Maker Monday: Meet Designer Madame Sylvia Reynolds
A renowned designer, television personality and international instructor, Madame Sylvia Reynolds is also the author of All That Glitters: Foil Fashion for Every Occasion and the popular TV and DVD series “Wrap It Up!” And we’re excited to announce that she’s now also a Craftsy instructor! In Madame Sylvia Reynolds’ new online Craftsy class Foundations of Foil Fashion you’ll learn all the tips and tricks you need to recycle leftover wrappers from meals-out to create garments for going out. Beyond the fundamentals like understanding the merits of using aluminum versus tin, you’ll discover insider techniques like how to create frills and dye your foil. Plus, there’s even a bonus segment on using plastic wrap like a pro! We were lucky to have the chance to sit down with the expert designer herself and ask a couple of questions about when her passion for foil began and how she’s developed her innovative foil techniques.
Can you share with us a little bit about how foil first piqued your interest?
Well, in the old country, my mother and grandmother had several seamstresses who sewed their clothing, both for daily wear and for grander events such as balls, weddings and meeting royalty. As far back as I can remember, they would take me along to their fittings and I would play amongst the beautiful fabrics: brocades, silks, satins and lace. The seamstresses kindly gave me scraps of these fabrics, so I started making clothes for my dolls with them.
I think it was around the age of 10 when I first stumbled onto foil. A traveling circus set up near my home and after much pleading on my part, my parents agreed to take me. The animals and performers were amazing, the lights dazzling, and the costumes? Oh, they were so beautiful and sparkly. There were also vendors selling all kinds of sweets and treats, including delicious hot sausages wrapped in foil. As I watched the acrobats and trapeze artists and lion tamers, I kept looking back at the foil wrapper in my hand, thinking it was such a shame that it would go to waste. Then, like a bolt of lightning, it struck me: I could make beautiful, shiny clothes from foil!
I took the foil home and started experimenting with ways that I could use it to embellish outfits. I was instantly entranced by foil’s unique properties and over time my love for it only grew. Eventually I enrolled in l’Institut du Mode in Paris, where I honed my skills for designing stylish ready-to-wear looks from foil.
What is it that you love most about what you do?
I love that I’m able to take something so simple, that so many people just toss to the side, and turn it into something beautiful and useful. It’s so rewarding to be able to construct an entire wardrobe, from pajamas to a dress for a night out on the town, with recycled materials that look as good as new!
What secret fact will people learn about you if they take your Craftsy class?
Good question. I guess it’s not really a “fact” but students have a chance to see my first commissioned fashion design, a party dress for an American heiress. I saved the mockup version and still have it today. At the time, I was still an apprentice designer, so I have kept it to remind myself of how far I have come.
What is your favorite part about teaching online with Craftsy?
As I mentioned, since a young age I have loved designing garments and accessories using beautiful materials and interesting fabrics. I have been lucky that wonderful teachers and mentors encouraged my passion and supported me along the way. Now, I am delighted to be able to share my knowledge with Craftsy students around the world. It’s exciting that my online class will help students living anywhere explore foil design from the comfort of their own homes. I also LOVE hearing from students and it’s such a inspiration to watch their projects come to life.
What skill from your class are you most excited to see your students master?
I think dyeing foil will be one of most challenging skills to learn but I also think it will be most fun. Sure, it can get a little messy, but it opens up a whole new world of possibilities! With the couture effects you can achieve with color you’ll be able to truly take your foil designs to the next level.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
People might tell you you can’t do it, but don’t mind them. Seriously! If I had listened to all the nay-sayers I encountered early on in my career, and not the passion I felt inside, I wouldn’t be where I was today. Don’t be afraid to take chances and experiment.