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Interview: Dontarius Clyburn 

The young designer looks to the past for his future

Charlotte native Dontarius Clyburn, 21, has come a long way in a short time. Designing for only a few years, he has already racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. He won Charlotte Seen's Best Couture Design during the 2011 Charlotte Fashion Week, currently has a design on display at the Mint Museum on Randolph Road and will showcase in an upcoming show, dubbed "Unforgettable," in Shelby on May 19. His collection, titled "Springtime Trapped in A Goldmine," features a mixture of pastels and gold with intricate details and chiffon added for flair. As hard-working as he is creative, this designer is already aiming to build his empire and make a legacy for himself.

Creative Loafing: You've said before that a big part of your evolution as a designer stems from going through your grandmother's closet as a child. How does that help you design?

Dontarius Clyburn: My grandmother has a lot of different and unique vintage pieces, and I just love taking things from back in the day and modernizing them. I love going to a thrift store and taking things and renovating them and making them up to date, adding to them and just spicing them up. I still go through her closet, and I've seen some of the best and most original pieces in there. I just love taking something like that and turning it into something totally different.

Any particular piece of hers that is your favorite?

Last year for the Charlotte Seen show at the Ritz-Carlton, my grandmother had this black blazer with a gold embroidered weave on the shoulders, and I wore it and everyone loved it.

If you had to describe your personal style in four words, what would you say?

I would say, outside of the box. That's exactly what it is; in everything that I do and think of, I try to be as distinct as possible, and in fashion you always want to do something different. You don't want to do the same thing over and over again. I just try to be as innovative and creative as I can, so outside of the box fits perfectly.

You describe a lot of your work as being inspired by sculpture. How do you show that in your work?

I incorporate it as far as using different shapes, like with the shoulders and the skirts; I like playing off of different angles. I use a lot of wiring inside the clothing, building different sculptures within the clothes themselves. A lot of playing with different shapes basically. For example, the shoulders I had on a leotard are very pointy, like a triangle almost.

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