What was the milestone moments that brought me here today?
The definitive moment that made me choose the fashion industry as my career path was after watching a charity runway show of Canadian designer Alfred Sung in 1991. This was before Toronto had a fashion week, and was just a trade show. It was also where M.A.C. cosmetics were first introduced to the Canadian fashion crowd before taking over the world. It was my junior year in high school and I had loved every part of the atmosphere there. While there was a lot of pitching from marketing people, I loved listening to all of it, just to learn about how the industry people talked about their product and try to learn the lingo.
When you feel that “A-ha” moment, embrace it. Explore it, learn about it, and then find a way to make it happen.
After that, I set out to explore who the top players were in the industry and what the top schools were. I made it a goal to get into Parsons School of Design as it had the best alumni. I didn’t really have a plan B. I always knew I wanted to live in New York City and am really grateful my parents were so supportive.
My first job after graduating from Parsons was to work as a designer for a lingerie company. I got to see my first solo project hanging in Bloomingdale’s six months later. This was a milestone moment for me to see a major store carrying something I put my stamp on. It was the scared look of a customer trying on the robe and seeing me jump and down that finally snapped me back to reality.
There’s nothing like a moment of validation that your chosen path in life was the right one.
One of my first projects in embroidery design, and what would become my passion, was a project for Oscar de la Renta. I was creating Baroque motif “graffiti” by spray painting stenciled shapes onto sheets of sequins. The design made it into his collection and I called my mother when I saw the runway photos in a magazine.
In the apparel industry, it often is not as artistic as one might hope. I soon learned that merchandising and margins get in the way of creativity quite a bit. Embroidery design turned out to be one small segment of the industry where one really could branch out and take chances in design, and where your fashion design heroes actually take notice. Also, Oscar de la Renta happens to have the same birthday as me today of July 22nd. Perhaps that’s why we understood each other.
The most important fashion design I ever created was my own wedding gown. Yes, that’s cliché, and I was sternly instructed not to attempt making it myself by my mother. I wasn’t sure if that was a superstition or her knowing me well enough that I shouldn’t stress myself out. What made this an important gown was not just the symbolic purpose of it, but the fact that it was a collaborative project with several good friends. I designed it, but my good friend Regina constructed it and another friend Rekha did the embroidery. My entire family and friends collaborated on many other aspects of the event, from running an assembly line for programs or my Mother running the planning down like a military operation (really, she had spreadsheets and charted images of all vendors on CDs!).
You may have terrific milestones in your career; you might have amazing accomplishments of your own. However, I realized the longer I live life, the ones that are the most satisfying are the ones you achieve with the people you love.
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