BOWIE — Mikki Taylor has always had an eye for potential.
As a child with a bold imagination, she’d use her Barbie dolls to mock-up clothing designs for possible creations.
She’d watch as her mother and grandmother designed their own clothes for special occasions, inspired by their care and craftsmanship.
“My grandmother, she sews very well and so does my mom,” said Taylor. “They have exquisite talent in doing that. I am not as good as them, not by far. I have just really good imagination, a really good color sense.”
In a simple piece of produce she sees color and shape, theme and design.
It was the image of a peach that inspired a gift for her mother’s 75th birthday, a tote bag that became the focus of her 2013 spring collection: “Deco Peach, Fruit and Flowers,” which she debuted at D.C. Fashion Week recently.
“It just kind of like mushrooms with me,” she said. “I’ll get an idea and it will just start to multiply and morph into other things.”
For years as an lecturer in the Fashion Merchandising program at Howard University, Taylor has had her students work on a project based on the signature bag.
It was only recently when, in asking her students to design a garment based off of fruit and flowers, she decided to create her own.
But Taylor’s journey back into the field of fashion actually began with a choice she made years earlier.
As a studio art major at the University of Maryland, College Park, she saw potential in the field of graphic design long before her classmates, opting to take additional classes in Howard University’s digital art program.
“They were like ahead of their time in their graphic design program, in their electronic studio program,” said Taylor. “And the teachers were just phenomenal. Those teachers are still my mentors today.”
Though she graduated from Maryland with a Studio Art degree in 1985, Taylor credits Howard’s graphic design courses for paving her way to success.
“Right out of college actually I went back to Howard and finished taking all their digital design and computer design courses,” she said. “And then after that it was like I could just pick any job that I wanted.”
For more than 20 years, Taylor worked in the field of graphic design. First, for the U.S. State Department and later for an engineering company in the corporate sector. She completed her Master’s in Electronic Studio at Howard University in 2002.
“But I was saying to myself, ‘OK, eventually somehow I’m going to figure out how I can do graphic design in the fashion world,’” said Taylor, “be it for a fashion publication or doing fashion photography, or something like that.”
In 2008, Taylor’s wish came true, when her skills landed her a part-time position teaching within Howard University’s Department of Art.
Immediately her creative juices began flowing again, and she launched a tote bag line in 2010.
“I made that one bag and then I was bitten,” she said.
Taylor also designs her own fabric for clothing and in August she entered some of her tie-dye garments in Baltimore Fashion Week. Seeing her visions flow down the runway made her eager for more.
She also recommended pupil Michelle Gibson for DC Fashion Week, and Gibson showcased her Eco-friendly collection, Simply L3ve, LLC., as an exhibiting designer alongside Taylor at D.C. Fashion Week.
“Being with my students and looking at them and seeing how creative they are, it’s like going deep sea diving and finding a trunk full of treasure,” said Taylor.
After a long and winding road back into the fashion world, Taylor hopes her story will encourage her students to stick with their dreams.
“The best advice I’ve gotten has always been, ‘You just need to do it. I don’t know what you’re waiting for,'” she said. “It’s not one student that I would say, ‘stop doing what you’re doing.’”