Designer Ella Pritsker, 33, loves what she does. "I've always dreamed about it, ever since I was a child," she says. "It's the creative part that appeals to me, being able to express myself -- the way I feel and the way I think -- in clothes."
Pritsker came to Maryland 10 years ago from Russia as part of a relief program, traveling through Italy and Australia and soaking up their fabric offerings -- the colors and textures -- as she came.
After five years in the United States, she started her own label, Ella Moda, in the basement of her home, fashioning couture-quality suits and separates. Today, she's moved out of the basement and into her own shop (based in Timonium), where she showcases her work and collects orders for the custom-made clothing, which sells for $1,200 to $2,200.
Pritsker, who wears only her own designs ("I just wish I could make shoes, too," she says) shares some of her thoughts on style:
Describe your creations.
They have a sophisticated elegance, with a high-style edge. My main idea is for a woman to look very feminine and romantic -- sexy but not sleazy.
What if you're not feeling very feminine and romantic?
Clothes not only give you an opportunity to express your feelings, but they also have a way of bringing that particular mood or feeling to you. When I feel very romantic and sexy, that's how I want to dress, but I also know that when I want to feel romantic and sexy, that's how I dress.
Has any particular designer influenced your personal style?
Coco Chanel has been inspiring me since I was a child. I used to read about her, and I admired her as a person. The struggles in her life made her a very strong, successful woman. I can relate to that.
What's your best fashion advice?
Fit is one of the most essential parts of wearing clothing. A piece has to fit, otherwise even the most exclusive, expensive garment is not going to look right.