Q&A: Kelli Martin of Alternative Fashion Mob

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
By Columbus Alive
From the May 9, 2013 edition

Designer Kelli Martin is too much of a badass to be described as just a former contestant on “Project Runway.” Proof of Martin’s badassness? She hates the term “fashion” and everything about the industry. She clashes with industry norms and trends. She named her brand Anti.Label and started the Alternative Fashion Mob in Columbus.

With Martin’s gumption, Alternative Fashion Mob has a big year planned; a diverse array of events to help promote local designers and eventually become a beacon in the community. This weekend Martin and two other members of the group join Columbus Rocks the Cure for a fashion and rock show.

My thirties have been way better than I thought. My twenties, granted I did a lot, but it’s like, I’ve done everything there was to do? Now what the hell am I going to do? Have Axl Rose syndrome, nothing else to live for? My thirties have been better because I’ve learned all from this s--- and it’s down to brass tacks.

I hate the fashion industry and everything about it. I’ve always wanted to do it my way, which I know isn’t easy. There were times I [thought], “This isn’t going to happen, man.” I got off “Project Runway” and it was fun, but it ruined my frickin’ life. It was all a scam — the whole fickin’ show. Clearly watching reality shows now, you know it’s all a scam. My dumb ass was like, “Kelli, you’re on the show. You’re just going to sew and not let anyone bother you.” I should’ve been like, “F--- you! F--- this! Shut up!” And I probably would have won. [laughs]

I love clothes, but … just because it says Gucci on it, doesn’t mean I want to plaster it all over my body. I don’t want people to buy [my clothes] just because of a label. I want them to buy it because they like it. My whole vibe was pretty/ugly anyway. So that’s the vibe and going full-force with that, I came to Anti.Label because technically it’s a label, but it’s contradictory.

 

[Once I] realize I didn’t want to play that game, I started the Alternative Fashion Mob. Now I’m finally doing exactly what I want to do, on my terms.

Alternative Fashion Mob is really just pulling in different genres because there are tons of unique people that don’t feel like they’re into fashion … but they’re still into clothes. We have 10 designers and they’re all so different it actually gave me cold chills. I was amazed; how is this happening?

I think it’s going toward the self-made designer because there’s a lot of creativity out there. And it’s not just creativity; it’s a lot of diversity. We’re hoping that by involving all these different walks of life [with] the designers that we’re going to pull from each other and learn different skills. Columbus has already got the community vibe, clearly … so we just want fashion into that.

Our end goal is to be a fashion incubator. We’re going to have the Alternative Fashion Week annually. But all these other events we’re having are to raise money for a storefront. It’s a place to make money, have a place to work and meet the people. We don’t want to make it some pretentious f---ing place. That’s not what it is, but fashion — no matter where it is — can be perceived that way. I see this growing more from the actual local designers than the industry.

Columbus Rocks the Cure: Rock & Roll Fashion Show is Amee BellWanzo’s event. She’s a breast cancer survivor I met who said she wanted [to organize an event] and involve fashion. Ever since then, we’ve been buddies. All the money goes to [help] cancer patients. There are three designers; myself, Aaron James and Annie Weihrauch. We’re all showing a different genre of music collection. I’m doing a rockabilly, actually I moved into psychobilly because I wanted to be crazier. Not crazy clothes, but a crazy look. Aaron is doing ‘70s glam rock. Annie’s is an indie pop thing. And the music goes with the collections.