Well friends, I hope you are ready for the rambling explanation of how I became a designer. Please forgive the length, I’ve re-written it so many times to try and shorten it and I’m having difficulty reducing the rambling. I guess I’m a chatter box on the internet and real life :)
For me the love of clothing and designing started early on, though I didn’t know I wanted to be a designer as such until much later. I started cutting up my own clothing and remaking them into clothes for my barbies when I was about 10. It was all hand sewing – but when my mom saw that I was interested she gave me a sewing machine. It was the machine she had learnt on. An Elna Lotus. It’s a very very simple machine – it doesn’t have any fancy features, just a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch. But I adored that machine, and still adore it now even though I don’t use it anymore (I deemed it too precious and too fragile to ship it to the states with me). My mom being the good example that she is, made me make something from a pattern before letting me just go crazy ripping things up. Together we made a perriwinkle blue cotton wrap around skirt. I wanted to quit so many times throughout that project (I was only 10/11 after all), but we finished, and I learnt an important lesson – you have to do things the right way if you’re going to do them at all. After that, my sewing skills were mainly self taught. I learnt a lot from ripping up my own clothing (and my mom’s clothing – sorry mom) and remaking them into new things. I also learnt a lot from reading the manuals that came with the sewing machines in our house, and from library books.
I made myself a lot of things when I was in highschool. And a lot of them were bad. I don’t just mean badly sewn, I mean badly designed. Thankfully my mom stopped me from wearing a lot of them out of the house (like a pair of farm print bell bottom pants -thanks mom, i owe you big). I even entered a fashion design contest, and didn’t place, because honestly, I didn’t deserve to. I continued to sew a lot during college, and since fashions were so varied amongst the student population I was able experiment with what I wore a lot, and as a result I made a lot of silly things. But I learnt from all the mistakes I made – in sewing, and in my personal style. I didn’t study fashion design at college, because honestly, I never saw it as a viable career. I’m a pretty logical person, and I just couldn’t see how it would pay the bills. So I focused on something else I was good at, Math – and pursued a career that would make me a lot of money – Actuarial science.
Things started to get more serious for me sewing wise when I met Chris and I started working full time. He’s always a huge encouragement to me, but so were his family. My mother in law gave me her mother’s vintage dress form to use, and her sewing machine and serger/overlocker. She bought me books on couture sewing, and her and my sister in law Annelise were always dying to see what I’d made that week. That’s when things really took off. I bought so many sewing books. I wanted to learn it all. I bought university level pattern drafting texts, I bought sewing technique books and I bought vintage sewing books. I went crazy. I devoured them. I studied like someone was gonna test me. I wanted to know every technique out there. Office attire was so boring that I started to make my suits and work clothing, I started making clothing for my sister in law and for my friends. I started making things I would never wear, just to challenge myself.
Then we moved to the US, and we had Bunny. When she was almost a year old, I had just started blogging as a way to keep sharing my designs. And I was loving it. I got a lot of requests to make my designs for other people, and so I opened a little Etsy store. For putting very little effort into it, I’d say it went pretty well. I would often say things to Chris like, I wish I could do this more seriously, I wish I could have my own clothing line, I wish I could be a designer. etc etc. Until one day he said, well why don’t you?? What’s to lose? I started to get excited, and we talked about how we could do it. I asked my friend Jessica for advice, and she gave me the last push of encouragement I needed to go for.
So towards the end of 2009 I began working on my debut collection. I didn’t tell anyone, because I was so nervous that no-one would like what I designed. That people wouldn’t support what I was attempting. In hindsight, that was silly. I was pregnant with Buddy, which added extra difficulties. I worked late into the night, I worked all weekend, I worked in the middle of the night. I won’t go into detail about the process now, as I’ll be telling you all about that later. But basically, I exhausted myself – thankfully Chris was so supportive, otherwise I never could have done it. I launched my line in February 2010, and praise God, it was a huge success. I broke even in the first week, and things continued to sell throughout the summer. That collection did so well, that I was able to immediately put back into our savings the money I had taken out to start my line, plus fund my next collection. The support I’ve received has been astounding, and I’ve been blown away by what a positive response there has been to my designs. In a few weeks I’ll be releasing my third collection, and I’m so excited for where it’s going. But right now, I’m so satisfied. Because I am where I have wanted, but never thought I would be.
And that my dear friends, is my story.
So as you can see, it’s not a typical story at all. I did not study formally for this, my degrees are in Accounting & Finance and Mathematics. I am self taught. It came naturally, out of passion, out of hard work, out of circumstance. Which is why I wouldn’t recommend my particular method of getting here to everyone. I want to be clear about this, as much as designing clothing is my passion, and my clothing line is profitable, it is not a full time job for me. It is not a money melon. If I was in this for the money I would quit, because it simply would not pay the bills. I am in it for the art. I do it because I fall asleep at night designing clothing. I do it because it’s in me.
I have a lot of advice I’d like to share, as well as detailing the specific process I go through, but it’s too much for this post. So I’ll split out the topics into a few different posts :) I hope you enjoyed hearing my little story!