Student fashionista designs new threads

Music will blast, models will strut and junior Monet Flowers’ clothing line, Umami, will make its debut on the streets of GW. Or at least, that’s what Flowers said she is planning.

Flowers’ fashion line is called Umami: The Fifth Sense, deriving its meaning from a Japanese concept that suggests that your taste buds actually have a fifth sense, one that invokes a perfect quality of taste.

Flowers will unveil the fall 2007 collection of her clothing line at any moment. Although the logistics of the show are still under wraps, Flowers promises it will be an event that will be hard to miss.

“I’m not giving away any details, but believe me, it’s going to be loud and it’s going to be fierce,” she said.

Umami is comprised of simple unisex pieces such as jeans, shirts and hooded sweatshirts. Flowers’ signature designs are her silk-screen patterns and embellishments.

Right now Umami is available through the brand’s MySpace page and can also be ordered by contacting Flowers though her Facebook group. T-shirts range in price from $16 to $28, depending on the intricacy of the design and custom orders can be filled on request.

“We’re designing these clothes for you, for college students. We want you to like our clothes and we want you to be able to buy them,” Flowers said.

Three years after starting Umami with high school friend Kenyante Speaks, Flowers is now in talks with clothing retailers such Urban Outfitters – where she is currently a sales associate – and Up Against the Wall about selling her brand through their stores.

Until then, Flowers plans to build the brand’s portfolio with photos that will be taken in three upcoming fashion shows. Umami was also featured last week in the Philadelphia fashion show “DTE Unfinished Business” at the Cluf Club.

“Last week we just showed up. No one knew we’d be there. Everyone was like, ‘who are they?’ and now they know,” Flowers said.

Bored with the popular trends and determined not to blend in with the crowd, Flowers and Speaks established Umami in their senior year of high school. They began to sew some of their own clothes, frequently adding details and designs to T-shirts, jackets and pants they already had. When classmates started to inquire about the clothes the duo realized they could transform their hobby into a profitable business, Flowers said.

Although designing and marketing for Umami is incredibly time-consuming, Flowers said she manages to juggle this with her job at Urban Outfitters and her schoolwork.

“Yeah, it’s difficult,” she said, “but that’s the point of college, to find out how to balance your time. And without school, I wouldn’t get the inspiration I get day to day and without work, I wouldn’t be able to pay for all this.”

While Umami will soon have its own Web site in addition to possible retail contracts with popular stores, Flowers is wary of moving too fast.

“I’m still in school and I want to enjoy it. The past two years at GW have been the best years of my life,” she said.

Flowers said she is determined to graduate, and recognizes the importance of a degree in being able to pursue her other dreams, such as becoming a speech pathologist.

She said, “I promised myself that if this clothing line took off, I’d dedicate more time to it, but I’m not in it for the money. I do it because it makes me happy and it makes other people happy.”

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