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Fatal fashion: Austin-born Crowned Bird debuts collection driven by nostalgia

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Priscilla Barroso of Crowned Bird Photo by Jessica Pages
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Priscilla Barroso of Crowned Bird   Photo by Jessica Pages
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Crowned Bird lookbook, photo by Studio Gold Crowned Bird Look Book
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Crowned Bird lookbook, photo by Studio Gold Crowned Bird Look Book
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Crowned Bird lookbook, photo by Studio Gold Crowned Bird Look Book
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Priscilla Barroso of Crowned Bird Photo by Jessica Pages
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Priscilla Barroso of Crowned Bird Photo by Jessica Pages
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Priscilla Barroso of Crowned Bird Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_crowned bird_april 2012_5
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_crowned bird_april 2012_3
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Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_crowned bird_april 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_Caitlin_crowned bird_april 2012_2
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Priscilla Barroso is a doe of a young woman — limbs long and lean with a face crowned by closely cropped curls reminiscent of another era. She's an old kind of soul, whose debut collection for her newly established fashion line, Crowned Bird, was driven by the same eclectic upbringing and eye for quirk that informs her own personality.

"Basically, I was raised by the village," Barroso says. " I grew up with five generations in one house. Half Turkish, half Panamanian. My grandmother was a seamstress in the 80s and so poised, meanwhile my grandfather would mow the lawn in a three-piece suit in 90 degree heat. We never gave up that image."

Those diverse roots inspired Barroso to forge her own path from a young age. While on a trip to San Francisco in her early 20s, she decided not to return to her North Texas home, but rather to try her luck out West — permanently. "I'm kind of a fatalist when it comes to life," she says. "I feel like things kind of work out if they should."

What she found in her abrupt move to the Bay Area is that doors opened for her, giving her the affirmative signal she needed that she was moving in the right direction. Initially, Barroso intended to use the opportunity to study industrial design. "I wanted to change the world through doorknobs," she laughs, "and make the everyday things a little piece of art — a little something nostalgic that you could remember."

However, without an industrial design program readily available in the city, she transfered to FIDM for a two-year intensive program in fashion design. Some might call that a back-up plan, but Barroso kept the same ode to nostalgia as her reference point during her fashion studies, designing and altering her own wardrobe all the while.
 

 "I'm kind of a fatalist when it comes to life. I feel like things kind of work out if they should."

One otherwise ordinary trip to a tailor particularly reinforced Barroso's calling. Keen on designing her own jacket, she visited Al’s Attire in North Beach, well known for creating custom garments from head to toe. When she returned weeks later to pick up the final product, the owner hired her on the spot based on the jacket she had the shop make. She credits the time-intensive few years she spent at Al’s Attire as her bona-fide training.

"You walked in [to Al’s] and it was as if you were transferred into an 18th century atelier. It looked like it, it smelled like it and my mentor had been doing it for 40 years up until that point," she says. “Within that experience, it was a really positive flow of interesting people and circumstances.”

Though perfectly suited for an old world setting, Barroso had gleaned not only a degree, but the experience and confidence needed to start her own venture with the mission of “bringing more personality to the everyday essentials.”

She calls Crowned Bird an “idealized dream world” in which those that wear the clothes “will be complimented, not gawked at. I want people to feel confident [wearing] what I put out into the world.”

The 15 piece collection for Fall 2012 is vintage-inspired, but modernly cut; Barroso was careful to keep any style references to yesteryear from "looking too costumey."
 
The Pipit pencil skirts are high-waisted with back elastic (allowing women to style it either at the waist or at the hip), invisible slit pockets, tucked front pleats and belt loops. While a nod to the 50s and 60s can be seen throughout the entire collection, the simple (and wrinkle resistant) Whistler dress stands out with its sweet sway drape, hidden side pockets and standout polka dot collar. The colorful trout print featured on several garments promises to be a favorite for playful fashionistas.

In fact, the majority of the fabrics used to make Crowned Bird’s first-run collection were serendipitously sourced in Panama. “I went to Panama to see my family and I actually missed my plane back,” Barroso explains. “I had an extra day so I went to the free trade zone and to visit fabric stores. It was like fate, right? I miss my plane and had an entire day to gather fabric. I left my clothes in Panama and packed my bags with what I found.”
 
 "Simple nostalgia always inspires me most, so why not build an entire collection based on these values."
 
Though Barroso spent hours studying old Sears catalogs from the 20s and 30s while working at Al's Attire, the biggest source of inspiration for the line’s debut collection came in the form of a 1960s children book called Peppermint Fence. “The scenic illustrations and colors led me into this fantasy world of candy canes and tin roofs and I just became so enchanted with the wonder world it enabled,” she reveals. “I know it's a bit silly, but you know, life shouldn't be so serious. . .These are the things I cherish and simple nostalgia always inspires me most so why not build an entire collection based on these values.”

Though it may appear that luck is consistently on Barroso’s side, it’s more of a sanguine attitude that’s carried her this far. There’s been no shortage of hard work, research and constant appreciation of those around her during her journey, but Barroso is humble enough to know that the hardest part is yet to come.

“The real work comes with getting [Crowned Bird] out there and being fearless about it,” she says of Crowned Bird's next phase — getting national online boutiques, like NastyGal, to carry the line. “You have to be bold, true to yourself, and be able to take on criticism without falling apart. It’s as much about how you deal with yourself as how you deal with the business.”

“What’s been so great about Austin is that it’s built a foundation for me... and it’s not just about me, it’s about the community. You don’t have to live in a major city like L.A. or New York to define you or define those things that you love to do.” She considers right now an opportune time for Texas to break stereotypes and build a new reputation for manufacturing affordable, quality garments that are on trend, but full of surprises.

And now that she’s invested her blood, sweat and tears and has a line to show for it, Barroso is yet again leaving much of Crowned Bird up to fate. She will launch a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds that will allow her to maintain a level of local production, as well as upgrade Crowned Bird's current studio and showroom into a fully functional production house — thus providing aspiring designers a place to gain hands-on experience while nurturing their dreams — much like the opportunity she had at Al's.

“The more you reach out, the more opportunity you’ll have to build your own story while keeping and appreciating your roots," she encourages. "It’s all about building your own story and showcasing it in whatever medium you do.”
 
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Check back for a link to contribute to Crowned Bird's Kickstarter fund later on Friday, April 13.
 

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