The 3rd Annual Raw Awards was a fabulous and unique event that was held in Austin on November 17th at Club de Ville that offered amazing prices for emerging artists such as store placement, gallery placements, and life changing consultations.Winners get the chance to travel to Hollywood, California if they make it through the last rounds of judging.
I had the chance to interview the RAWAustin winners; Valeri Abrego of Jinxedaposed Clothing for Fashion Design; Jessica Bird for Accessories; Jennifer Kraack for Hair; and Kari Kuwamura for Music.
Fashion Design: Valeri Abrego of Jinxedaposed Clothing
Accessories: Jessica Bird of Jessica Bird Accessories
Hair: Jennifer Kraack of Jen K Hair
Music: Kari Kuwamura of Reverbnation
Photography Provided by Dark Flame Studio
Interviews with the Winners of RAW Austin
SB: What made you want to start your career in Art/Fashion/Hair/Makeup and how long have you been working in your field of expertise?
VL: You know I always wanted to be a designer, but as life would happen, I became a teen mom and before I knew it I was a mother of four and decided to become a paralegal to support my family. About 2007, I did a fashion show for my roller derby league and sold like three outfits that night. Everyone liked the designs and I for once thought, maybe it’s time for me to pursue my dreams. I’ve been a professional designer since Oct. 2007 with a day job as well.
JB: I have loved and expressed myself through fashion since I could first dress myself. I have a twin sister and the first way I learned to establish my individuality was the way I styled myself. I studied fashion design at University of Texas in Austin, and it wasn’t until it came time to style my senior collection, Modern Gem, that I began making jewelry. I wanted everything that went down the runway to come directly from me, and the collection was inspired by gemology, so I thought it was only fitting to use semi-precious stones to create the pieces worn alongside my garments. I have worked in the fashion industry as a whole, from sales to styling, buying and designing, since I was 16 years old. Jewelry design was channel that fell into my lap, its only been about 7 months since I made my first piece. I am completely self-taught, so I’d like to take some classes and gain some technical expertise.
JK: I’ve always had a deep interest in making myself as pretty as possible. Then I directed it towards my friends and other people. I never considered it as a career or that I would be able to make money from it so I just put it on the back burner until my good friend in high school suggested we check out the opening of the new Paul Mitchell Academy. I went, and was hooked, the rest is history. I’ve been doing here since 2005.
KK: I would have to say music started me! I didn’t even know I could sing until someone told me I could. And now, I am not satisfied without music in my life, and I can’t put it on the back burner despite the many times I have tried. What made me want to start a career was when I met musicians who played in bars and let me play on their breaks. The owners of the bars would ask me back on my own night and next thing I knew I had to quit my job to keep up with my new career. I started playing music in coffee shops in San Antonio as a teenager about 13 years ago.
SB: What made you nervous about entering RAW and what was going through your head when you won the RAW Award? I can’t even imagine how any of you were feeling at that moment!
VL: I think like many of my other shows, I’m always nervous on the reaction I’ll get for my clothing. I put a lot of heart and soul in it and then for 15 minutes, people judge it. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I won. I never win anything!” Then I looked over and saw my partner and assistant and I was overwhelmed with joy, this wasn’t just my win, it was there’s as well.
JB: Nothing at all, I love everything about RAW. It is such a unique concept to combine artists from all genres and feature them together. Pure excitement. Once the night was winding down and I had a chance to gauge everyone’s response to my work, I knew I had a good shot at winning. It is a very humbling experience to learn that my work is more than just something I love to do or jewelry I like to wear; there is a market for it, people want to wear and buy it. It could legitimately be a business for me, and it will be.
JK: First thing was making sure I sold all the tickets for my show, and then knowing my work will be judged by everyone. And potentially having people think it looks like crap that would destroy me. “Oh shit oh shit oh shit! Don’t fall, now smile, and seriously and that was going through my head literally for the first ten minutes!”
