Straw handbags float above beautifully dressed mannequins and racks of colorfully printed garments while bright pom-poms, containers bursting with multicolored pencils and vibrant spools of thread adorn the walls of this design wonderland. Amanda Perna’s bright and cheery fashion studio is simply a reflection of the designer’s effervescent vibe. Perna is a fashion designer, author, blogger, stylist, illustrator, mentor, wife, mom and a master juggler who launches from one project to the next with grace, plenty of enthusiasm and an ever-present warm smile that she wears with ease.
Perna was always destined to be in the spotlight. Growing up in Coral Springs, she was a theater kid with dreams of becoming a thespian. Inheriting that love for the stage from her grandfather who was a vaudeville performer, Perna’s passion evolved into costume making, which led her to take an elective sewing class during college at the University of Alabama.
That one class opened her eyes to a whole new runway. So the summer before her senior year she applied to ten New York City fashion houses for a sought-after internship. She received acceptance letters from all of them. Perna chose Oscar de la Renta and in a droll twist of fate her new office was located on Broadway. She’d made it to the Great White Way, but in a much different capacity. After graduation, she and her now husband of five years Solomon, moved to New York where Perna worked for Calvin Klein for four years. Then she did the thing everyone tells you never to do. She quit her job and cashed in her 401k. It was time to build something of her own, her brand - The House of Perna. With a dwindling bank account she was a freelance actress while she worked feverishly to design her line for two years. Then with her finished line ready, Perna did another surprising feat – she left The Big Apple to launch her brand and business in Delray Beach.
Today, five years later the thirty-three year old has cemented herself in Delray’s arts community with her lively studio inside the Arts Warehouse, an artist incubator and gallery located on Artist Alley in the Pineapple Grove district. She now also has a second fashion label, Neon Bohemians, which she launched last year. The line, which is more affordable and easier to wear than her namesake brand, is season-less and made in the U.S.A. The House of Perna, on the other hand, is a luxury brand with mainly European silk pieces that are made to order for life’s special occasions.
Prior to discovering her zeal for designing clothes Perna’s true passion has always been to help others. At first she thought her need to be of service would be accomplished through her psychology degree. Instead, her life’s path has led her to designing prismatic clothes that make people happy. As a Project Runway alumna, prominent fashion designer and fierce girl boss, Perna has used her success to mentor dozens of aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs.
“My mission in life is to help women feel empowered,” she said. For fellow businesswomen who are also moms and wives, it may be tougher some days than others to feel beautiful and empowered, but Perna believes it’s all about finding what works for you and your family and doing that. “Mom life isn’t a balance, it’s a juggle,” Perna said. “Some days some balls are higher than others.”
Perna has found what works for her family is having her daughter Stella join her in the design studio almost daily. The 3-year-old also accompanies Perna to fashion shows, openings and always travels with her. Stella has also inspired two of Perna’s newest projects – her first illustrated children’s book F is for Fashion, which will debut at Neiman Marcus and online this holiday season and Stella Rose, a line of kid’s clothes set to launch early next year.
“I want my daughter to see me collaborating with other women,” Perna said. “As women we need to support each other and help each other grow. We can conquer the world if we stick together.”