Style Icon: Bradford Billingsley


Surrounded by some of his sketches, Bradford wears a Vineyard Vines gingham shirt, Polo Ralph Lauren jeans & belt, Cole Hahn driving mocs.

Surrounded by some of his sketches, Bradford wears a Vineyard Vines gingham shirt, Polo Ralph Lauren jeans & belt, Cole Hahn driving mocs.

Budding fashion designer.

Written and styled by Tracy James 

Photographed by Chuck St. John

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question we were all asked at some point during our youth. Answers frequently included doctor, fireman, or rock star, and responsive expressions ranged from bewilderment to panic. Twelve-year-old Bradford Billingsley is an exception to the rule. Not only has he envisioned a career in fashion design for as long as he can remember, but the seventh grader has already planned his funeral, complete with a posthumous collection to be released in his will and shown at Paris Fashion Week and a glamorous memorial service attended by celebrities in black birdcage hats.

Bradford’s mother, Dana, first noticed her son’s talent when, after a lunch at Hooter’s, the then 3-year-old drew a crayon picture of a girl in orange shorts and a tank top. And so commenced a passion for fashion and daily sketching for the young man. At age 5, Bradford began designing dresses for his celebrity crush, Taylor Swift. On his eighth birthday, Bradford requested a wedding dress on his cake. When it arrived, he said, “I could’ve designed something better.” During his first trip to fashion capital NYC at age 10, Bradford impressed a sales associate by naming the designer of every dress on display without looking at the label. A year later, that sales associate mailed Bradford a copy of the book Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf Goodman with her personal inscription: “Keep those dreams vivid, bold, and beautiful!”

Miss Alabama Teen USA 2014 Baskin Champion models a red satin dress Bradford designed and sewed for her. Baskin's hair by Detra Smith, makeup by Daphne Rush. On Bradford: Izod blazer, Vineyard Vines pants, Brooks Brothers bow tie, Polo Ralph Lauren shirt, and Allen Edmonds shoes.

Miss Alabama Teen USA 2014 Baskin Champion models a red satin dress Bradford designed and sewed for her. On Bradford: Izod blazer, Vineyard Vines pants, Brooks Brothers bow tie, Polo Ralph Lauren shirt, and Allen Edmonds shoes.

That same year, Bradford entered a design in the Rising Stars competition of Birmingham Fashion Week, which challenges junior designers to create without the use of fabric or sewing. Bradford crafted a dress from roof tarping and sheetrock tape, on which he painted hummingbirds. Wanting to try his hand at actual sewing, Bradford spent time with Mary Lawson in Knoxville, Tenn., a “salt of the earth, true southern lady” and former neighbor of his mother’s, who taught Bradford the trade in one weekend. He then sewed a red satin column dress for Miss Teen USA Alabama, Baskin Champion.

After high school, Bradford’s dream is to attend Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London. The school counts among its alumni designers Stella McCartney and the late Alexander McQueen, the latter a favorite of Bradford for “his ability to push the limits of fashion and his versatility, expertly dressing both Lady Gaga and Kate Middleton.” Other favorite designers include Versace “for the daring designs” and Valentino “for the attention to detail, like appliqué and lace.”

Bradford finds inspiration in a variety of places: from their exotic Egyptian friends, Hala Brown and the late Dr. Moustapha; Pizitz Middle School art teacher Larry Gibson; and magazines like Vogue Paris and Harper’s Bazaar. The over-the-top designs in Baz Luhrmann’s remake of The Great Gatsby resulted in numerous sketches.

Bradford describes his design aesthetic as “dramatic; sleek and sexy couture.” His collections will include both couture and ready-to-wear, and his client “fearless and edgy, willing to take a risk but elegant all the while.” Sounds like the young man himself.

 

11 Responses to “Style Icon: Bradford Billingsley”

  1. Jane Grace says:

    Bradford…I am so super proud of you. I wish you best with everything.
    Jane Grace

  2. Dana Billingsley says:

    Thank you Tracey! Great article!

  3. Tyler says:

    That is an impressive kid!

  4. Layla Moustapha says:

    My dear Bradford ,
    I cannot be any prouder of you.. You are so talented .. I promise I will be there in your first “défilé ”
    weather it is Paris, London or the moon.. How can I miss it if I love you so much
    Yaya

  5. Noha Nadler says:

    Bradford is a well rounded, bright, funny, kind hearted and extremely talented young man. He will be the next fashion designer, I have know doubt in my mind. Bradford, you rock!

  6. Dedra Wade says:

    Bradford is truly AMAZING! I am so proud of him!

  7. Bradford,
    You are an amazingly talented young man, and have so much success ahead of you. NEVER let a a “bump” in the road slow you down or discourage you. I am so proud that my daughter (Emory) calls you her friend.

  8. Tracy James says:

    A twist on my usual Style Icon, Bradford is one of my favorites since I started the column 4 years ago. How refreshing to meet a young man who is confidently aware of his own talents, and with a passionate intent to explore and cultivate them. I look forward to the day when I am dressing a client in his designs and can say, “I knew him when…”

  9. Elaine Overtstrret says:

    Bradford never ceases to amaze. I will continue to follow his career as long as I live!!!

  10. Hala Brown says:

    Bradford Billingsley …. Even the name in perfect !!
    Designer or maybe even president of the United States!
    I wouldn’t put anything past him …. Shoot for the stars Bradford –
    They are there for you to reach! I am certain that one day in Paris ,
    London ,Rome , Tokyo and Milan we will see your name !!!
    So proud of you … The best is yet to come!!!
    Please don’t forget about how it all started :))
    I love You-
    Hala

  11. Renee Lamar says:

    Bradford!! Mrs Calagaz and I would like front row at Mercedes fashion week please!!

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