by guest blogger Cheryl Anderson, Milwaukee

Fashion design is not a word I hear often in the Milwaukee suburb I live in. Most people in my city shop at Target or Kohl’s and get the fashions long after they have been released as a new trend in the fashion capitals of the world. Usually those trends start out in the US at each coast and slowly make their way to the center. By the time they get to Milwaukee the styles are morphed into something mass marketed and cheaply manufactured. The average woman thinks they have no need, or hasn’t a clue how to find fine fashionable garments. Milwaukee is largely made up of German immigrants who value frugality and prudence. This is not a population that will jump on the latest trends just for the sake of something new. Although most garments purchased must be practical, that does not mean everyone dresses in beige! There are many pockets of quality fashion design to be found here.

Little does the average Milwaukee woman know there is a fashion designer in their midst.

is a Nebraska native that moved to Milwaukee to attend Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as a sculptor. As her education in art progressed she found she was creating more and more wearable art. According to a 2006 article in Onmilwaukee.com, Regier says, “Most of my inspiration comes from historical, or period, clothing. No matter what, I always go back to the 19th century Victorian era.” She loves the Victorian era and always seems to go back to the idea that women were trying to escape the traditional role of a woman only being seen as a wife and mother and the clothing of the time express that turbulence.

Milwaukee is not a place that dresses up. Even in the nicest venues you will find jeans. How did Shanel Regier make a design business work in such a market? Chicago is close by and she does take advantage of that. As a matter of fact, Chicago’s 2006 Gen Art Fashion Show said, “Regier was number two on the "Top 10 things to talk about" list” according to an October 2006 article in Onmilwaukee.com. Although Chicago is a larger market she prefers Milwaukee and was able to pursue her love of fashion design full time. At the present time, Shanel Regier is still creating wearable art as a fashion designer. She now specializes in custom special occasion dresses and bridal dresses. Today there is not much publicity for the young rising star of six years ago, although she has current designs on her Facebook business page.

Milwaukee is also home to Mount Mary College. Rated as one of the top undergraduate programs in the country, Mount Mary College’s fashion program p

rovides a strong foundation for careers in the fashion industry. With an emphasis on quality and creativity, the fashion program prepares graduates to excel in their field. Students gain a working knowledge of design, patternmaking, buying, and inventory management. They are able to network with working professionals and internships are available. There is a study tour in New York and study abroad opportunitiesin Paris, China, Ireland, Italy, England, Nicaragua and Peru. Many students have participated and received numerous awards in local, national and international competitions. There are many fashion programs of study including an Apparel Product Development Major with concentrations in technical or creative design. The Fashion Department also puts on an annual fashion show to showcase the student designers and their work. It is attended by 1,200 people and is regarded as one of the top student fashion shows in the country.

Milwaukee may be a small metropolitan city that does not always appear to value fashion design yet it is apparent that there are great things happening here. When one looks below the surface it is easy to see the hunger for fresh new designs and that the population is looking at the trends. It is nice to know there are designers in our midst as well as students that are learning and growing and adding to our local fashion scene as well as to the fashion design industry as a whole.