By Emily Bastaroli, Point Park News Service:
Models strut down the runway in plastic, neon tunics layered over matching leotards, accentuated by the white backdrop of the room. Complementing neon streaks are threaded through their voluminous up-dos.
But the bright stockings on each woman stand out the most – in various neon colors and geometric patterns, such as triangles and octagons.
“Stockings are a timeless accessory that will never expire,” said Elysia Panda, creator of Stocking Noir, the Pittsburgh-based retailer displaying its wares. “But the same type or style is not always present.”
Take one look at Stocking Noir’s website, and it’s obvious these are no ordinary tights. With patterns like eye balls, stripes and tigers, eagles and geometric patterns, Stocking Noir sells fashionable legwear for the “edgy, fun girl.”
But what’s so special about tights and stockings?
Stocking Noir is an online company devoted to customizing legwear, acting as a middleman between the designer and the final product. The ultimate goal for Stocking Noir is to work and collaborate with local artists and designers, Panda said. Since its launch in April, the site has debuted three collections.
The idea for Stocking Noir blossomed during Panda’s last year at Point Park University, where she majored in sports, arts and entertainment management and graduated in 2012. While learning how to construct a business in class, Panda created the idea and business plan for what would become Stocking Noir.
The general idea for the site came from the same concept as Threadless, a website that encourages designers to submit their work to put on clothing and accessories. Customers and designers can then vote on the designs. Panda wanted to apply that concept to stockings and legwear.
“[The process] has been very much like pushing a giant boulder up a hill,” Panda, a Polish Hill resident, said.
Having saved up enough money to give herself a year to go full-throttle with Stocking Noir, Panda, 25, said she is fully devoted to her business. The September fashion show was the big push the brand needed to head in a new direction. Since the show, she now has a list of prospects for new collaborations.
Panda doesn’t need to say she has a love for fashion. She wears it on her sleeve, and everywhere else — dressed in a knee-length, flared, black dress with bows on the back, chunky black combat boots, simple makeup and pink lipstick.
“I naturally love being in fashion,” she said. “You’re supposed to do what you’re good at, but also what you love.”
While she always had this love for fashion, she said “things came to light” during her internship with the 2010 Shanghai World Expo in China as an entertainment coordinator. She participated in a large-scale fashion show, which made her realize she wanted to do more fashion and organize fashion events.
Stocking Noir began with two small collections, Jardin Noir and Electric Feel. Panda curated them, choosing the different basics, prints and bright colors for each pair of stockings. The newest collection is the first of many collaborations with local artists and designers.
Stocking Noir X Naked Geometry is composed of four styles of geometric patterns, shapes and a rainbow of colors – “crazy, wacky things” as Panda called the collection.
“This collection signifies the beginning of a new era of custom design [for Stocking Noir],” she said.
Panda wanted to draw a distinction between this collection and the first two and made each of the three collections different in its own way. Electric Feel is edgy and fun; Jardin Noir is a dark twist on the classics; and Stocking Noir X Naked Geometry is artistic and futuristic.
The styles of this collection were showcased in the fashion show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Panda paired her designs with vinyl tunics made by Plastik Fantastik, solid matching leotards and pumps.
Sam Miller, a model in the show, said she loved the “crazy designs” so much that she went home with three pairs. Her favorite is called Boldly Caged.
“They’re definitely different,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen anything like them, and they also have a sex appeal.”
Khadijat Yussuff, a Carnegie Mellon University student who has a fashion blog called Youth Savage, attended the show. Yussuff had not heard of Stocking Noir before.
The 19-year-old native New Yorker said she found the show creative and loved the way each design was styled.
“I liked the textures of the transparent vinyls, the stocking fabrics and designs,” Yussuff said. “The hair and makeup was well done.”
This new collection goes more in the direction Panda wants to take her company. Panda said she wants to collaborate more with local designers. She is working on a Halloween collection.
“I know a lot of designers, and it’s almost serendipitous,” Panda said of her upcoming collaborations. “Designers are always looking for a new canvas for their work.”
She is also talking with a local boutique about doing a limited-edition collection. But for now, Panda is sticking to e-commerce.
“I’m trying to include the community of Pittsburgh, but I’d like to keep it online,” Panda said.
One of Panda’s favorite parts of having the business online is the look book and the creative aspects. She is always trying new designs and patterns on tights, and she shows how to style them not only in the pictures, but also in some of the item descriptions.
In the description for Boy Leggings, a white pair with eagles and the word “BOY” printed all over, it says, “Throw an over-sized shirt over these silky pair of leggings – you’ll be looking sharp and ready to go.”
While Stocking Noir is relatively new, people are waiting to see it grow.
“I wish there were more designs [at the show],” Yussuff said. “They were all cool. I can’t wait to see the new collections.”