Bree Billiter started daydreaming when she was a girl and never stopped. This rings true with just one glance at her designs—which mimic the incandescent, bubblegum pink spark of a childhood daydream with a glowing fervor. Iridescent sequins paired with fluorescent neons and bold textures are layered together to create magic in the same way that the air turns to a purple glow during a late summer sunset. It’s captivating, but rare, to see a use of color and fabric choice such as this on a garment too elegant to wear to a rave. I found Billiter’s designs on Instagram, where I can curate my feed to match a recurring fantasy I have where it’s appropriate for me to live in a world where campy neon tulle and hypnotizing sequins on a formal gown are an acceptable—no, encouraged—part of my business casual wardrobe. But Instagram isn’t real life—unless you’re , who’s electrifying designs capture the vibrant and carefree innocence of youth in a seemingly effortless manner.
Something about each garment is impulsive—as if Billiter imagined the design one day and had to create it right then and there, focusing her attention and enthusiasm on nothing else until the garment is completed. In fact, that’s exactly how much of it goes down. “Usually designs come to me on the train coming home from work or at 2am. It just hits me,” Billiter says. “I get really excited and if I have to go get fabric for it [I’ll] go during my lunch break the next day so I can immediately start on it when I get home that night,” she continues. The result is a daring piece of high fashion, with rich color that matches the experimental structure of the designs, making them an editorial playground. This is made evident by the fact that Billiter’s Instagram page is filled with glowing shots of models splashing along the beach at dusk or sitting down for high tea in tightly wrapped, avant garde bodices of holographic PVC and flowing, ethereal skirts of tulle and shimmering organza.
“I design to show the world, outwardly, what the wearer is daydreaming about.”Photo: Rebeca Federico
Where many designers seem afraid to implement daring color and textures into their works, Billiter seems to welcome these elements with open arms. “When I walk into a fabric store, if the fabric isn’t screaming at me, I don’t get it,” says Billiter of her fabric selection process, which is just as impulsive as her designs express. “When I see it—it’s usually from across the store and [I know] it’s the one,” she says. Sparkling gowns and fiery hems navigate the monochromatic streets of New York City in a daze, captivating attention in a dreamlike manner reminiscent of a Murakami novel, where the characters seem surrounded by a cloudy haze of fluffy pastel pinks, vibrant blues, and shimmery purples. In New York—where most seem to forget the magic of childhood amid the hustle and bustle of survival—Billiter’s designs are juxtaposed to show that passion, hard work, and imagination are often what it takes to stand out.
Describing her own work, you can understand how Billiter incorporates the magic of the world around her into each piece. “[My work] embodies the colors of water shimmering across [a body of] water or the sun shining through a flower petal,” she says of what inspires her to incorporate unconventional textures into her designs. “The textures I create are almost part of a sculpture. I like to control the entire design—whether that is hand dying fabric or hand-bedazzling to create a pattern. That’s just how I work … Most of my fabric is the most difficult fabric there is [to work with],” she explains.
Fashion week, though hectic and stressful, is one of the best ways for up and coming designers in New York to gain exposure for their work—but it often comes with a hefty price tag. Billiter’s designs saw themselves being walked down the runway for the third year in a row during this year’s New York Fashion Week. The show, much like her designs, was a dream. Billiter worked tirelessly to make it happen, casting a diverse group of 15 models with only two days’ notice, proving to herself that you can make anything happen if you work hard enough with the resources you have.