As clearly as bell-bottoms ruled the ’70s and shoulder pads anchored the ’80s, Angela Keyes views her life in fashion seasons. Featuring fresh trends and creative bursts, Keyes’s latest period brought forth the top prize in September’s repurposed style competition Couture for a Cause. What’s more, the bubbly designer hopes to leverage the runway win to free those trapped in the cycles of human trafficking. “It was always there, it was always inside of me,” the 42-year-old designer reveals. “This is my life’s calling. This is what I’m supposed to do with the creative skills God has given me.” Skills she honed as a hobby when young.
“I remember staying up late at night in junior high and high school, making the outfit I would wear the next day,” the bright, redhead recalls. “I loved being at school, wearing something nobody else had seen before.” Angela’s rhinestone encrusted cuffs, hand-painted sneakers, and bedazzled button covers glistened at Southside Christian School, a private institution on Greenville’s Eastside. Classmates voted her “Best Dressed.” One yearbook message reads, “I just loved coming to school every day to see what you might be wearing.”
The pastor’s daughter was forbidden from watching MTV or reading Seventeen. So, the fashion-focused teen had no icons, nor boundaries. “That might have been best,” she reflects. “It was just in my own head. I wasn’t imitating others; I was doing my own thing.” But the sheltered existence derailed plans for college. “This was before Google,” she explains. “I didn’t know you could go to any kind of fashion design school. I didn’t know there were art schools. I just knew I wasn’t a student. I was a creative person, and thought it would be a waste of my parent’s money. I very much regret that now.”
When I first heard SCAD graduates were entering, I got a little nervous. But I realized it doesn’t matter— I’m just gonna be me. The dress symbolizes new beginnings. New growth, new life, a new chapter.
Life had other designs for Angela. She met a man ten years her senior, married at 18, and happily nestled in a home off of Highway 14. Her crafting continued in limited spurts, as she raised four children (outfitted in one-of-a-kind apparel, of course). Then, as fragile as a Butterick sewing pattern, her marriage unexpectedly ripped apart three years ago. Her one-time hobby became her therapy, as she glue-gunned a lifeline to survival.
Out of necessity Angela started a jewelry and fashion business, Angeloria. “It was a dream I had way back when,” she shares. “But then I didn’t think it was possible. That doesn’t happen for somebody here in Greenville. That only happens for people who live in New York City.” Her business plan morphed into a ministry plan after her mom returned from a foreign mission trip where she encountered those experiencing sexual exploitation. Proceeds raised by Angeloria will help women at home and abroad break free from the horror of human trafficking. “Angeloria will provide employment for survivors through designing, creating, and selling a variety of products,” the elegant founder explains. “I entered Couture for a Cause to gain exposure.”
RAGS TO RICHES
“I used four rolls of Costco toilet paper, and doilies from a party I had ten years ago. Oh, and these are my favorite, they’re spray-painted Raisin Bran flakes.” The slender beauty is kneeling on her den floor, caressing the dress she spent 400 hours piecing together. Adhering to contest rules, the piece features ordinary items that have been transformed into a wearable work of art. Pistachio shells and her kid’s homework create the beautiful, cascading line of flowers that ring the high-low wedding gown. Angela’s still giddy her design bested brilliant creations by highly educated, experienced designers. “When I first heard SCAD graduates were entering, I got a little bit nervous,” she admits. “But then I realized, it doesn’t matter, it’s not going to change what I’m doing. I’m just gonna be me. The dress symbolizes new beginnings. New growth, new life, a new chapter.”
For more on Angela and Angeloria’s mission, visit angeloria.com.