"The fabric was in the trunk of my grandmother's car since the '70s," he says over a late breakfast at the Busy Bee Diner. "I like the fact that it's unique, and you can tell it's vintage. I wasn't about to clean it."
Mendoza, 21, started designing clothes as a freshman at BU under the label name JeTom, and is now creating two collections a year, selling at the fashionable Newbury Street boutique Stil, and helming the university's fashion club. Inspired to start designing after he and a pack of friends were appalled by "gross jersey shirts paired with those disgusting Uggs," he began reconstructing thrift shop finds into new outfits. For his second collection, he taught himself how to sew and made dresses out of curtain fabric he found at a going-out-of-business sale in his native Houston. In just two years, he's developed into one of Boston's most prolific, and conceptual, designers. He describes his next collection, inspired by his Mexican family and folk singer Lila Downs, as "a Mexican bag lady in Paris."
"I like teaching myself about fashion," he says. "I like coming up with these shapes and these new ways of constructing clothes. It's definitely not the same as what other people are doing."
"I love things that are convertible, that move from one shape to another," she says.
For several years, the 29-year-old Meyer, who designs under the label Myre , created props for television, including three seasons of "Arrest and Trial," a "Law and Order" spin off. She enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to re-create bales of marijuana, or a full-scale heroin lab, but ultimately she wanted her art to touch people more directly.
"I like to dress people up a little bit. My pieces are elegantly tailored, but still edgy," she says. "I'm trying to give people something nicer to wear. My goal is to make sure that people never wear sweatpants in public. Never."
"We're definitely trying to be eco-friendly," says Ozay in her Cambridge workspace. "But we don't want to be eco-friendly with the clause of being fashionless. A lot of people think they go hand-in-hand."
The pair, who met as students at the School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street, had seen enough burlap, eco-friendly swim capes to know they wanted to create fashion that wasn't flaky, and still be conscious of the environment.
"Because it's an up-and-coming trend, there isn't a lot out there as far as textiles are concerned," says Villa. "I'm obsessed with finding organic cotton velvet. You would think it wouldn't be that hard. But it's a big stumbling block."
When they are able to locate fabrics, there have been problems with supply. A woman who was selling them "peace silk," silk made from worms that are not killed, proved thoroughly unreliable. But Villa and Ozay say the main focus of their flapper-inspired designs is to create fashion, not save the planet.
"Don't worry," says Villa. "We're not going to try to hug you."
This is the studio of Michael De Paulo, a 27-year-old former architect who decided that a career choosing carpet for office buildings would drive him insane. Instead, he decided to fall back on his love of fashion.
Influenced by the clean lines of architecture, De Paulo makes formal gowns for sophisticated events. He plays with layer to create dresses with volume. His creations recently captured the eye of a stylist who used three of his dresses in a magazine photo shoot for "Casino Royale" badgirl Ivana Milicevic .
"Evening wear is tough in Boston," he says. "But I like it here. It's less hectic than a lot of cities, and people in Boston are definitely sophisticated enough to appreciate fashion."
"A lot of people are getting very creative and opening their own little studios and designing for more boutiques that carry different designers," she says. "Ten years ago, there was none of that. From a designer point-of-view, it's really exciting and fun."
Corte, a native of Argentina who came to the United States at 19, touched her first bolt of silk at age 4 and started cutting garments at 12. Her father, a well-heeled gentleman who made luxury men's clothing, cultivated his daughter's love of fine fabrics. After spending the better part of the last decade designing, cutting, and sewing clothes at her Newbury Street studio, Daniela Corte Fashion has grown to the point where production will soon move overseas to keep up with demand. It will also allow Corte to spend more time designing clothes. After the birth of her first child in 2005, she also began designing a line of baby clothing (she is now pregnant with her second child).
"I never wanted to be one of those designers who was only worn at special events," she says. "Instead of spending money on clothes that you're only going to wear once or twice, I thought it made sense to spend money on the clothes you wear every day."