What become a passion started out as almost a necessity. Her family wasn’t very wealthy so she didn’t have many of the things teenagers often take for granted.
“My mom is my rock,” said Frazier, the youngest of three children raised by a single mother. “I didn’t want her to stress out as far as having to buy me clothes because now I could make my own clothes since I was learning to sew.”
Frazier told her sewing teacher that while she enjoyed sewing, she wanted to make and create her own items. The teacher introduced her to the concept of fashion design and helped her pick out some schools. Her school of choice was Stephens College, which had a reputable fashion program, located about two and a half hours outside St. Louis, where she was born and raised.
She was initially denied admission to the program because of poor high school grades, but she prevailed by writing a heartfelt letter explaining why she needed to be there.
“I am the type of person that doesn’t let a closed door stay shut,” said Frazier. “They came back and accepted me on a trial basis. I went on and I graduated.”
She was even invited back to Stephens as a juror to evaluate the senior collections in a competition that determines who will get a fashion show. She is excited about returning to her alma mater later this month for the competition, an honor extended only to those alumni who have established themselves in the fashion industry.
Frazier’s designs have been worn by notable clients like Wendy Williams, Angie Stone and Queen Latifah. She’s even hemmed a pair of pants for Janet Jackson. She has been featured twice on BET’s “Rip the Runway” event, a highly anticipated annual showcase of the work of primarily black fashion designers. Most recently, she was a contestant on season six of the popular television series “Project Runway.”
Despite her growing success, she’ll be the first to admit she often finds herself struggling to make ends meet.
“I’m the type of designer, I grind and I hustle,” said Frazier. “Sometimes for a long time I would have to waver between do I pay this electric bill or do I buy this fabric because I have this vision? Maybe this could be the one.”
Part of the reason, she explained, is because she never wanted to design for a design company. In an attempt to remain true to herself, she avoided major design companies because they tend to create clothes based on the trends of the season. When she did work for companies, it was in a production or technical design capacity.
Picking up the business aspect of fashion along the way, she founded her own company, Qristyl Frazier Designs, which specializes in fashions for women age 22 to 55, size 4 to 24. Though she caters to women of all sizes, her focus now has shifted to women who are plus size, or as she’s coined it, “plus sexy.”
“Plus sexy is really about having ownership of your curves and feeling good about yourself. If you have a little more hips or a little more booty or you’re top heavy, that’s okay, I call it plus sexy. Women need clothes that they can wear and feel good in every single day,” said Frazier.
She has customers all over the United States, from Miami to Milwaukee to Oakland to Phoenix, but to get to where she wants to be, she realizes she needs to land a major sponsor. In the past, the lack of steady financing always prevented her from moving forward.
“It does get exhausting because I have been doing this for so long, but I don’t know what else to do. I’ve put this much into it, I can’t stop now,” said Frazier. “And I’m not going to stop, because I have faith. I have a strong foundation of faith, and it’ll get me there.”
For more information on Qristyl Frazier’s work or to purchase one of her pieces, please visit www.qristylfrazierdesigns.com.