Anjela Sevilla’s love of fashion began early. As a child, she wore a favorite sparkly pink dress for days at a time.
Sevilla is 20, so that was a while ago. But she hasn’t outgrown her childhood sense of style; over the years it’s only become a bigger part of who she is. Those who know Sevilla likely wouldn’t be surprised to see her wearing a sparkly pink dress (or something just as memorable) Friday evening when she receives her associate degree in art from Yakima Valley College.
From Yakima, Sevilla will take another big step in her personal fashion journey. In August, she will move to France to study fashion design at IFA Paris, a fashion school with campuses in Shanghai and Istanbul.
Sevilla will pursue a bachelor’s degree in fashion design in the city that for centuries has had a virtual lock on the look of what the rich and famous wore.
While American designers won the landmark Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in 1973, breaking the French stranglehold on having the final say in style, it’s still the place for haute couture and home to such historic fashion houses as Dior, Givenchy and Chanel.
“The plan is to leave mid- to late-August. I need to get my visa, an apartment,” all that moving-to-a-new-country stuff, she said.
“I don’t know if I’ll be going on my own or with someone else,” added Sevilla, who lives in Yakima with her aunt and her aunt’s significant other, Romina Sevilla and Fernando Ortega, and her grandfather, Jaime Sevilla. “It’s an adventure.”
Her journey to Paris is the latest in a series of moves that have taken Sevilla around the world.
Born in the Philippines, Sevilla (pronounced Sa-vil-leea), moved with her family to Saudi Arabia when she was 6. Her father Bernardo Sevilla, an engineer, had already worked there a few years when he went home for a visit and decided to bring his wife, Amelia, and two daughters back with him. Anjela and her older sister, now Mikaela Sevilla Mitchell, attended school at an American Consulate and lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years.
At age 16, Sevilla came to the United States, where relatives had lived for years. She moved in with family in Yakima — her parents still live in Saudi Arabia — and graduated from Riverside Christian School in 2017.
“I think my parents’ plan was always to send us to school in the United States,” she said. And her plan was always to go into art and fashion.
“(In) one of my earliest memories of someone asking me what I wanted to do, I (said I) wanted to be a fashion designer,” Sevilla said. “I was probably 4 or 5. ... And people expect you to grow out of it, but it just stayed.”
She can’t remember exactly how that was received in her family circle. Both of her parents have worked as engineers, “and especially in Asian countries, they go for more practical things like STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers, but my parents are very supportive,” Sevilla said.
Going into art for Sevilla means practicing it. “Art is in everything we do and we see,” she said, looking around the living room. “A couch or a table — someone had to design it.”
Human figures are her favorite subject. Sevilla doesn’t draw much other than people, she said. She uses charcoal, graphite and ink — mostly charcoal and graphite lately.
Sevilla also sculpted a piece representing her favorite subject. “Forest Queen // The Muse,” a nearly life-size bust of a student who sat across from her in Rachel Dorn’s hand-building class, was part of the college’s annual Department of Visual Arts Student and Faculty Exhibition. Featuring the work of students from spring, summer and fall quarters of 2018 and winter 2019, it included cash awards for some participants and was on display at the Larson Gallery on campus.
Dorn is head of the college’s clay program and helps guide its department of visual art. She fully expects Sevilla will enjoy a successful future in the world of fashion.
“She works hard; she puts in the effort. You can see it,” Dorn said. “She’s going to do great. ... She’ll blow them away.”
As she scrolled through Sevilla’s portfolio, Dorn smiled at the fact that each of her pieces has a name. “They have a personality,” she said.
Also, through Sevilla’s work in different classes, she maintained a theme, Dorn said. For a while it was flowers and leaves; “The Muse” wears a crown of flowers and a wreath of leaves covers her collarbone.
That’s how haute couture collections work. Designers choose themes for inspiration. Sevilla also draws on her Filipino heritage and the country’s dresses, with their filmy materials, intricate embroidery and butterfly sleeves.
“Creating fashion is a form of art,” she said.
Sevilla’s favorite designers include China’s Guo Pei, best known for creating dresses for Chinese celebrities. She also made Rihanna’s jaw-dropping yellow gown at the 2015 Met Ball.
“She takes traditional weaving and embroidery practices she learned from her grandmother” and makes them part of her designs, Sevilla said. “I hope to do something like that someday.”
She also likes Georges Hobeika, a Lebanese designer of haute couture and ready-to-wear clothing whose fashion house is in Beirut; Mak Tumang, a Filipino designer who has created gowns for Miss Philippines pageant winners; and Maison Cleo, run by a mother and daughter who make all their clothing by hand from natural and leftover fabrics.
“I’ve really been interested in vintage clothing lately. Another thing I’ve been super interested in is ethical clothing, labor issues and the conditions of those who make our clothes,” Sevilla said. “I also want to work ethically,” with responsibly sourced materials, she said.
She hopes to establish herself at a fashion house or company with an internship, with the goal of having her own fashion house someday.
“I just want that shot,” she said.