KK: I was nervous to play the first event (RAW Unearthed), because I played a solo acoustic set. Luckily, the crowd embraced my style and the show rocked. I was looking on stage and saw a whole bunch of faces that deserved the award. Then I looked at the crowd and saw other artists who deserved to be up there too, and then just thought to myself how lucky I was to even play at Club De Ville.
SB: What do you find the most rewarding part of your career and what do you find to be the hardest part of your career?
JL: I really enjoy being able to have such a creative job. I’ve had so many crappy jobs, this has been a great ride and I just hope it continues.I think like every other artist, we deal with not being paid what we are worth. Getting stuck at airports, going to shows with no hair and make up, models ruining outfits, long hours finalizing a collection. It can definitely put a tear in the soul. But I think you just have to find your balance through it all and it helps you get through the speed bumps in life.
JB: I love it when I see people wearing my jewelry and loving it. The hardest part is writing the business plan. I know what I want, I know where and to whom I want it sold. Figuring out the details of sourcing, manufacturing, representation, branding, etc is the hard part.
JK: Being able to create looks with anything from synthetic hair to ribbons and glue, and making people feel hot and sexy!! The hardest part I’d have to say is pleasing the client and standing all day!
KK: The most rewarding part of my career is experiencing that moment of flow during a show where I feel in perfect balance with my performance and with the audience. Keeping the crowd hanging on every word, and hearing them cheer for your original music is fuel for life. It keeps me going in everything I do. The hardest part of my career is building a callous on my self-esteem from hearing ‘NO’ from record companies and several agencies all the time. I know it’s part of the process, but getting used to it was the hardest part. It’s more rewarding when you stay original and true to your personal fashion and art, than to change it all for a record deal.
SB: What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your careers? (Besides RAW obviously)
VL: I’ve been lucky enough to participate during New York Fashion week since 2009. I started going in February 2009, it was by far the most scariest show by far. I left Austin at 6am, got to NYC by noon and had to be at Model call by 3pm. Once I got there, there were 30 models for 6 designers and we told we had 30 minutes to pick our models before they were rushed to hair and make up. I showcased with designers from everywhere; Russia, France, Georgia. It was really excited and so scary at the same time. I’ve been to New York Fashion Week five times now including this past September, where I got to showcase my clothing in the Fashion District.
JB: Winning Most Marketable Collection and Best Evening Gown at my senior fashion show, Innovation.
JK: Being able to work alongside Chaz Dean (for WEN) for New York Fashion Week(however I just got lucky I knew a few people who trusted me to do the job!!) haha….besides that the love/admiration/attention from my clients and strangers about my work makes me feel amazing!
KK: My biggest accomplishment is manifesting so many great experiences through my music business. There are so many places I have traveled and so many people I have met, and it makes me realize how tiny I am in this world and how amazing it is to be a part of it. Without music, I would have never seen that perspective. And because of music, I know it is just the beginning.
SB: Now that you’ve won what do you think is in the future for your career?
VL:I hope that this will help continue the good things coming to me and my staff at Jinxedaposed. I would like to continue doing more shows, local and abroad. I would love to represent Texas in L.A. And show them that Austin has multi-talents.
JB: I am now competing nationally and have a chance to go to Hollywood for the final competition. If I get there that’s fantastic, but honestly I feel like I’ve already won. This experience has given me the confidence to know that I can make something of my work. Winning nationally would help me get there.
JK: Well I know to keep moving up/book more shows etc. I will still have to network, sacrifice time/money and work hard to continue. One goal is to bring more business into Austin, generate some money to pay people for their services instead of do trade work. There is too much free trade work going on around here! Also to produce high fashion/avant garde shows and shoots and maybe do some work for movies and commercials!
KK: The fact that I have met so many artists from different categories of art is a big step for me. I have this crazy notion that music and musicians play a huge role in the fashion and art industry, and if mixed in the right way, we can create the best atmosphere for our audience. I think a lot of cool events are going to stem from the power of networking, and RAW had a lot of amazing and hardworking talent at their events. I hope to see us dominate as the next generation of Austin’s hottest Artists.