She personifies Gidget more than Harriet Tubman, but don't count Laurice Jones out among the list of liberators.
This 32-year-old Washington native and fashion consultant is trying to free the city's cottage-industry clothing designers from the bias of popular opinion--the opinion that says a manufactured garment is a creation, but a custom-made item is just "a homemade dress."
"The clients just don't want to give the cottage designers the proper kind of respect," Jones said with a shake of her head. "Clients seem to feel they're just laborers. They lose respect for their creativity, the designer concepts and the technical knowledge that is required to construct a garment that is specially designed for an individual."
For years, as a fashion and commercial art student at Howard University, Jones had watched this less-than-appreciative attitude discourage her friends in the field. Last year, she decided to do something about it.
Jones shed her fear of public speaking, quit her display-coordinator's job at Garfinckel's and founded Ricey and the Designers of Color--a traveling corps of innovative and talented fashion designers and needle craftsmen. What one struggling clothing designer couldn't do alone, perhaps a group could--or that was the idea, anyway.
At an average cost of $150, Designers of Color's clothes use only high quality fabrics for designs that range from simply tasteful to outrageously chic. Included in the cost of several of the creations are accessories--scarves, hats, costume jewelry--to form the complete outfit.
Peddling this concept of style and quality around the city, Jones said the group has grown rich in respect--but that's the largest profit so far.
Until they become established financially, the designers pay each other by exchanging services. Most of Jones' salary has come from ticket sales to the fashion shows of the group's work that she coordinates.
"Last year I made $10,000. It's been divinely difficult and divinely wonderful," she said of the group's first year in business. Nonetheless she is confident "I'm going straight to the top."
Since last September, Jones and her entourage--who sport names like Twain, Gee Moore, Burk-O-Wits and Silver and Samitra--have been hosts to eight fashion shows, including the Black Caucus wives luncheon, Howard University Annual Homecoming Fashion Show and Akin Designers Boutique.
Saturday, Jones presented the designers of color in a three-hour bridal show at Rive Gauche Restaurant. The show featured original wedding gowns, bridesmaids' outfits, and a collection of spring and summer clothes suitable for a bridal trousseau.
Proceeds from the $10 tickets to that show will be donated to two local churches, Star of Bethlehem C.O.G.I.C. and the Evangel Magazine of Evangel Temple.
This spring, the band of clothing designers will move into phase two of its venture by opening a co-op deisgner boutique at Nannies Attic, 1511 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Jones said. Each designer will pay a monthly fee for rental space, promotion and consulting services.
Sandra Phipps, who designs under her own label, Fig Leaves, will be among the designers on display at the boutique. Phipps, 34, said designing was a life-long avocation for her that became a career when she decided to quit her secure and steady-pay job as a psychiatric nurse and jump into the world of self-employment in 1981.
A friend introduced Phipps to Jones. Within a few months, Phipps' fashions were being promoted in shows around the city.
"It's a network," Phipps said of the designers' group. "The main benefits are promotion and getting to know other designers on a more intimate basis."