Dig Baton Rouge

Behind the runway: Dig’s spotlight on the designers of Fashion Week

If your fashion finger is anywhere near Baton Rouge’s pulse, chances are you’ve heard of the OneofaKind Baton Rouge Fashion Week. While models will strut down the runway in the spotlight, DIG caught up with women behind the fashion. Three locally-based designers, Samjah Iman Saulsberry, Dana Ayo and LeAnne Constantine, gave us the scoop on their collections, their design process and what to expect at this year’s Fashion Week.



Dana Ayo

What led you to fashion design?

I’ve been interested in fashion all my life; that was my first major in college. The artistry of the bling, it captivated my attention, and I wanted to give women something they could embrace.

What’s your background in fashion?

I attended Southern University. My initial major was fashion merchandising. I did not stick with it, but fashion has always been close to my heart. I love the trending fashions, and I had an aunt that owned a clothing boutique, and I would go to market and shop with her, and that kept me in the loop with the latest trends.

What is your design aesthetic?

I design embellished rhinestone t-shirts. And I keep saying for the women, but we also grab the attention of a lot of our male counterparts, and they’re wearing them now as well. My designs are basically rhinestones, which captivates most women’s’ attention.

What other materials do you use in your designs?

As far as the t-shirts themselves, usually, my t-shirts have a small amount of spandex in them, which it does not make at a point where they’re too tight and still give a curve appeal for our small ladies as well as our ladies that are more voluptuous. We use a material called rhinestuds, which is popular also, and I use glitter and foil as well. We still keep it where we have a little dazzle, but it’s different materials we use in order to do so.

What trends are you following right now?

Shoes. The ladies get really excited about the different shoe designs. The red bottoms are really popular right now, and so I’ve gravitated to those and I carry those on some of my designs as well.

What can we expect from you in this year’s Fashion Week?

During Fashion Week, I look to bring some new designs that haven’t been seen. Something that’s geared more towards the Louisiana area, with a little twist.



LeAnne Constantine
Can you reflect on how you became a designer?

When I was about 7 [years old], my mom gave me a sewing machine. She didn’t know how to sew so I did YouTube videos. I started with pajamas and worked my way up. I got into cosplay, so I did that for a while, of course, that teaches you a lot of little tricks because you’re not making just normal outfits. In high school I was in a sewing class, and so I started that, and we had a fashion show at the end, and I decided to make my prom dress. So I started making more of evening wear and bridal, went to LSU, and it all started with just one sewing machine and YouTube.

Have you furthered your education with fashion?

I kind of do self-teaching myself. We did get a new body scanner, 3-D printer so I’m kind of trying to involve that more just so I can get into the futuristic type of design. I’m kind of starting my own business slowly but surely. I’m doing a custom bridal and evening wear where customers come in, and they just tell me what they want, and I make it for them.

Do you bring any of your cosplay experience into designing ball gowns?

Yes. When you’re doing cosplay, it’s kind of more like copying and making a character your own. There’s corsetry, there’s structure, there’s embroidery. I kind of take all of those little aspects of detail into my designs.

Do you follow trends or make your own?

I kind of try to create my own while also bringing back the classics. There’re parts of the Renaissance and Romanticism-feel that are gorgeous, and they’re more for women being accepting of their bodies and stuff. I’m trying to take that feel and bring it.

Do you have any favorite materials that you gravitate towards?

I like more of the satin and chiffon. Just because I like structure and flow, and I like to combine the two because that’s not normally what happens. Those are my two favorites, they’re two different types of fabric, and they’re two different challenges.

What can we expect from you for Fashion Week?

I’ll be working with the rest of the LSU seniors and their designs. We’re just trying to show our school, show what we can do and all the different aspects. In fashion design and school, you think you are taught to do one thing, but you’re going to see a difference in everybody’s structure and their techniques are all different.



Samjah Iman Saulsberry

How did you get into fashion design?

Fashion has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a young girl, my partner as well, our friendship started through fashion basically. When we got older we saw different things in the store that weren’t really appealing to us; we wanted to create our own line, our own art, and that inspired us to bring people Chokolat Crème.

When you’re approaching designs, do you start off with an idea, or do you have a piece that you intend to improve?

I actually start off with an idea; I can get inspiration from anywhere…like if I hear a certain song and they say something that catches my mind, and it kind of inspires me to create. It’s usually inspiration or thinking of stuff that I would like to wear that I don’t see anywhere else.

What is your design aesthetic?

I do t-shirts, and I do phrases on t-shirts that are kind of eye-catching. We call our t-shirts conversation starters because we like to catch people’s attention, we like people to ask the meaning behind our t-shirts. We like kind of sleek t-shirts that cling to the body, but not too tight and a good material. We like to think that t-shirts and jeans are the ultimate fashion look…you can dress it up, you can dress it down, so that’s our thing.

What can we expect from you for Fashion Week?

They can expect to see some oohs and ahhs. They can expect to see some statements that might catch them off guard and see a vibe that’s kind of lively, something different from the norm. Something that’s not too safe.

Do you have any challenges when designing?

Yes, the challenges are the ideas. You can’t force them; they have to just come to you. I can’t just say, ‘Let me think of some stuff and come up with 10 ideas.’

Anything you’d like to add?

The whole thing behind our movement is basically to empower women, to get them to wear their convictions on their shirts, their hearts on their sleeves, and wear what they believe on their shirts.


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