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Portrait of a Seamstress: Rebeca Imperiano

rebeca-imperio-leadSimplicity is refreshing and if done right, hard to achieve. It’s easy to throw a bunch of elements next to elements, things next to things, baubles next to baubles, or whatever next to whatever and say that they “go together”. That’s called bohemian. Editing and refining on the other hand – not so easy. Narrowing down an idea, a design or whatever forces you to decipher the elements that work, and at the same time, define your point of view. As a fashion design student at Drexel University, Rebeca Imperiano spent 3 years doing just that – defining her POV. This is just my opinion, but how she defined her namesake line, was spot on.

rebeca-imperio-34 rebeca-imperio-1rebeca-imperiano-3rebeca-imperio-2rebeca-imperio-3TELL US YOUR STORY

I was born and grew up in Brazil. My mom is a fashion designer, and has being designing almost 30 years making custom bridal and evening gowns. She is a smart business entrepreneur and influenced my own line.

I started sewing at an early age, but I sewed mostly by hand – embroidery and fabric dolls. I didn’t use a sewing machine regularly until I moved to the U.S. I studied architecture in undergrad and during my last year, I decided to change my major to fashion design. I was interested in studying abroad, maybe in Europe, but when Tiago, whom I was dating, received a job offer in Philadelphia, we got engaged and moved. I attended Drexel University for fashion design and graduated in 2013. Many students went on to work for a retailer – to gain experience – but I knew I wanted to start my own business. I didn’t want to be a design assistant. I had just spent 3 years finding my point of view and working for someone else would be like losing an arm.

While I was developing my business plan, I applied for Philadelphia’s Fashion Incubator Program and was accepted. The program is a year-long mentorship that teaches the business of fashion. We attended workshops weekly – on the 3rd floor of the Macy’s in Center City there is a studio with cutting tables, sewing machines and sergers. Few times a week, lawyers, manufacturers, accountants and industry insiders came in to talk to us. I made a lot of connections that I would have no idea how to find or where to look if I wasn’t a part of the program.

More so than school, the program provided real world application. An example – a marketing director hosted a workshop about developing a special piece that could be applied to the outside of a garment. It wouldn’t be a logo, but a branded signature that customers could connect with. This inspired me to create my insignia, which I sew on all my garments.

The program ended this year, and since then, I’ve continued to grow my line.

The program ended this year, and since then, I’ve continued to grow my line.

rebeca-imperio-11rebeca-imperio-13rebeca-imperiano-2rebeca-imperio-14rebeca-imperio-15rebeca-imperio-19rebeca-imperio-21rebeca-imperio-23rebeca-imperio-22rebeca-imperio-24rebeca-imperio-25What Sewing Machine Do You Use?

I bought my straight stitch and serger from a woman who was retiring in Reading. I got them both for a great price and they work great. She was the original owner, and the serger came with the instruction manual! My mom always said that old sewing machines are the best.

Favorite Time to sew

I’m a morning person. I have more energy in the morning, and when it gets dark, I’m less motivated.


Right now, it’s a stretch poly crepe. It has a fantastic drape that is great for dresses, bottoms and skirts. I’m not opposed to using natural fabrics. I choose fabric that will best achieve the design.


I stick to neutral colors because they go with many skin tones. Black and white mostly. I am also inspired by color used in deconstructivist architecture. I don’t think I will ever work with bright colors, but would do a pattern if it was subtle.

rebeca-imperio-10Your Aesthetic + Process

I am heavily inspired by deconstructed architecture – Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Daniel Ladinsky being my favorite architects. Many of the shapes and textures in my clothes come from their designs.

I design three dimensionally, and think about how the garment will be viewed from all angles. My designs aren’t symmetrical – the shapes and lines change as you move around the garment. It makes it more interesting.

I design three dimensionally, and think about how the garment will be viewed from all angles. My designs aren’t symmetrical – the shapes and lines change as you move around the garment. It makes it more interesting.

As far as creating patterns – I first drape on a quarter scale dress form. I drape many variations and then take pictures and choose the one I like best. I continue to sketch and drape, sketch and drape, until I come up with a final design. Then, I drape once more on a full scale dress form.


Right now I am selling to four boutiques around Philadelphia area. My goal for my next season is to expand the business and sell my line to other states like New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In future I want to have my line sold in stores in the Midwest, East Coast and Brazil.


I’m very shy and introverted, so the biggest lesson was putting myself out there. Believing in my line and exuding that feeling to others.

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1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Liz Karp

    Rebeca – I’m an architect and a seamstress so I understand the connection between the 2. I’ve heard clothing design referred to as “soft architecture” which is certainly is! Best of luck to you – we live in Rhode Island so please let me know when you start showing your designs here.

    Liz Karp

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