Pamela Powell’s background in fashion is based in Europe and Australia, where she worked in high-end and couture workrooms on garments for high-profile and celebrity clients like Margaret Thatcher, Tina Turner and Stevie Nicks.
“My work involved the complete end of the design process, from illustration to finished garment,” she explained. “During this time, I built up my own client base in bridal, special occasion and evening wear. I also have experience in lingerie and swimwear, having owned a small company in Australia. In 2001, after moving to the U.S., I showed a bridal collection under my own name at the Couture Bridal Show in New York and the National Bridal Show in Chicago.”
This reflects a love of fashion that can be traced back to Powell’s family. Her grandmother, great-aunts and aunts knitted, embroidered and sewed, and while her mother professed a hatred of sewing, she was very good at it. In fact, her mother would reminisce about a time when she lived in Fiji and had everything made to measure, from hats to shoes.
Both of Powell’s parents were interested in fashion and loved movies, music and theater, while her father encouraged her to read.
“As a child, my father had the philosophy of as long as we read it we could have it, so from very early on I had subscriptions to different ‘girls’ magazines, plus weekly visits to the library,” she said. “My first sewing machine was a Christmas present and trips to the fabric store were encouraged as I copied the clothing from such places as the magazines and movies for myself.”
When Powell thought that she might teach one day, she studied in London at the University of Arts, London College of Fashion, after taking classes at the English couture school. She was sent to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York for three months to set up an exchange program, and it was during this time that she decided to teach for a career.
Once she moved to Chicago, Powell began teaching and has been doing so ever since, including in the Fashion Studies program at College of DuPage.
“I do not find teaching in the classroom much different from heading a workroom,” she said. “In a workroom, you are responsible for figuring out how to make it happen and getting it done, which translates over to being able to communicate this to those working under you. As I teach mainly lab classes, I am passing on technical information in much the same way.”
To answer questions that both students and friends have asked, Powell wrote “Tailored Fashion Design,” a college textbook on tailoring published by Fairchild Books.
“This book begins with researching the inspiration and design, selecting the fabric to the fit and constructions of a jacket for both genders and covers different construction methods for different price points in the fashion market,” she said. “I also was asked to write an article for Threads magazine that was published as a six-page article in the February/March 2013 issue. I’ve signed a contract with Laurence King Publishing, UK, for my second textbook, ‘Lingerie and Foundations.’ My career started with lingerie and swimwear, so writing this book brings my career full circle.”
Powell encourages her students to build confidence and follow their dreams.
“Experiment and explore design as far as possible,” she said. “Think outside the box and do not be intimidated by others opinions. Express yourself for who you are.”