Coming Home

The experience of walking into Stephanie Montes’ studio home can be described as Pinterest-worthy. What’s even better than a home that looks as good as the pictures we're pinning is the fact that she was able to tie in her design workplace. Who would have thought that a sewing machine, mood boards, spreads of her designs sketches and her Spring 2017 clothing line hanging up on the wall would compliment her home so well. (We were completely dying at the fact that her studio home is everything we hope for our living space to be).

Just when we're we started to take in the home decor madness, she began telling us that she not only lived through Paris Fashion Week, but was actually apart of it. We know, our jaws completely dropped also. Working under a designer is not just a goal, but a dream most fashion lovers hope to achieve. After growing up in El Paso, Texas and living in Florida to studying at the University of North Texas and the Paris American Academy School of Fashion Design, her designs are greatly influenced from her heritage within the Spanish culture.

While we drank Topochico (an Austin, Texas must-have), listened to her Spotify playlists featuring artists like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Leon Bridges while trying on her Spring 2017 line, we talked about her career as a fashion designer. It would be an understatement to say that there is so much to look forward to for S.t.e.f. Clothing because her Spring collection is so comfy, cute and easy to wear. Even her Beagle, Lucy, approves!

Q. Tell the Sun Eyed Girls all about yourself.

I am the Founder + Designer of the Austin based ethically made clothing + accessories line s.t.e.f. 

Q. What was your first job?

My first official fashion design job was as an Assistant Designer at White House / Black Market Headquarters in Florida.

Q. Where/what inspired your latest SS17 collection?

Earlier this year, I revisited Paris, France where I had studied haute couture fashion sewing and construction techniques at the Paris American Academy in 2009. I was reminded of the long history of fashion that is engrained in French culture. From Paris, I traveled to Barcelona, Spain. It was during this portion of my travels that I was truly inspired by the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

Upon visiting several of Gaudí's well known monuments such as Sagrada Família along with Park Güell, I was drawn to the ornamental decor that was a recurring theme throughout each of his works called Trencadís, a type of mosaic created from broken tile shards and waste ceramic pieces.

As a designer, I integrate remnant materials into my own collection in order to eliminate the waste created throughout the production process; so the Trencadís technique really stood out to me. With mosaic in mind, I hand-sketched several shapes on paper, then scanned/digitized them in illustrator andbegan to lay out the shapes in a mosaic like pattern. This turned into our newest print which can be viewed in our SS17 look-book.

Speaking of Paris Fashion Week, we get major FOMO from all the Fashion Month goodness, tell us what it was like to assist designers for Paris Fashion Week? Any advice for the fashion junkies on attending a Fashion Week in the near future.

SM: Working behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week was incredible and will remain one of my favorite memories from my time abroad. I met several established designers and helped a few up and coming designers showcase their collections. The venues for each fashion show were spread throughout the city, so I was able to work in many non-conventional locations along with several notable ones. 

Elie Saab's couture collection showed where Chanel's past collection had been displayed, and although there was some criticism as to the themes being too similar, Elie Saab’s work was very much his own style, and the venue was exquisite.

Another favorite memory from that time was when I had the honor of adding the final touches to a finale wedding gown for one of the fashion shows. Traditionally, a bridal gown is shown at the end of every couture runway show, so it is the last design to be finalized. In the midst of all the chaos, I worked alongside experienced seamstress to help finish the veil for the finale gown.

I hand-sewed next to some extremely talented artisans and watched them remain calm and collect throughout the backstage chaos. This experience taught me the importance of remaining composed no matter what is happening around you. I have never witnessed such discipline in my life and will never forget how deeply inspired I felt in that moment. I kept the sewing needle that I used that day and it serves as a reminder to me to always remain calm in a crisis.

Since most Fashion Weeks tend to be filled with endless events and showcases, the best advice I can give to anyone interested in attending is to choose runway shows that are showcasing designers you are interested in learning more about. You may even have a chance to meet the designer after the runway show and place an order on a design that you liked. Most designers are happy to accommodate orders and appreciate the support, I know I do! 

You might even be able to shop the runway looks that you liked by scheduling a studio visit with the designer. Most of the designs that are shown in runway shows are a season ahead, so the designs you see on the runway are samples from upcoming collections. The designer may even offer you the garment you like at a sample sale or wholesale price. Attending Fashion Week allows you to support small businesses, shop locally and meet some truly talented people.

Has there been a pivotal moment in your life where you felt like fashion was truly your passion?

SM: Yes, but that moment happened at a very early age for me. I learned how to sew at a young age and loved to modify and alter clothing from thrift stores. In high school, I participated in student fashion design shows every year and learned how much I loved creating my own designs. It was after showing my designs to an audience at my senior fashion show, and having my work well received, that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.

Out of all the jewelry, clothing and handbags, what is your most favorite to design?

SM: It's hard to pick a favorite since both the clothing and accessories are really fun to design. However, the accessories designs are much easier to take from concept to creation and can be produced in a shorter amount of time. This is a fun process which leads to much faster results.

For clothing, the patterns need to be finalized and the fit of the garments corrected before being put into production where the designs are then graded to different sizes. The timeline is much longer and seeing my creation come to life takes several weeks, but there is definitely a sense of accomplishment when I finally get to see the designs on display in local boutiques!

For the days when you feel uninspired or unmotivated, what do you do to take a break your creative rut?

SM: For creatives, taking time away from work can be just as important as the work itself. For me, it's essential to step outside of my design studio and explore the works of artists who bring me inspiration. One of my favorite ways to discover new and local artists is by attending East Austin Studio Tour, an annual event that takes place right in my neighborhood.

By viewing the works of other artists and designers, I am introduced to new and different techniques I may have never thought if using. Of course, these ideas serve as a starting point for me, after which they tend to take on a new style when created by my own hands. The end results will always have my own signature look and aesthetic. 

In three words, how would describe s.t.e.f clothing?

SM: Sustainable. Handmade. Luxury.

It takes some time to come up with a solid morning routine, tell us what your typical morning is like.

SM: In a recent interview, I mentioned that the majority of my morning is dominated by emails and that hasn’t changed much. I spend the beginning of each day responding to emails and checking in with our fabric, trims and supply vendors. I monitor our inventory and source the materials necessary to produce each collection. 

I also check in with the local boutiques that carry our line to see how our designs our performing. One of the benefits of being a small batch designer + manufacturer is being able to quickly produce and deliver certain items from our line for local buyers. This allows boutiques to only order what they need, while allowing us to test out which designs work, and which don’t. We love receiving re-orders from our wholesale buyers since thishelps to inform us of which designs are performing well.

What’s next for s.t.e.f. clothing?

SM: I’m glad you asked! It just so happens that we recently changed our domain name from www.stefclothing.com to www.shopstef.com This change was done to reflect the brand name more clearly and to also show that our line offerings extend to more than just clothing. For a long time, we were known as s.t.e.f. clothing, but our brand name is actually just s.t.e.f.

We also modified our social media handles to reflect the same. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook @shopstef

Our goal for the future is to curate our line to offer an even more minimal and well-made collection of clothing and accessories. We will also continue nurturing our relationships with local boutiques along with our client base. Building trust in our brand is and will remain our top priority.


With our Fall semester coming to an end, WE. ARE. BACK. and ready to release some more Sun Eyed Girls content. Look out for what we have up our sleeves for the holiday season! For now, let us know what you want to see from us in 2017. :-)

StuDYING for finals,