Wendy Pepper, An Artist Moves in a New Direction
Fashion designer Wendy Pepper calls Shepherdstown the catalyst for her artistic reinvention.
The well known first season finalist from Bravo’s television show, Project Runway has settled in Shepherdstown, poised to enter a new phase in her life and career.
“I decided to try something new,” Pepper said of moving to Shepherdstown last fall and deciding to open up shop in a vacant spot along East German Street.
“I thought it would be an interesting transition to open a storeI did it for a couple months before Christmas and I had a great time.”
As we find her packing up garments, fabrics, tools and thread, Pepper explained how the long and snowy winter months set a her on a slightly different course.
“I slowed down and had a period deep reflection,” she said.
“I found myself thinking ‘Where exactly do I want my career to go As an artist, what is the next stage for me?'”
“I had been making clothes since I was 20 and I am now 50,” she said.
“Even being in Shepherdstown for a couple months, really inspired in me this sort artisan side of me.”
After much consideration Pepper’s next move began to take shape: working on her own custom designed dresses without machines and without the retail space she opened only months ago.
“I decided that from now on my dresses were going to be 100 percent hand stitched. And that that was really for me the best way to express myself at the period in my life.”
Trained in needle arts like embroidery and hand beading, Pepper’s career as a designer began in an unlikely way.
During a study abroad trip to Nepal during college, Pepper said she began making carpets and household weavings in the tradition of that culture.
“I learned from a very rudimentary traditional viewpoint and that has informed where I am now,” she said.
After returning home, Pepper ventured into sewing and committed to studying the art and craft of design under the guidance of various mentors, establishing a career along the way.
Pepper would fall into the life-changing experience of Project Runway exactly 10 year ago this winter, a coincidence not lost on her.
“If you think about it, I showed my collection in New York (Fashion Week) in February of 2005 It’s been a decade since I was on that show… I think it’s important for any creative person to know when youre ready for the next stage,” she said.
“I’m just so grateful that this community and this place inspired me to know what the next step is.”
Pepper said she was taken with Shepherdstown immediately, noting its artistic sense and diversity.
“You can’t ask anything more than a space to inspire you. Artists are integrally connected to the space they inhabit, whether that’s a community or a landscape.”
Pepper described the work this community has inspired as “wearable collage.”
She said she felt machines had begun to compromise the integrity of the her piece’s individuality.
“When I do every single stitch myself, I know that this is a completely authentic manifestation of my vision. Each stitch is intentional,” she said.
Moving away from the world of building custom gowns for private clients, Pepper’s new work expresses her own point of view as an artist.
“For me fashion is about communication between customer and designer.”
A personal engagement, Pepper said she hopes to create feeling with her new work.
“Think of me as a painter.. I’m going to make my composition and people will either respond to it or not and appreciate whatever I’m trying to say in my art.”
Pepper’s new designs will be available through an official Etsy shop, that she plans to launch this week. More information about Pepper and her work can be found by visiting her web site at www.wendypepper.com.