Fashion in the Midwest: Michael Tomlinson

Okay, so St. Louis may not be known as a fashion Mecca, but the unique creations of designers in the gateway city is quite impressive. Among the eclectic mix of talented fashion designers who call St. Louis home is Michael Tomlinson of House of Tomlinson (H.O.T…and that it is). He will design virtually anything from cocktail dresses and dress shirts to purses and hats. Many, including Marilyn Manson, prefer the look of his aberrant straightjackets. I sat down with Tomlinson in his cozy studio on Sidney Street to ask him a few questions. In between his giggles, I was able to come up with the following.

How did you get interested in fashion design?
When I was a kid in Texas, my grandmother used to make me clothes. I was fascinated with the process and she eventually bought me my first sewing machine. It became my artistic expression.

How did you end up in St. Louis?
I had an opportunity to come to Missouri and help out at Stephen’s College of Design planning fashion shows with the students and providing internship programs and conceptual workshops for them. I was trying to find my next leap and the second time I came to St. Louis, I felt this incredible vibe walking in the Loop. I knew I had to hang around for a bit.

How did you feel about the St. Louis fashion industry upon arrival?
I realized it wasn’t going to be as happening as New York or San Francisco, but there was already a base and I was able to plug right in. There is a good handful of designers here and that’s all it takes to have an impact.

Was it easy for you to make a name for yourself here?
It was tough at first. I didn’t know anyone and wanted to do an introductory show within the fashion district to let people know I was here. I had to cold call models and was denied for a permit to close down Washington Street, so I put on a guerilla show. I stood in the middle of the street with a boat horn and stopped traffic, the tyko drummers started playing, and the models marched up and down the street in my designs. The cars sat there for the duration of the show. It was great and so exhausting…one of the first and best experiences I’ve had here.

Any advice to those wanting to enter the fashion industry?
The industry itself is ever-changing. We evolve, as does what we refer to as fashion. Keep up, plan, and be consistent. Love what you do and do it everyday.

For more information on H.O.T., call 314-773-1153.

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