Fashion designer Aquilla Savoy describes himself in his Instagram bio as a “young entrepreneur” who has “been weird — [you’re] just noticing.”
The out 23-year-old says the clothing from his brand, Embrace Your Fashion, is “creative and unique.” Savoy noted people often gossip on social media about the way he dresses — but he doesn’t seem to mind.
“It’s different,” Savoy said. “It’s unique. They can’t change the fact that I’m being myself as a designer.
“It drives me to do more,” he added.
Being himself worked out for Savoy, as he survived homelessness, participated in Philly Fashion Week and worked with a “Project Runway” contestant. Savoy ended up incorporating this message into Embrace Your Fashion. In a statement posted on the brand’s Instagram page, Savoy said he can “only benefit from this epidemic” of gossip and bullying.
“To some, I am different [and] creative and to others, I am weird,” the statement reads. “As a result, Embrace Your Fashion is not only a brand, but also a movement. It inspires people to be original. The main focus ... is to love [and] be yourself.”
Savoy said his great-grandmother used to make suits and dresses to be worn to church and it inspired him to make his own clothing. He made his first outfit when he was 16 with a sewing machine his great-grandmother passed on to him. Using 10 bandanas, Savoy constructed a jumper, which he still has today.
“Everything else I ever made I lost,” Savoy said. “But the jumper I still have.”
When Savoy was 17, he came out to his family. He said his mother was “fine with it” but her boyfriend was not.
“He was physically and verbally abusing me because of the fact that I was gay,” Savoy said. “I took it upon myself to leave.”
Savoy slept in his car while still in high school. Eventually, he stayed on his aunt’s couch and his guidance counselor put him in touch with resources for homeless youth.
Savoy ended up receiving help from Project HOME, a nonprofit organization empowering homeless youth and adults to break the cycle of homelessness. He said the experience was “amazing” and Project HOME helped him get a job at the organization’s store, HOME Spun Resale Boutique. Additionally, he received assistance with money management, college and medical care.
Savoy took the first step toward a fashion career when he participated in Philly Fashion Week in September and met “Project Runway” season 15 contestant Mah-Jing Wong, a Philadelphia resident. Wong serves as a mentor for Savoy.
“Any time when I needed help making something, he was always there to help,” Savoy said.
Savoy participated in Philly Fashion Week again Feb. 23 and is planning to make a third appearance later this year. He is also aiming to produce his own fashion show in the summer.
Additionally, Savoy is trying to take Embrace Your Fashion “to a whole new level” by raising money to create a nonprofit organization.
“I want to own a thrift store where people can donate clothes and I can reconstruct some of the things so they can be unique,” Savoy said.
Overall, Savoy has three pieces of advice for aspiring fashion designers.
“Stay focused,” he said. “Be yourself. Love yourself. And everything is going to be OK.”