Brought Mister Rogers Flick to Pittsburgh

The granting of the credit means the majority, if not most of the movie starring Tom Hanks, will indeed be shot in the Pittsburgh area.

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Jeff Goldblum Day is Causing a Stir in the ’Burgh

Local venues will be celebrating the native actor Friday with Goldblum-themed merchandise and events.

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Pittsburgh Developer Offers Location for Riverfront Swings

A developer in the South Side may fulfill KDKA anchor Ken Rice’s wish for shaded benches along the city’s riverfronts.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


5 Great Ways to Enjoy Picklesburgh

5 Great Ways to Enjoy Picklesburgh

The city’s fourth annual pickle festival will feature more food, more music and even pickle-inspired beers.

Comments

Three of Pittsburgh’s Green Spaces Nominated for National List

Three of Pittsburgh’s Green Spaces Nominated for National List

Some of the city’s parks could earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places by 2020. So why should you care?

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Comments

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Leave enough time in your next visit to Kennywood to revisit some old favorites and these underrated gems.

Comments

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments


Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

Comments

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Parking-lot punk, polished Potter and other July attractions.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Comments

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Return to your roots before your relationship blooms into a beautiful marriage.

Comments

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

When her last child graduated from college, Ingrid Meenen did something she had been wanting to do for 20 years — renovate the first floor of her Upper St. Clair home.

Comments

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

Comments