Interview With EFWA Upcycling Challenge Designer Amber Nifong (New York)

Share about the journey that led you to fashion design.

My journey in fashion began as far back as I can remember. Ever since I was a small child I wanted to be a fashion designer and an artist. I still remember having sketchbooks from childhood with all my designs in them - complete with design callouts and prices - not bad for an eight year old. I was quite sure at the time $20 for an outfit was quite a lot of money, although things have changed a little since then.

From humble beginnings of sketching and learning to sew as a child, I continued to take fashion design classes, sewing lessons, and did a summer pre-college program for fashion design at RISD, all before I finished high school. Coming from a small southern town where fashion design isn’t exactly a normal profession, I have always been beyond grateful to my family for supporting my dreams, despite the fact we did not live in a major city where the arts tend to be more celebrated. With my family’s support and encouragement over the years, I ended up getting into SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) where I graduated with a BFA in Fashion Design and a minor in Illustration in 2014. 

 Life after college was, and is as with most recent graduates, harder than I expected. I ended up moving to NYC from Savannah, GA, and fought hard for a year to get a full time job in industry. During the time I was looking for a job, I had the pleasure of being able to show my collection at Vancouver Fashion Week, which was a humbling and amazing experience. Since then, I have continued to work in industry - with a recent move to a new private label company - whilst working on my own work on the side, which I hope one day to expand into a full blown business.

I know you trained at Savannah College of Art and Design Fashion. Talk about the highs and lows of studying fashion design. What did you find easy? What was a challenge?

Savannah College of Art and Design - SCAD - was an extremely rigorous college experience. They really push their students there. My theory behind as to why this is, is that by pushing the kids so hard, they help prepare you for just about anything the industry can throw at you starting out - for which I am grateful. But, studying fashion was not easy there, and was known to be one of the hardest majors at the college. However, some things were easier than others. I had spent a large portion of my life before college learning to sew and construct garments, so the actual garment construction and sewing came easy to me. In addition, there is a lot of drawing/sketching of ideas in fashion, and I had been drawing my entire life by the time I entered college, so I found the fashion illustration classes to be fun and somewhat easy.

However, at the time I did not know much about doing proper fashion illustration, so learning to draw in that particular way was definitely a learning curve for me. For the most part though, SCAD was very difficult but rewarding. It was long hours, lots of work, blood, sweat, and tears, but it was all worth it my Senior year to see my dream collection materialize from my own hand and walk down the runway for our thesis show.

Who you are as a designer? Aesthetic? Customer? Brand? Etc.? Do you offer a new line each season, create custom work or both?

As a designer, I feel that I connect more with the artistic side of fashion. As lovely as RTW can be, my heart is truly set afire by couture. I prefer to design couture and explore unusual concepts, shapes, ideas, etc that I feel I would otherwise be restricted by in doing RTW. My personal aesthetic is on the darker side, but does not always mean I design in just black - although I have been known to do so. My aesthetic is one of femininity and romance contrasted with structure and edge. I find juxtaposition to be one of the most dynamic ways of designing and I really enjoy playing with that idea. I’m often inspired by unusual or taboo concepts and I try to almost always find inspiration outside of the norm with collections based on ideas such as global warming, embryogenesis, mental disease, inner darkness, etc.

My ideal customer is someone who is looking for something truly unique, beautiful, extravagant, and has the moxy to wear it. My pieces are one-offs due to the nature of couture, so the woman wearing these pieces is someone who is bold and is not afraid to stand out in a crowd, but rather draw attention from it. In terms of seasonal collections, I still have not been releasing them seasonally. All of my current pieces are custom so anything bought would be made to order. I eventually plan to do a diffusion RTW line that I hope to be able to show seasonally in time.

I am so thrilled to have you a part of the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn R Wilson. Have you ever upcycled used garments before? If so, how?

I was excited for this challenge because I have never used upcycled garments before in my work. It was a new and interesting challenge for me to take something and repurpose it into something new and unique.

Please share a little about your approach/inspiration for creating your runway look for this international show? What can the audience expect?

When going about designing this garment, I wanted to embrace the idea of deconstruction, as well as, incorporate menswear touches as a nod to the fact that the dress was made out of repurposed men’s shirts. I normally design more avant garde dresses, so I wanted to stay true to my aesthetic while still incorporating parts of the original shirts, such as collars and sleeves in my design. The audience can expect a unique gown that is high end and interesting, while still incorporating elements of the original shirts throughout the look.

What would you most like the international fashion audience to know about you as a designer and your brand?

As a designer, I focus on unusual and taboo inspiration for my work. I like exploring themes in my work that tend to be darker and more complex. Most people shy away from darkness or painful topics, but I like to embrace them, and find beauty within the darkness. As a brand, Amber Nifong offers truly unique, one-off, couture pieces that are both feminine and edgy at the same time. I play a lot with juxtaposition of shapes and silhouettes, and utilize a lot of asymmetry in my work that then forms dynamic designs that push the envelope of what traditional fashion design should look like. I mainly specialize in custom couture garments that can be requested via the email contact section of my website at:

What's next for you as a designer? What are your long term dreams?

What’s next for the Amber Nifong brand is to eventually take it from a brand that I make out of my home on a piece by piece basis, to a fully functioning LLC that will offer both custom couture pieces, as well as, ready to wear that is inspired from the couture collections, but is more affordable to the consumer. My long term dream for the Amber Nifong brand is to continue to grow the brand to a global scale, and to continue to always look forward with the designs and look for unique ways to interpret fashion into art.

VFW runway photographs by Harry Leonard Imagery
Links - 
Website –
Instagram – @amberalliene
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Twitter – @AmberNifong
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