6/28/11 Q: How do you begin?

Alyssa contacted me via my website and asked a GREAT question worthy of posting, because it’s the “how to begin” that stops most people from ever beginning!:

A: I guess my one question is, where did you begin?  I’ve been sewing, etc since I was 6… but I’ve never been to design school…  It’s awfully easy to doubt yourself out of things, as I’m sure you know!

L: I have no background either. I moved to DC to try to find a job in women’s rights & empowerment.  I applied to my “dream job” and I didn’t get it. I had begun to take my old skirts and make designs on them with old fabric, as a hobby.  At that same time, an old friend called and asked if I wanted to house sit his farm house in Ithaca, NY.  I took a LEAP OF FAITH, packed up my car and decided to try and make my hobby a reality.  God provided the rest for me after I made that decision- to pay the bills/rent I landed two amazing adjunct teaching jobs. I cleared one of the rooms in my house into a studio and started to buy pieces from thrift stores.  With NO idea of how to sew I watched youtube tutorials and literally just picked up a needle and thread. I made tea and put on good music and just let the inspiration muses speak through me.  Most of all, I believed in myself as worthy.  It’s very easy to look at another designer’s work and compare yourself- especially with no background- and think that you don’t belong or everyone will criticize your work.  I doubted myself and sometimes I still do.  But I know the feeling when I see a piece come together on the mannequin, I imagine it’s much like that feeling in the universe when everything is in alignment, it just feels right.  Then when I see that piece on someone else and they LOVE it I think that helps keep you going too.  So my advice is to first believe that you are worthy to be creating and second get your pieces around people who will genuinely compliment you.  Once you just say, “I belong here as much as anyone else” then you treat it is your trade/job.  I began by calling myself an eco-fashion designer when people asked what I do. It felt weird and at first I felt like I was lying to them, like I needed the big fashion label and mounds of press before I could declare that statement. But honestly, I think that statement needs to come first- then the rest will follow. After creating my studio space in Ithaca- I came up with a name that embodied what I was doing, which would become my label name.  In the course of 2 years, I entered eco-friendly fashion shows, bought a website domain space, contacted other like-minded designers for community support and made friends with creative photographers and videographers, took sewing lessons and invested in a sewing machine, slowly built up my studio with 2nd sewing tools and clothing racks found at thrift stores and estate sales, designed a logo and printed clothing tags, made contact with local business owners to sell my clothing, used my tax return to design my website with a local designer, attended seminars on how to sell on etsy, the list goes on.  I’m always evolving and my goal right now is to take lessons on how to sew from a pattern- but I didn’t feel like I needed to know everything before I even started.  Just commit to starting (& commit to making a positive impact in the world) and the rest will fall into place!