A young man inspired by strong women from his childhood. A person of great humility and a humble demeanor are just a few ways that I would describe designer, Dean Pardue. He and I first met a few years ago while we were both employed at a local high-end department in Atlanta. We quickly became friends and supported each other on individual projects. From fashion shows to photo shoots or just merchandising while at work, I had an appreciation for his keen eye and sense of style. It was indeed a great pleasure to see him on the first season of The Real Housewives as Atlanta, as personal designer to Kim Zolciak. So once, he appeared on Season 2, I wanted nothing more than to contact him and introduce his story to the readers.
During our interview, I learned that Dean attributes his talents in design and artistry to the women that played a significant role in his upbringing. His grandmother, Nettie Mae Ruth Pardue, was a well known seamstress and dressmaker, sparked a fire in him that would lead to his presence in the fashion industry. “I remember being five years old, and my grandmother handed me a piece of fabric and showed me how to sew. At that moment I realized what I wanted my future to be.”
BE-Style: What compelled you to start designing?
DP: Basically how it started for me, my grandmother was a master-tailor for socialites and religious lenders. I watched her sew and create beautiful garments for people. She would always have piece of fabric lying around. One day she handed me a piece, a needle, a thread sat me at the sewing machine, and taught me to sew at five. I made my first handbag for my mother that she was able to use and take to work. I was a little handbag made with old tapestry material. Having sisters and females in my life, I realized the importance of a woman wanting to look and how important it was for them to feel pretty or sexy and bring noticed in a room. So I got the inspiration from my grandmother Nettie Mae Ruth Pardue and from that point on, I found the desire to create one of a kind couture dresses and party dresses. It stated back in ’93 with making a prom dress for the girl, she told a friend who told someone that told someone. It was then that I realized I was able to construct dresses that females would like and feel pretty in. It becomes an “addictive high.”
BE-Style: So when we met, you were working as a Visual Merchandiser. Was that your way of providing a source of income?
DP: Well I have always had to pay the bills and have insurance so it was generally through retail because I can do that with my eyes closed. And there were the clothes and the ability through a 9-5 to dress and create with the use of other peoples merchandise. I was in Visual Merchandising since I was like 15 and that led me to styling. You know dressing a mannequin is just like dressing a person. You have to come up with an image, how you want someone to be presented in the clothing. So retail and clothing design just went side by side with styling and make-up artistry.
BE-Style: So how did you get connected with Kim to be her personal designer? Because you not hired by Bravo, correct?
DP: Correct. My relationship with Kim is like and she’s my boo, she’s good people. She is actually a really good friend. We met about three or four years ago by just being in the same social settings. I could see that she was the type of woman that got noticed in the room. She would walk in and turn heads. Did matter where she was at or what she was doing, people noticed her. I appreciate her as a person. Kind of remind me of the song – “God bless a child that’s got her own.” Because she does what she wants to do and she strong in the fact that she stands behind loving fashion, and good clothes and wanting to be sexy and get noticed. I knew the about the Real Housewives when we became friends. I know she likes it tight and short with breast popping and legs showing. And if she likes it, I love it.
BE-Style: Describe your design aesthetic. What do you want to consumer to get when wearing your dresses?
DP: Well strong women influence my design aesthetic. Basically, within a collection there could be eight different colors and ten different influences from other parts of history or cultures. Just as every woman is different, I believe every dress should be different. I want to be able to bring out the inner Vixen in a woman. I love to use textiles and materials that say sexy. I also never forget my urban influence, which makes me stay true to my label, “The White Chocolate.”
BE-Style: What do you think about the genre of Reality TV?
DP: I love it. I think that we have been overwhelmed with violence and murders with shows like Law & Order or CSI. I was upset as well with this season Real Housewives and the hair pulling and touching.
BE-Style: So with being a close friend of Kim’s, what do you think about the Kim, Sheree, and Nene feud?
DP: I know Kim and I don’t want anyone to touch her, harm her, or accuse her of anything that she not guilty of doing. And for Nene, I think she is a hilarious and wonderful person. She and Kim have been friends for a long time and really have a love for each other. I really don’t want this to make us as a people look bad or turn anything about the Real Housewives into “salacious ghetto-isms.” If they could just sit down with Greg in the room, as a mediator, could help them come to an understanding. So I wished that they could get along and that they could work things our without the outside influences. I think that Sheree, (pause) well I really don’t have anything to say about Sheree…
BE-Style: What do you hope to gain from the exposure on the Real Housewives of Atlanta?
DP: Just the experience of it has been great for me. Being able to support Kim, as a friend and making her feel pretty, as a client in my designs is good enough. If anything were to come from it, I would hope that it would allow me to dress more women.
BE-Style: What sets you apart from a lot of other emerging designers?
DP: Personally, I think it’s the fact that I am “The White Chocolate.” I actually listen to each one of my client’s individual needs. I don’t look at it from my design aesthetic when I’m styling or creating for someone. I think about what they want to feel like and create my pieces based on the vision coming from through their eyes. As far as my White Chocolate collection, it’s a fusion of my urban experience, a little bit Victorian, and a little bit of deconstruction. Not to mention my pure love of fashion and fire inside of me.
BE-Style: Is there anything that you would like to share with the readers?
DP: If I could share anything, it would be that, people express who they are by what they put on the exterior. We can all have a critical eye, something to say, or an opinion about but the fact of the matter is, it’s that person’s own personal interpretation of what they see themselves as. What I offer as I designer is an outlet and that I get to help bring that interpretation to life. We need to be less critical of one anoth
er when it comes to our interpretation to what we see ourselves as.
For More Information & to contact Dean Pardue: http://thewhitechocolate.com/