I was recently interviewed by Katelyn Doyle for an alumni newsletter piece for my alma mater, The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago. I’m sharing some of my answers as an “insight” into how I’m inspired and how I work.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Everywhere. I “people-watch” on the train, read lots of magazines, listen to music and I keep an inspiration journal where I put pictures from magazines, drawings, fabric swatches, quotes and song lyrics, and trend and color reporting excerpts from the internet. I like to know what my thought-process is through each season so when I am ready to start my own line I can look at what I was thinking about and designing and compare it with what was going on in the world and in fashion during that season.
What’s the one single piece of advice that you feel qualified to give that would be most beneficial to an aspiring student? Be involved in as many things as you can – whether it’s at school or not. Network with classmates (keep in touch after school is out!), teachers, anyone you meet. Remember what you want to do. Write down your goal and say it aloud to yourself and anyone you trust. Keep it in mind when you go about your day-to-day life, when you talk to people, when you’re working on your projects, always.
In your opinion, what does it take to make it in your industry? I think the most important thing, apart from talent, is having excellent communication skills. You need to be knowledgeable in your skill set, but also be able to communicate it to your boss, and probably most importantly: your clients. Communicating is essential to learning new skills, whether they are new design skills, or customer service skills. Listening and understanding your boss and your clients will be your biggest asset.
How do you feel Ai – Chicago prepared you for career? I really feel that I had amazing instructors and their knowledge and enthusiasm for the material prepared me for my career. I think that Ai gave me a lot of opportunities to succeed, in getting involved in fashion shows, and competitions. The variety of classes and projects along the way gave me a very well-rounded education and I use many aspects of it every day. I use my technical and construction skills just as much as I use my computer skills that I have learned. Ai’s curriculum focuses on real-world skills rather than abstract artistic skills, which I saw in other fashion programs I looked at, and that’s what made me decide to go here.
What made you decide to pursue this type of career? I learned to sew when I was 9 and did some projects in my 4-H Club. I enjoyed many kinds of arts and crafts including drawing, painting, collage and jewelry. I didn’t get very into sewing again until 8th grade when I took on a huge sewing project for a history class and made 4 doll-sized Colonial outfits. While it was a lot of hard work, I found that I really enjoyed it and decided in high school to pursue some fashion design and sewing classes at my local technical college at night after school. From there I decided that was what I really enjoyed, and thought about costume design for theater, and decided a career in fashion would be more suitable for me, and that I would be able to take it in any direction I chose to.
Please tell me what types of projects you have worked on? I think I have done almost everything under the sun! I have sewn doll’s clothes, pillows, curtains, quilts, handbags, dresses, tops, pants, skirts and prom dresses. Since starting my job at Eliana Lily I have worked with leather and fur, which is really exciting and something I never imagined I would be doing.
What do you enjoy most about working in your field? I love how every day is new and different. In my job I have a huge variety of projects so it never gets old. I have some really great clients and projects. I like having a lot of freedom in my designs and having some influence over the projects people bring me. I enjoy being able to share my ideas and taste in fashion with other people, and am happy that they value it and appreciate my background in design.
While attending school did you work? If so, describe. Yes. I worked part-time 20-30 hours per week at the House of Blues – Chicago in the retail store. I was a student tutor in the fashion department at school, for about 10 hours per week during my 2nd and 3rd year. I was also involved in a few freelance projects and jobs, and volunteered for fashion show dressing opportunities through school. I put together two fashion shows with friends, one of which was held in the House of Blues Foundation Room, thanks to some networking I had done within the company.
A quote about your hopes and dreams and what it took for you to get to where you are.
Coming out of high school, my goal was to move to Chicago and work at a boutique after graduation with my fashion design degree. I think it was an important first step to realizing my dream, to say it aloud. I worked very hard, between my school work, job, tutoring, and doing freelance projects along the way. I knew it would take a lot of work to get a job right away after graduation, and so I spent a lot of time building my skills, my resume, and my portfolio. I’m so happy with the outcome of all of this hard work – it definitely paid off. I follow the mantra (from Ashton Kutcher, of all people) “Always be happy, never be satisfied”. I always strive for more in my life and in my career.