'I do everything myself'

Diné clothing designer hopes for a store of her own

By Jan-Mikael Patterson
Navajo Times

TEMPE, Ariz., Nov. 12, 2009

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(Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie)

Creativity with needle, thread and fabric has Victorialyn McCarthy, 20, designing clothes like this pink wedding dress.

Victorialyn McCarthy, 20, wanted to be a crime scene investigator when she decided to major in police science at Mesa Community College.

She saw it as carrying on the family tradition. Her late grandfather, Turner Giger, was once sheriff of McKinley County, she said, and also served as a Gallup police officer until he retired and moved to the Valley with McCarthy's grandmother, Nellie Giger, 68.

But she ended up deciding on a full-time career in fashion design. And why not? Sewing and repairing clothes had helped her pay for college.

And in a sense, this, too, is a family tradition.

"My grandma, she taught me how to sew," McCarthy said. "She used to be a teacher and she had taught home economics. She was always sewing something. She wanted to be a fashion designer when she was younger.

"Sewing had come in handy because we used to dance in powwows and we were always outgrowing our outfits so I ended sewing new outfits for my sister and I," she said.

Now she carries the tools of her trade - colored pens, markers and pencils, and a sketchbook - in a bag with her wherever she goes.

"If I see something that catches my eye, then I usually start sketching it," said McCarthy, who grew up in Gallup and is Táchii'nii (Red Running into Water Clan), born for Irish.

Her parents are Tanya Montiel, formerly Etsitty, and Shannon McCarthy.

For creative types, inspiration is often easier than the business side of art, but McCarthy has tackled that with imagination, too.

She created an online store and also found a retail outlet - Cherry Frequency, a clothing shop in Mesa's Fiesta Mall, willing to give rack space to an unknown young designer.

Customers at her online store, www.vickilynscloset.com, are located as far away as Australia and all over the U.S., she said. One of her most frequent customers is located in Virginia.

McCarthy's designs incorporate Goth, Lolita, Cosplay, Cyber Goth, along with more obscure fashion trends that catch her eye. They are geared towards the young, and she knows not all young women have the budget for big-ticket designer clothes, so she keeps her prices affordable.

"The most expensive thing is like 40 dollars and the lowest is like five to 10 dollars," she said. "I know what it's like to be broke when you see something you want to buy so I keep that in mind."

Inspiration can come from anything music or movie related. It depends on what catches her attention. She just breaks out the sketchpad or grabs a plain piece of paper and begins drawing.

"I like to infuse the modern version of something with some old styles and revamp," she said. "I don't like what's currently out in fashion like the skin-tight dresses, skinny jeans, and hooded sweaters that teenagers wear."

As she notes on the homepage of Vickilyn's Closet, McCarthy welcomes orders for custom clothing, hair accessories, lingerie, formal evening wear or other items of apparel.

She can work with any material but likes working with tulle yarn, cotton, fabric that stretches, satin, felt, fused plastic and foam.

"I don't like using fake animal fur because it jams up my cheap little sewing machine," she said. "If I can, I usually use my grandmother's sewing machine for stuff like that."

As the Navajo Times interviewed McCarthy, she had several items that were featured Nov. 7 at Scottsdale Fashion Week, worn by friends who doubled as models. She was part of the up-and-coming designers' show, and showed 10 outfits.

One item she's particularly proud of is a pink wedding dress created especially for the show. It was a project her grandmother thought would take forever.

"She was really surprised because I did that dress within a day, from start to finish, just to prove to her that I could do it," McCarthy said. "I worked on it all day, my whole apartment is covered with material."

Along with getting her designs into Scottsdale Fashion Week, McCarthy also entered the Scottsdale Fashion Designer of the Year competition recently, and placed sixth among 10 other designers.

"I noticed that a lot of designers are educated and have their sewing done by other people and companies," she said. "Which was funny because if something needed to be adjusted they had to have someone there to do it for them. These designers all went to school and they have other people that do the work for them. I do everything myself."

McCarthy's ultimate dream is to open her own store in Scottsdale or on Mill Avenue in Tempe, to serve as a showroom for her creations.

"Hopefully I will have the store by January 2010," she said. "This is all I do."

Her grandfather would be proud.

Information: www.vickilynscloset.com or vickilyn13.etsy.com.

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