How It All Began: Wisteria Way Designs

Wisteria Way

My brand really isn’t about me, but about who I want to become. I am so in love with my children, as all mothers are. I want my beautiful daughters to grow up in a world where they feel valued, secure, and empowered. I want my son to speak with his actions and not just his words because after all, actions speak more loudly than any words.

Parents really do shape the future because we, generally, shape the values of our children and our children are the future.

So what does that have to do with my brand? Well, it sets an example in the most relatable way. I want my daughters to grow up in a world where women value who they are, instead of being told what they should be. With our clothing, we have the opportunity to profess who we are without ever saying a word. The freedom of custom design is that I do not say, “here these are the set parameters of what I believe to be beautiful and socially acceptable, you may choose from these.” I have the privilege of asking, “what statement do you want to make to the world about who you are?” Allowing people the opportunity to express themselves without set parameters reinforces the belief that our uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. When one feels comfortable in who they are, they are more secure in their interactions with others. It is no longer a competition. It pains me when I hear women talk about competing against one another in social situations. I am secure in saying that the only person that I am in competition with is who I was yesterday. I always go to bed wanting to be better, a better mother, a better friend, a better wife, a better designer than who I was that day. That is not to say that I did not try my best or feel that I have fallen short, but it is a reminder that every day is an opportunity to learn to be better. To continue to grow as a person in every way. Once we stop growing, we start dying, and that is not something I intend to model for my children.

Lacie Lindy Phillips, owner, and designer for Wisteria Way Designs, born and raised in the tiny town of Saraland, Alabama. I went to a small private school, Mobile Christian, from kindergarten until graduation. I graduated with 13 of the people I started kindergarten with. My world was small and finite. It seemed like everyone and everything always stayed the same. Very typical of small towns, there were jocks, cheerleaders, freaks, and geeks. Honestly, I just never seemed to fit in. There were times where I felt like I fit in, but for the most part, I felt like wallpaper or furniture. Just the background noise that filled other people’s lives. But don’t feel bad for me, it gave me a lot of time to listen and observe. After all, no one really tries to deceive a lamp. No, I got a front row seat to the entire spectrum of human behavior, and it taught me a lot.  At 16 I met this shy, goofy guy, who was the first person to really see me. That guy would stick by me, became my best friend, and now 14 years later is my husband (of 8 years) and the most incredible father to our three children. Mabry 5, Weslin 3, and Tucker 1 are the best things I have ever had a hand in creating. Although most people say They came straight from their dad and I was just a vessel because two look just like him and one acts just like him.  But for the past six years, they have been my life. My blessings, my quiet place, my wild adventure. They have taught me more about myself and who I want to be than I had learned leading up to their existence.

They say you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, but I am not sure that is true. Because I didn’t trulyWisteria Way know what Love was until I held my daughter in my arms. I didn’t know how amazing my body was until I carried her, brought her into this world, and fed her from it. I didn’t live my life completely until I had two little eyes watching everything I did. No longer was I lost in the world, I was someone’s world. And over time, I became three someones’ world. No longer was I waiting for life to happen, it was here, it was happening right in front of me and I needed to get on board. On my 29th birthday, I decided that I would take the year to be brave. I started my business wanting to create a movement of women embracing themselves. Not just being body positive, but people positive. In a world where the focus is appearance and beauty standard and conformity, we lose sight of how beautiful our individual selves are. And it’s crazy really, how much time is wasted on fitting in to stand out when there are so many beautiful differences between us. Just think, if we encouraged our differences and gave each other room to be, what kind of future we could build.

At 18, I struck out for college at the University of Alabama, where my world got a bit bigger. Bigger, better, so much more me. I got to know more about life. I held my first job which I got at a yard sale a few weeks before my freshman year at the University of Alabama. Yep, I met my first boss while she was having a yard sale, she heard I was going to be a freshman and was looking for a student assistant in her office and I was more than happy to apply. I held that position for two years but anyone who has ever worked as a student worker in college knows that they pay next to nothing, so to make extra money I went and bought me a sewing machine at Walmart, an $89 singer, and started sewing for people. I first sewed for myself out of necessity, needing things that I had left at home and having to make them instead. People took notice and asked what I would charge to make them something. It kind of took off from there. On my dorm floor I would cut patterns and sew on the coffee table, not the most comfortable set up but it was perfect for me. I picked things up as I went, having no real training beyond one sewing lesson when I was 8 years old. I will never forget when I discovered how much easier sewing got when I bought an iron. I know, I can hear the collective gasp of all the seamstresses in the world. And to answer the question, no, I have no idea how I made flat seams or hems before that. And truly, that is how my sewing knowledge grew, bit by bit, learning from each new project. Now there is YouTube and Pinterest where you can find pretty much any answer for anything and you better believe I still learn something from every project.

