A TRIO OF CUSTOM DESIGNERS HOUSED IN BUCKHEAD'S O'HERN BUILDING ARE OFFERING ONE-OF-A-KIND FINDS FOR FASHIONABLE ATLANTANS.<P>In a backroom studio, fabric bolts, a block-cutting table and hanging patterns surround a humming sewing machine, where...


This story first appeared in the June 5, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In a backroom studio, fabric bolts, a block-cutting table and hanging patterns surround a humming sewing machine, where Sharare Frazmand is making a custom pair of fake-fur leopard pants for hip-hop musician Roger Green, “Mr. Rogers.” It’s not Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, but a 500-square-foot studio on the second floor of the 53-year-old O’Hern building, located in the heart of Buckhead’s nightlife district.

Three local custom designers — all of whom have other business, whether it be a wholesale business or another venture — have set up shop at the building, located at 254 East Paces Ferry Road Northeast, in six of the 11 available showrooms. The narrow hallway between showrooms, with patina hardwood floors and the smell of fresh paint, evokes a New York studio space.

Custom tailoring in Atlanta is not hard to find, but these three designers go beyond making clothes — they sketch, design, offer wardrobe consultation and create one-of-a-kind art. The three designers include Frazmand of Buckhead Couturier; social occasion and bridalwear designer Petra Matern Russell, owner and designer of Peke Sposa Ltd. and artist and designer Anthony Liggins of Future Mode LLC.

The trio’s common bond of creativity is enhanced by close proximity. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, as it’s very inspiring to be around other artists,” Frazmand said. “We have similar experiences, so we can share our advice and opinions when needed.”

Here, WWD profiles the trio of young Atlanta designers at this Buckhead atelier:

Petra Matern Russell, Peke Sposa Ltd.

Russell is the building’s newest tenant, having landed there in February. She initiated an interior design facelift, breaking through three showroom walls to create a 1,500-square-foot space that houses the showroom and design studio. Looking ahead, Russell plans to add additional space, to accommodate a sample room.

Prior to launching Peke Sposa, Russell owned Pe’ke, a men’s and women’s apparel store in the Virginia/Highlands area east of downtown Atlanta. After 3 1/2 years, the store closed in February, hurt by a slowdown in the economy. The custom bridal business began at the retail store, and a loyal following encouraged Russell to pursue the venture full-time.

Russell’s bridal and special occasion dresses have a European flair. Born in Germany, she studied at an art institute in Switzerland. Couture finishes include embellishments such as Australian crystals, seed pearls and glass beading on fabrics sourced from Italy, the United Kingdom and France. Fabrics include taffeta, silk chiffon, satin, organza, doupioni and hand-painted charmeuse.

The Buckhead location has been an asset to Russell and her clients, who come from as far away as Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. “They often go to New York, but they appreciate a regional location,” Russell said.

Her customers include women attending charity events, debutant balls, weddings and musical events. Russell sketches the design and makes the muslin fitting. Final patterns are contracted out to New York and Italian factories. Custom dresses start at $900, and custom wedding dresses start at $1,800.

A wholesale collection of 12 pieces will debut in the fall for spring delivery. It will include eight special occasion and four bridal dresses.

Russell also carries a few ready-to-wear lines in the showroom, which she sells at retail prices, including Orna Farho, Yigal Azrouel and Anopia.

To encourage more customer traffic and add to the creative synergy, Russell would like to see another artistic person join the trio of designers. “It would be nice to have an interior designer or fabric salesperson here,” she said. “The creative environment is great.”

Anthony Liggins, Future Mode LLC

Liggins has been making blouses in the Buckhead studio for 12 years.

By 1995, Liggins’ signature blouse designs had taken off, landing in major department stores, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, as well as 30 specialty store accounts. The blouses began as a collection of sophisticated silhouettes in luxury fabrics, detailed with French cuffs and unique collar treatments. Liggins still produces two blouse collections a year, wholesale priced between $65 to $85, in pima cotton, cotton/spandex and cotton/nylon combinations.

Liggins’ custom suits range from $1,500 to $2,500, in worsted wools and cashmere. Over the past three years, Liggins has focused his artistic passion on charcoal, oil and acrylic canvas custom artwork. Inspired by the traditions of African, Asian and South American cultures, the original work starts at $4,500 to $15,000. One piece of Liggins’ work, “Latin Rhythms Run Deep,” has been selected by the Smithsonian Institute for a traveling exhibition, slated to begin its run in December. A separate company, the Cornelian Group, distributes Liggins’ original art designs.

Liggins said he is a “lifestyle designer,” and added, “I converge art with fashion.” He has served as a consultant on imaging projects with hotels and restaurants nationwide. He has designed uniforms for various local restaurant enterprises, including the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group.

“The restaurant uniform business allows me to be creative and profitable,” he said. “I can make between 100 and 300 units per project, which is a more direct distribution than selling blouses to 130 stores.”

Sharare Frazmand, Buckhead Couturier

Twenty-six-year-old Frazmand opened her studio last December after a brief stint wholesaling her own funky designs under the label Sharare. After two years of selling to stores in Los Angeles and Atlanta, the line folded in early 2001 due to a lack of financial backing. For her new custom business, Frazmand acquired two silent partners from Nashville, her hometown.

The launch of the business was fueled by Frazmand’s observation that there was a demand for custom clothes among Atlanta’s music and entertainment folk. “Atlanta has the advantage of being a small-knit community,” she said. “There’s a circle of people who attend ongoing charity events in Atlanta, and once you get into that circle, your reputation and business grows.”

Although most of Frazmand’s customers hail from the music and entertainment industries, she has made a few wedding and social occasion dresses, as well as children’s pieces. Customers either bring in fabric with an idea or Frazmand seeks input from the customer based on his or her lifestyle. “Custom clothing is very addictive,” she said. “Customers love the fact that they have a unique garment. It induces them to come back for their next event.”

A design sketch runs about $200. The custom fake-fur pants Frazmand designed cost $450.