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 Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

A Cake So Nice It Doesn’t Need to Be Iced

The “naked cake” seems to be here to stay.

Casey Renee is the Sweet Dream Maker

Salt, technique and high-quality ingredients help the Whitfield at Ace Hotel pastry chef craft ridiculously craveable desserts.

Perspectives: The Big Pittsburgh Lie

Writer Damon Young says the Steel City is masquerading as a paragon of inclusion.

MultiStories: The Violent Beginning of Union Station

Pittsburgh's Union Station –– built after its predecessor was destroyed in a deadly labor dispute –– nearly succumbed to the wrecking ball in 1966.

Too Hot for School? Science Supports Heat Dismissals

In Pittsburgh, early school dismissals are usually for snowstorms.

A Day in the Life of Andrew Stump

What's a typical work day like for the co-owner of Madeline Bakery & Bistro?

Can Brown Rebound? Steelers Had Better Hope So

Antonio Brown's tweets, threats and tantrums wouldn’t seem to matter nearly as much if he'd caught more than 18 passes for a relatively measly 160 yards through the first two games.

Gallery Crawl Sneaks Into Downtown Alleyways

This Friday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will help kick off the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts with “Art in the Alley.”

The 400-Word Review: The House With a Clock in its Walls

Jack Black stars in a family-friendly horror flick that isn't afraid to scare its young viewers.

Ghost of the Tight Man: What Happened to Sam Davis

Sam Davis once was the glue that held the super Steelers together. But a promising career after football was cut short by an unexplained fall that robbed him of the life he knew.

‘Sometimes I'm Happy’ – The Life of Singer Jill Corey

Born in a tiny Westmoreland County town, Jill Corey became a star for Columbia Records in the 1950s. But after a series of hits, a love affair with Frank Sinatra and marriage to famed Pirate third baseman Don Hoak, her life took an unexpected twist.

Restaurant Review: Spork

Despite an inconsistent start, Christian Frangiadis' restaurant now is worth visiting.

Knights of the Flat Screen – Pittsburgh's Video Game Champs

Founded by a pair of Pittsburgh natives, the Knights are a professional esports franchise whose players participate in video game competitions in front of millions of fans in person and online.

How to Enjoy a Haunted House

Don't get to Halloween attractions much anymore? You might be doing it wrong.

Get Wild With Food This Weekend

For more than 50 years, a West Virginia group has promoted the virtues of foraged food.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Too Hot for School? Science Supports Heat Dismissals

Too Hot for School? Science Supports Heat Dismissals

In Pittsburgh, early school dismissals are usually for snowstorms.

Comments

Gallery Crawl Sneaks Into Downtown Alleyways

Gallery Crawl Sneaks Into Downtown Alleyways

This Friday, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will help kick off the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts with “Art in the Alley.”

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Day in the Life of Andrew Stump

A Day in the Life of Andrew Stump

What's a typical work day like for the co-owner of Madeline Bakery & Bistro?

Comments

Get Wild With Food This Weekend

Get Wild With Food This Weekend

For more than 50 years, a West Virginia group has promoted the virtues of foraged food.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to Shop If You Have a Green Thumb

The 5 Best Places to Shop If You Have a Green Thumb

Hone your gardening skills at these top Pittsburgh-area nurseries, garden centers and shops.

Comments

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Movie Theaters in Pittsburgh

A movie-going experience is about more than just the movie. PM Film Critic Sean Collier takes a break from movie reviews and shares the best spots for cocktails, classics and comfort.

Comments


How to Enjoy a Haunted House

How to Enjoy a Haunted House

Don't get to Halloween attractions much anymore? You might be doing it wrong.

Comments

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh (If You are a Coach for the Steelers)

The Best Bars in Pittsburgh (If You are a Coach for the Steelers)

After the past few years, we need to issue some guidelines for Steelers coaches out on the town.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Can Brown Rebound? Steelers Had Better Hope So

Can Brown Rebound? Steelers Had Better Hope So

Antonio Brown's tweets, threats and tantrums wouldn’t seem to matter nearly as much if he'd caught more than 18 passes for a relatively measly 160 yards through the first two games.

Comments

Chiefs are a Better Barometer for Steelers than Browns

Chiefs are a Better Barometer for Steelers than Browns

There is evidence to suggest Pittsburgh can be better against Kansas City.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The House With a Clock in its Walls

The 400-Word Review: The House With a Clock in its Walls

Jack Black stars in a family-friendly horror flick that isn't afraid to scare its young viewers.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Predator

The 400-Word Review: The Predator

The latest visit to the action franchise is a noble try, but ultimately a bit of a mess.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Cake So Nice It Doesn’t Need to Be Iced

A Cake So Nice It Doesn’t Need to Be Iced

The “naked cake” seems to be here to stay.

Comments

These Couples Have Officially Won the Game of Love

These Couples Have Officially Won the Game of Love

There is no formula for finding love, but for these couples, there is one common factor: sports.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Meet Kim Fox, the Artisan Making Tin Quilts

Meet Kim Fox, the Artisan Making Tin Quilts

The Mt. Lebanon resident uses salvaged wood, tin and nails to create her pieces. Her work is now being showcased at Contemporary Craft in the Strip District.

Comments

Oakmont Nonprofit Blesses Families in Need with Furniture — and Love

Oakmont Nonprofit Blesses Families in Need with Furniture — and Love

Since its inception in 2009, The Blessing Board has helped thousands of families obtain furniture and has grown to include the successful Vintage Market.

Comments