How did you decide that you wanted to pursue fashion?
I’ve always loved clothes – loved putting stuff together. But at Williams, there’s no major for fashion. I went in thinking I was going to be a theater major because junior year you took a costume design class. When I got to sophomore year, they cut the costume class.
I went to career services junior year and told them that I was into fashion, but they just showed me marketing jobs for Pepsi and Coke. I tried to do that because it was still creative and offered some security, but it wasn’t a good fit.
I did a photo shoot one winter study. I called all my friends and told them to bring their craziest clothes. I styled everybody and teased their hair out. It was so fun, and I realized, ‘this is what I want to do. I don’t know why I’m fighting it.’
But after graduation, I realized that I needed an actual job and doing random photo shoots can’t pay bills. So I did an advertising internship, and the CEO took me to lunch and told me, ‘this isn’t for you.’ Then I did a PR internship and the owner of that company said the same thing.
My college roommate told me that a designer was looking for an intern so I started interning as an errand girl, and that whole world blew my mind. I said, ‘this is what I want to do. Let me stop acting like I need to be in this corporate world when I don’t fit in that world.’
I interned with her for three months. During that time, she was trying to find someone to sew for her. Finally one day I asked if I could give it a try. She gave me some instructions and set me loose. At the end of the day, she said, ‘you sew better than all the people I’ve tried. Do you want to work with me?’ I was like, ‘hell ya!’
I still work for that designer from 9-5, and then she encouraged me to do my own thing because she knew I wanted to try that. I like to say I have a 24/7 and a 9-5.
After work and on weekends I work exclusively on my stuff. I have no social life whatsoever.
How has it been going out on your own?
It’s scary, but it’s also exciting. It’s scary because you don’t know if people are going to like your clothes. But it’s also exciting because people might love it and you never know who might see your work.
This field has taken me places I never would have been otherwise. But it’s also scary because if there are no orders coming in, there’s no money. One month you can make enough to pay rent for four months, but then the next, you have to eat tuna fish for the rest of the week.
How would you describe your style?
I do women’s clothing. I guess I’ll say ‘evening-wear’ but not that fancy. It’s mostly dresses – a lot of geometric shapes and bright colors. I ultimately want to do wedding dresses but that requires a lot of practice and technique, and I’ve never had formal training. It’s a lot of youtube watching, book reading, and trial and error.
For my first collection, all the dresses were sleeveless because I had no idea how to make a sleeve.
Is the hope to grow your own business into something that you do full time?
Yes. I’ve met people in the big design houses, and they don’t have the freedom to do what they want to do. They have to follow the guidelines of ‘this is what Chanel wants for this season.’
It’s a lot of work doing it on your own – everything is done with my two hands – picking out fabric, cutting, sewing, packaging, running to the post office. But I wouldn’t want to be attached to someone else.
Was there a time when you first realized that you loved creating clothes?
I blame my mother. If I did well on a test, we would go to Macy’s and she’d say, ‘pick out whatever dress you want.’ My eyes would get all big, and I’d pick out the most hideous dress – I still have some. I’d wear the dress to death and then cut it up and make headbands and shoelaces out of it.
I just thought it was a hobby – something that I loved, but not something that could be a full-time job. So many people are sucked into this mindset of ‘you have to make the money and get a “good job.” You have to stay within this box.’ I never thought about stepping out of that box.
How did you overcome that fear?
I had no other choice but to go for it. All these employers were telling me that I didn’t really want to work for them so it forced me to think about what I wanted to do. I was backed into this corner where I had no income, so I said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll give it a try, and if it fails, I can always go back to the office.’
What were you thinking when these people kept telling you that you didn’t want to work for them?
I didn’t feel bad about it because I knew deep down that I didn’t want to do it, and I guess they could see that. I didn’t take it negatively – I took it as, I need to keep searching for what I want to do.
I did a lot of thinking. I’d close my eyes and think, ‘if I could do anything, what would I choose to do?’ It was making clothes in my own little studio out in Jersey.
Were there moments where you were scared stepping off a stable path?
Oh yeah. I had long, heated arguments with my Mom about it. Her mindset was law school, medical school, maybe business school.
When I created my website, I had it ready to go but didn’t press the launch button for a week because I was terrified.’ My little sister was like, ‘do you want me to press the button?’ I was covering my eyes, freaking out. She presses the button, and there’s silence. Nothing blows up. It’s not the zombie apocalypse.
Fear doesn’t stop me anymore. There are 7 billion people in the world. Someone’s going to like it. I’m learning to trust in myself a lot more. I’m learning to go with my gut.
Do you remember your first sale?
Yes. I was super excited. I was at work, and when I told my mentor, we did the ‘I got an order dance’ in the middle of the studio.
The customer wanted it expressed shipped, so I had 2 days to make it. I made it, but I forgot to hem the bottom of the dress. My dumb self puts the iron on too hot and ends up burning a hole through the skirt. I almost lost my mind. I had to start over and then run to the post office. When I got there and sent it out, I thought, ‘ok I did it. First order from hell is done.’
How do you think Williams influenced your trajectory?
Williams taught me how to stay up for three days straight and how to deal with people with different opinions. I’m always thinking about context now – where are these girls going, what’s the bigger picture.
How have you come to define success?
I don’t really think about it that much. I don’t know what that says about me. If I’m good and happy and in a good place mentally, that’s enough for me.
I’m so used to doing things wrong and starting again that failure doesn’t faze me. That’s something I learned at Williams. Failure is as big or small as you make it.
What advice would you give to a Williams student preparing for life after graduation?
Don’t be afraid to look like a complete idiot or make a mistake. People are so hung up on being perfect that they do things to their detriment.
Try new things. If you have an inkling that you might like something, try it.
Know when something’s not good for you. Don’t just take a job because the money’s good or because your parents are pressuring you. If it doesn’t feel good, say no.