Mom turns pain into passion for design after 11-year-old son is shot

Mom turns pain into passion for design after 11-year-old son is shot
Shavonne Brown hand-made these dresses and hopes to open her own studio (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Shavonne Brown spends countless hours in a small room, focused on each line and stitch of her creations. She wanted to learn how to sew, but it wasn't until tragedy struck her family that she discovered her passion.

"No one taught me how to sew. I had to teach myself, maybe because I was using sewing to get out of a dark place," Brown explained. "My little brother, he actually was the one who saved my son's life. He picked my son up and carried him to safety. My little brother even had a bullet going through and through his shirt."

In October 2016, Brown got a phone call that sent her world spiraling into darkness. Her 11-year-old son had been shot in the leg while visiting family in Mosby Court and playing outside.

"It made me feel like as a mother, what am I doing wrong?" she said. "I was depressed, because he was depressed. My son couldn't play football anymore, because he got shot in his leg, and football was his life."

Brown remembers days she could barely get out of bed, hurt and angry that someone injured not only her son but another child while they were simply being kids.

"I feel like if it wasn't for my fiance buying me that sewing machine to give me that extra push, I wouldn't be sitting here." said Brown.

Her fiance, Justin, bought her a sewing machine to give her hope and lift her spirits. The room where she decided to sew quickly becoming a design studio, as Brown read books, visited fabric stores and watched online videos to teach herself how to make clothing.

"A lot of people don't understand - some days I don't want to sew. I don't want to do it, it's not making me much money and we have a big family, but my fiance won't let me give up," she said.

Brown started Figure 8 and Family First Clothing with her fiance, who has now taken up photography. Together, the two have seven children who model their clothing as well. She's been given opportunities to go to New York Fashion, invited to fashion shows in Atlanta, and her designs have been featured in Element Magazine.

In December 2017, Brown directed her own fashion show, a networking opportunity for local designers and other talent. Instead of proceeds, she asked the community to donate toys to give to families during the holidays.

"If you feel in your heart you're a designer, a model, you want to be a teacher, you can be that," said Brown.

Even as she continues to make a name for herself, Brown realizes each seam and stitch is about more than her - the reason she gives away dresses at times and has teamed up with Armstrong High School for an essay contest. The winner will get to co-design a prom dress that Brown will hand make.

"I wanted to tell them don't stop here. My main reason for this contest is not to give them a free dress, it's to stress education is important," she said.

As she continues to chase her dreams, Brown hopes to one day open her own studio, where she can create, host model boot camps and encourage others who have a passion for design and fashion.

"I feel like I'm close. All I need is that one person to wear my dress, and I know I'll make it," Brown explained.

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