Aissa Martin, From Pets to Petrol White When Aissa Martin graduated from Emerson Prep School here at age 14 1/2, the idea of being a fashion designer never occurred to her. She was only interested in pre-med courses at George Washington University that might lead to a career as a veterinarian, and in her after-school job as a veterinary technician at Kenhaven Animal Veterinary Hospital in Rockville.
Now a New York designer for O.B. Moon/Camicia, she still works weekends at a veterinary hospital. But mostly she works on piece goods and style development for the design firm, while spending what little free time is left developing her own line.
"I just felt I had enough of pre-med and wanted another future doing the kinds of things stylists do," Martin says of her entry into the fashion field. She worked for Garfinckel's in display, styled pictures for photographers and eventually supervised the wardrobes and did hair and makeup for music and fashion videos and commercials.
"As a stylist in display you learn about constructing props, but you also learn about what styles are missing out there," says Martin. So at age 19 she started working toward a degree in fashion design at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, where she picked up one of the top awards when she graduated last December.
Now she's ready to go out on her own. She describes her line as "postmodernist knitwear, mostly in black with silver metal accents. She plans to call it Petrol White, after a brand of British pomade. "I just love the name," she says. She's already arranged to show her clothes in a presentation on Pier II in New York this summer. After a year she expects to start looking for a backer.
Mail Order Moms
Some women find their own loosely fitted styles sufficient for maternity wear for the first months. But there comes a time, later for some than for others, when maternity clothes are needed. That's why Pro Creations has set up a rental business of maternity business suits and party clothes. Everything is handled by mail, with custom alteration and exchanges for larger sizes at no additional cost. For a descriptive packet with swatches for a refundable $15, write Pro Creations P.O. Box 9964, Washington, D.C. 20016.
Forever in Amber
First let's put to rest some misinformation about the fashion business. No, rayon is not a synthetic but a fiber man-made from trees, cotton and woody plants. And amber is not a mined stone but a fossilized resin.
There are lots of people who design well in rayon, but one of the pros in amber design is here in Washington. Jamal Mims, a self-taught jeweler, makes bold and handsome earrings and necklaces in various shades of amber, including, surprisingly, deep red. One exceptional necklace combines big, natural beads with large tooled silver balls. Mims, who also works in gold and silver, started working in amber in the early 1960s. "The appeal of amber is its color," he says. As it ages it gets fault lines, which add interest.
Mims went to Eastern High School, then studied ceramics and basic jewelry in college on the West Coast. As a child he always made things, encouraged by his father, who was a carpenter. But one day he lost his high school ring and was unable to replace it. "I started looking at jewelry designs and found everything straight up and down. Nothing gave me that special feeling when I wore it."
So he began making jewelry while working as a counselor at UDC. In fact, he got so involved in the art that he sold his car to go off to Senegal to work in a village with a distinguished jewelry maker. Singer Lena Horne owns his jewelry; so do poet Nikki Giovanni, actress Ruby Dee and, locally, TV reporter Susan Kidd, TV anchor Renee Poussaint and the mayor's wife Effi Barry.
It is harder these days to find amber, says Mims. "Designers in Paris are into amber and there is less left for us over here," he says.
Are you lacking sox appeal? To your rescue comes a booklet called -- are you ready for this? -- "The Joy of Sox." It includes worthy definitions of fibers, fabrics, patterns and style, and for those not into stretch socks, a guide to comparable shoe and sock sizes for infants and children as well as men and women. The free booklet, put out by Du Pont, is available by writing to Joy of Sox, c/o the Rowland Co., 415 Madison Ave., N.Y. 10017.
A Cutty Above
Nominees for the Cutty Sark Menswear Awards were announced at the recent Men's Fashion Association meeting in Chicago. Among the categories to be voted on by the fashion press are: outstanding designer, with nominees Ronaldus Shamask, Bill Robinson and Allyn St. George; outstanding international designer, with nominees Gianfranco Ferre, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Claude Montana and Gianni Versace; sportswear designer, with nominees Nancy Heller, Tony Lambert, Tommy Hilfiger; and most promising designer, with nominees Cecilia Metheny, Joseph Abboud and Kermit Smith.
Notes de la Mode
Here come the gangsters. At least that's what some of the athletes in the Olympic parade looked like. In long dress coats and fedoras, the U.S. team looked like it was going to the office rather than to a sporting event. But we did love the blanket ponchos from Argentina, the jackets from Finland and West Germany, and the expected furs from the Soviet Union.
If uniforms were to be judged on color and comfort, our American gangster hats would go off to the Swiss skiers, who looked sleek on the slopes.
Fabrice, best known for his glittery designs -- such as the costumes Whitney Houston has worn on her latest tour -- is going positively egalitarian with a collection of clothes to retail at $500 to $1,500. Till now his couture designs, worn by Liza Minnelli, Joan Collins, Morgan Fairchild and Cornelia Guest, among others, have cost between $2,000 and $6,000 apiece.
Gucci Shops paid $20,575,964 recently to settle a claim by the Internal Revenue Service that it evaded corporate income taxes from 1972 to 1982. According to Fairchild News Service, Gucci Shops admitted paying shell foreign corporations for nonexistent services over a period of 10 years to increase costs and lower its taxable income.