As big as my world got, the home still calls to me. My whole family still lives there. And my heart will always be on the gulf coast, wrapped in the salty air and covered in sand. Mobile is always there to open its arms to me when I need to refresh my soul. The second your tires hit the causeway and I get that first real glimpse of the open sea, I feel like I can breathe again. I know the two don’t seem to go together, but sewing and the coast have so much in common. When the fabric is building up around me and I am in the midst of designing a new gown, it’s like I’m lost in the rolling tide, not worried about whether it’s coming or going, just enjoying existing in it.

What inspires me? How every little act is important. How much influence people have whether they claim it or not and how they choose to use it. It’s not just the people leading TED talks and leading companies. I would even go so far as to say that, those people have the least influence in the big picture because, by the time someone is watching one of their talks, that person is usually already paying attention towards bettering themselves. I’m talking about the unintentional influence everyone has. The janitor who always has a smile on his face, living the message that happiness is a choice. The teacher who buys jackets for the kids in her class who don’t have them. She doesn’t shame the parents or blames the child. She sees a need and she fills it because she lives with compassion. The people who make it a point to make eye contact because it shows value in another person. If you look around, there is inspiration everywhere. It inspires me to think that all of our little grains of sand come together to form a beach. That the little actions I take do add up in the grand total and that maybe I can inspire someone else.

My design process is different for different projects. I guess it really depends on what comes first, the fabric or the idea. I love looking at silhouettes and shapes of garments from many different time periods. I am always storing ideas away for the right fabric to come along. In some cases, the fabric tells me what it wants to be. It may be the drape or the pattern or lace that sort of takes hold of my design and directs it to the end result. Sometimes, if I am designing for a client, I like to talk to them about things other than a design to find out more about them so that I can design for who they are. Most people when they come to me, have a picture of someone else in a gown that they like. I encourage that, but it does bring up the problem sometimes, that what they like about the dress is more attributed to the person wearing it and not the actual design itself.  That’s where getting to know who I am designing for really comes in. Once you get someone talking about themselves and what they are passionate about, you can see this light start to shine in them. It’s my job to take that light and translate that to something that can be worn. One of the most tragic things when watching events, in my opinion, is seeing just a beautiful dress. The secret to a truly successful design is for someone to notice the beautiful person and then the dress compliments that person. I am not saying that to downgrade my craft or to hate on pretty dresses, quite the opposite. What I mean is, the right design, does not overshadow the wearer but accentuates their natural glow.

My fabric comes from many sources. I work with new fabrics when clients request it or need a very specific fabric. My heirloom fabric comes from estate sales and antique stores, always second hand.  I have a buyer that gathers for me as well. So I never know what I might find, which is fun. I spend a lot of time sorting and organizing my heirloom trims. Sometimes I have to treat the fabrics due to age and staining. I will not especially treat a fabric for age discoloration unless it is blotchy or inconsistent. Sometimes there are damaged places or patches that I must work around. I find myself while sorting, thinking of the hands that made these intricate works of art. Especially the intricate laces, which have details so tiny, it is impossible to image human hands making something so delicate. I imagine a young woman sitting by a window with her needlework, making tablecloths for her hope chest or making lace for her children’s clothing. I imagine what she would have thought, all the hopes and dreams and plans she would have poured into her work. And I wonder at what point along the way did those dreams come to pass, leading her work to be well loved but ultimately boxed up and forgotten. I hope she would be proud to know that her work is seeing the light of day once again and making someone else’s hopes and dreams come true.

On top of all of the beautiful thoughts about heirloom fabrics, it is also really important to note the environmental impact that the clothing industry has. And the fact that fast fashion is becoming a serious polluter and drain on resources. Not just adding to landfills but wasting thousands of gallons of water and resources that could be appropriated elsewhere. (See attached highlighted statistics and sites)

My company name is inspired by my mother who as a retired English teacher, has always loved alliteration. I have always loved wisteria as it always signals the coming of change in the south. Wisteria Way just seemed perfect to me. It also lends to the idea that one is on a path, like a trip down Wisteria Way. I want people, when they work with me, to feel like they are on a journey instead of just performing a transaction.