Beacon Hiller Chynna Pope, the sequin-clad young figure skater cheered by neighbors for years as she jumped and twirled on the frozen Frog Pond, has leaped into the fashion world.
And she’s doing it with the same energy, style and edginess. Now, at age 27 and a student at Boston’s School of Fashion Design, Pope’s classic, chic and sometimes edgy designs have caught the eyes of Boston’s top fashionistas – so much so that last summer she was named one of the top five designers from the city’s fashion schools.
Along with that recognition came the opportunity to show her collection in early October at The Launch, the official opening event of Boston Fashion Week that showcases emerging designers. “This was the first time I could exhibit my own styles,” she said. “I was over the moon. It was beyond my wildest dreams.”
Since then, her career has soared, leading to a second stint on the runway last week when she and the other top four designers displayed the best of their collections at Fashionably Late, A Night of Fashion & Music at the Liberty Hotel.
“I loved seeing my garments walk down the runway,” she said. “I am a showgirl at heart, so that performance element is really special for me. I felt like a proud parent watching my garments come to life out there.”
That showgirl, who began performing on ice skates at age two, has been drawn to fashions since the days she competed in ‘over the top’ costumes created by her mother to fit the era and style of the skating music. Although she also played ice hockey, like her brother and Dad, it was the costumes that hooked her into figure skating. “I chose sequins over smelly pads,” she said.
She began competing when she was five and didn’t stop until injuries slowed her down at age 16. By then she was ranked as one of the top four skaters in New England and in the top ten on the Eastern seaboard. Representing the USA at an international competition, she said, was the highlight of her career.
Despite her injuries, she didn’t walk away from skating or her interest in fashions. Even as a student at Boston University, her papers would loop back to fashion design. “It showed up in every paper I wrote for my art, art history and photography courses, even in my statistic course where I crafted an analysis of fashion sales,” she said.
It took her seven years to earn her college degree because she balanced her studies with coaching, choreographing and designing costumes for young skaters in programs both here and in Ireland. After college, she enrolled in the School of Fashion Design on Newberry Street. There she has studied with top fashion designers such as Roger Hinds, whom the Boston Globe called ‘the man behind Boston fashion’, and Daniel Faucher, celebrated for his couture wedding and special occasion dresses.
“It seemed like a natural progression to go from designing something for the ice to the street to the runway,” she said. “You’ll see in my designs a lot of tailored aspects that contour to the form but also have an element of flow and movement, as in a fitted ice skating dress.”
That tailored aspect is evident in her first business venture, the Beacon Hill Bow Tie Club. She works with vintage silk remnants and printed cottons to create classic, yet unique bow ties, pocket squares and cummerbunds. In fact, most of the clothes she creates are based on menswear.
In her fashion and style blog called the Beacon Hellion, Pope explained that when she designs garments for special occasions and just plain fun, she likes to mix flowing materials with contrasting weight fabrics, hides and textures. Her style dichotomy mirrors her personality. She might be found ice skating in the morning in spandex, skateboarding in the afternoon in a dirty ripped t-shirt and attending a black-tie ball by night.
She is a spontaneous adventurer who views everything in the realm of possibility. “My life is all about adventure and creating garments that can transcend all of them in comfort, versatility and flow,” she said. “I can make a design look really elegant and then, with a change of collar and cuff or perhaps by unbuttoning a few buttons, I can turn it into something totally edgy, chic and sometime pushing the limit.”
She now hand sews all her pieces in a loft studio in Jamaica Plan and is often seen wearing her own fashions. She aspires to continue creating high-end couture dresses for women and to introduce a ready-to-wear women’s collection with mix and match contemporary separates.
Neighbors who once watched her skate can now keep their eyes on the clothes she creates because, someday, she plans to be dressing this city.