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Sheridan French's bold, bright designs

This young Fort Worth designer is really going places with her bright, exotic spring collection

04/15/2013 11:51 AM

04/16/2013 9:05 AM

If you haven't yet heard of Fort Worth fashion designer Sheridan French, it's only a matter of time.

After two years of honing her craft, the talented 20-something's eponymous clothing line is finally hitting the big time, garnering myriad press mentions and a surge of new retail clients, thanks to a just-released spring collection that's her most ambitious yet.

For this new collection of 15 styles, French designed each original print, chose each colorway and carefully added each embellishment. While the vibe is beachy, joyful and exotic, every piece is firmly grounded in reality.

"Real life has always been my inspiration," French says. "I will not design or produce anything that I wouldn't wear myself, so I am constantly trying to figure out what I want in my own closet, and then answer the question of how to get that into other women's wardrobes."

Just what is in store for these wardrobes?

There's the flowy "Athena," a strapless, empire-waist maxidress made of silk (and fully lined) that's emblazoned with a stylized floral design in bright coral and lime.

With the "Eloise," French gives the classic shirtdress a clever spin with a vibrant alligator print in green and jade. And the "Marlowe" trousers come in solids -- pink or blue -- and vibrantly hued ikats, too. She still offers a variety of tunic tops, but many now come with a twist: hand-beaded detailing at the neckline.

Across the collection, French says, women of all shapes and ages will find a silhouette that speaks to them, and the color palettes range from punchy pairings of vibrant hues to cool, sophisticated neutrals. She's especially proud of the versatility of the designs; indeed, her goal was to create garments that could be dressed up or down to "span from officewear to cocktail hour to daytime-casual."

French started her line three years ago out of her west side home, offering an edited selection of resort wear anchored by variations on a basic tunic design. Last year, she expanded the line to include pillows, table linens and handbags. Across these early collections, her design signature was her unique ikat fabric, hand-woven to her specifications in Bali, Indonesia. With this spring collection, however, French moved her production to India, a switch that allowed her to design a much wider range of styles and fabrics and, most important, get her pieces into the hands of customers more quickly.

When she debuted her spring styles at market in New York, the reception from buyers was quick and enthusiastic, and she has been working to fill orders from boutiques nationwide ever since. Last month, she appeared on the cover of Matchbook magazine, and orders have been steadily rising through her online store.

In Fort Worth, M.L. Leddy's happily signed on to carry the Sheridan French line for a second year. "Her collection adds a vibrant dimension to our department that is unparalleled by any other lines we carry," says women's buyer Katy Walker. "Her pieces are very versatile -- you can wear them with statement jewelry and heels or cowboy boots and a denim jacket -- and the collection this spring is loaded with energetic bright prints and diverse styles that work for different body types."

French's collections have always been annual affairs, launched in the spring. The smaller scale made it easier to balance the business with her other responsibilities and passions -- she also maintains The Southern Eclectic, a 1,400-plus-follower lifestyle blog, and nurtures a husband and three young children. (Last month, she also ran an ultramarathon.)

Now, however, French is preparing designs for her first fall collection -- "just to test the waters," she allows. But her excitement quickly overtakes her caution.

"The patterns and colors are knockout," she says. "No more basic black in mid-October!" We can't wait to see what's next.

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