The man behind the lens of 6:12 Photography, Eric is an internationally-published photographer specializing in fashion, fitness and editorial portraits. A graduate of Carson-Newman University,...
Custom Rhododendron Peplum Top with Tuxedo Hot Pants. Model: Haley Bohon with 6:12 Model Management. Photographer: 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney.
Everyone has dreams; for Asheville designer Charles Josef, those dreams consist of lavish parties on tropical islands with people in evening wear and swimsuits. In fact, some might say that he’s living the dream, designing clothing that conveys luxury and fine fabrics. “Every day I get to do what I love is a dream come true,” says Charles Josef.
Josef has designed for men, women and children in every category from underwear to evening wear. His clothing fits a lifestyle more than an age range, and that lifestyle is one of enjoyment and prosperity. “When I design a garment, I think of where it will be worn and what would look great in that setting, as well as how it would compliment the person’s body that is wearing it,” says Josef. The Cosmopolitan Silk Taffeta Shirtwaist Dress. Model: Haley B. with 6:12 Model Management. Photographer: 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney.
Josef prides himself in designing finely made clothing that stands the test of time. “My clients keep my clothes and wear it for years,” Josef explains. The clothes become staples in their wardrobe, and they build by adding pieces that fit their lifestyle. “My biggest satisfaction is when a client calls to tell me how good they looked and felt in one of my garments, or when a client loves something I made for them so much that they call years later and have another made just like it,” he says. “Seeing my clothes on the runway is big fun for me, but it’s the educated consumer that fuels my business.”
All of Josef’s clients are unique, but they have body characteristics that are shared with others. By complimenting their specific bodies, he is able to create a look that has wide appeal for its flattering attributes. “The woman I design for is elegant and sophisticated,” he says. "She knows her own personal style and prefers quality and classic style over passing trends. These women have full lives and want to look good, so having quality clothes that fit them well gives them ease in doing so.
“The man I design for enjoys nice things and takes pride in having things that make a statement yet are easy to wear,” he explains. These men have busy lives, so they don’t want to scrutinize over sartorial decisions. Having key pieces in their closet that they can grab and go gives them more time to be out having fun with the confidence that they look good. “I design for people that are going somewhere,” he adds. Wool Jean Inspired Jacket with Silk Paisley Shirt from the Charles Josef Bespoke Collection for Men. Model: Michael Y. with 6:12 Model Management. Photographer: 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney.
All of his fabrics are carefully chosen. “Fabrics inspire me, especially a good fabric which gets my mind racing with ways to utilize it,” says Josef. The paisley silk used in his men’s shirts comes from Italy. His men’s floral shirt is made from quilter’s weight cotton so that it will last for years and be amazingly comfortable to wear. The silk taffeta in the Cosmopolitan shirtwaist dress is true luxury, not readily found in off-the-rack dresses. The rhododendron top is his own exclusive print and a tribute to the beautiful mountain laurel that blooms here in Asheville in the Spring.
The Cosmopolitan Silk Taffeta Shirtwaist Dress. Model: Haley B. with 6:12 Model Management. Photographer: 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney.
The life cycle of a new look begins when Josef sketches the original concept onto a pad. From there, the garment will either be made immediately or archived until the time is right. “I’ve designed many garments that had to sit in an archive until it was their right time to be received,” Josef explains. The next important step is making the pattern, which will be made into a muslin or test garment. A sculptor in his spare time, one of Josef’s favorite things is sculpting his patterns on the dress form. “It’s a real rush to take a basic piece of fabric and manipulate it to match the sketch that I have created,” he says, adding that this can take a while depending on the complexity. In some cases, several versions are made as he finds ways to improve the look while working with it. After all of this, the final garment is constructed either for the client, the runway or the sample rack.Cotton Print Dress Shirt from the Charles Josef Bespoke Collection for Men. Model: Michael Y. with 6:12 Model Management. Photographer: 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney.
Fashion and design have been a part of Charles Josef’s life since his childhood. “It’s something that came naturally to me, and I was doing it before I had a realization that it could be a job,” says Josef. “I didn’t start out in college with it as a firm goal, but the Universe has its way of making things fall into place and putting you on the right path, so it did.”
It was in Miami that Josef began to sew and design as a small child with his grandmother, a sample seamstress in the New York Garment District, as his teacher. “My Grandmother influenced many people who went on to work in the industry,” says Josef. She instilled in him the knowledge of fine workmanship which has given him an incredible eye for quality. “Her lessons in sewing, style and fabrics will always be a big part of my design choices,” he says.
Several cities have played a role of inspiration in Josef’s journey to becoming the designer that he is today. Miami’s vibrant fashion industry marked the beginning, and shopping for fabric in New York City is a constant reminder of his grandmother. Charlotte was the exciting birthplace of his business, a growing city full of people that enjoyed dressing well. In Atlanta, Josef evolved from making trendy club clothes to making very fine luxury garments. “My time [in Atlanta] was wonderful and gave me an insight into the elegant southern woman which still resonates in the clothes I design today,” says Josef. Shopping trips to the garment districts of Paris and Los Angeles have made many contributions to the fabrics of his designs.
However, those cities were only a stopping point for Josef, who always dreamt of living in the mountains. “When the opportunity presented itself, I was already gravitating toward Asheville,” says Josef. After visiting family in the area for years, he had fallen in love with the city. Not to mention, Asheville was once heavy with clothing production and the workforce is still present, making it an even more enticing location for Josef, whose goal is to eventually have a large scale production facility that produces his clothing and that of other designers. “I’m a big supporter of local goods, so having a place that would provide people with good jobs and produce finely made clothing is a big dream of mine,” he explains.
Men’s Cowl Pullover. Model: Michael Y. with 6:12 Model Management. Photographer: 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney.
Not only does Charles Josef have dreams for himself, but he also has a dream for the city that he now calls home. “Asheville is an amazing, growing, vibrant city with all types of people that visit and live here, and I think there’s a burgeoning realization of the need for a wider variety of things to choose from for the vast variety of people that are here,” says Josef. He admits that he can see changes unfolding every day, and he plans to be a positive impact on where Asheville is going.
In the meantime, Josef remains busy creating new designs, finding constant inspiration from people, places and fabrics. The current dreams that have his focus are getting his bridal and swimwear lines into more boutiques and building the brand. “I can already see that 2016 will be an exciting year for that,” he promises. You can also catch a look at his latest collections in some of his favorite runway shows around the South, including Charlotte Fashion Week in Charlotte, WERK the RUNWAY in Morristown, and the Next to Nothing Fashion Show in Knoxville.
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