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L+A: Tell us about your design background and where you are now?

After completing my bachelor's degree in Philadelphia, I chased my dreams to New York City. I moved here about 8 years ago working my way up in the fashion industry from working with small brands to mass market to contemporary brands.

Currently, I am the technical designer at Tanya Taylor - a young contemporary women's ready to wear line.

L+A: Can you tell us a little bit about where you work and your current role?.

Tanya Taylor is really known for her hand painted prints, they’re colorful, fun, and uniquely feminine. The work environment is very creative, which I really appreciate because it can get busy and non creative, so I am definitely grateful for that. The environment keeps my creativity and moral up because if I was at a company just pushing paper, I just wouldn’t be able to do it.

My role as a technical designer - I am the person that ensures the way a garment fits. I work with all the pattern makers and make corrections if needed. I sit in on all of the fittings, discussing garment details and any fit issues.

"I love where I’m working and that’s super important because I know it can be quite the opposite."

L+A: As a woman of color in the fashion industry, have you ever faced any issues or challenges?

Oh Yeah! Definitely! The Fashion industry period is predominately Non POC, so getting my foot in the door was a process. I would always hear things like “Oh, you need more experience” but what does that really mean? Do you not believe I can do the work?

And obviously there’s also things like micro-aggressions or people not realizing I’m the tech designer. I am very grateful but also know there’s not a lot of opportunities for people like me.

L+A: What would you say is an extra step/thought a WOC has to think about [in a work environment], versus a white woman?

In my experience I have to be very firm and very put together. I have to be very confident, even in my body language and carry myself well. I also have to be super confident in knowing what I’m doing and be assertive because they [white women] were taught to be assertive. And it’s something white women just don’t really have to think about. Even in how you present yourself, and it can be exhausting, because sometimes I just want to get out of bed in my sweats with my hair tied and roll up [laughs].

L+A: Tell us more about INDIVIJU and how you were inspired to start this.

I launched about 4 years ago. Jewelry was something that i’ve always loved. One day I was on the train and noticed a woman with this amazing cuff and I thought to myself “Oh, I can do that!”. I had no background in jewelry design so I took classes at FIT and fell completely in love with it. I spent so much money on tools and equipment and started practicing. Everything was going great and really working out so I decided to launch my online shop.

L+A: What’s the process like and where would you want to take your designs?

Right now I am trying to figure out which lane I want to take because the market like any creative market is so over saturated. I want to figure out what route I want to take, whether it’s creating more e-comm pieces, art pieces, or pieces for films.

I am still creating new pieces but now it’s with more intent. Before I was just creating strictly for e-comm and making things but not necessarily loving everything. I was just doing it to have inventory available, and it can get very costly and when you don’t love everything, it’s wasteful, and I don’t want to work like that.

I want to focus my designs on something that I’m known for and provide quality over quantity

"I know my lane and things I want to produce. It’s been a long process and it’s hard to get to this place, but I know where I am and I what I want. "

L+A: As a creative - is there anything that was tough for you to hear?

I was actually told once by a woman of color, that my website reads very ‘black’. That a lot of my clientele would not always be black, but from diverse backgrounds. She also said that my website didn’t read ‘contemporary’ Why because I have a black models? that was actually hard to hear.

L+A: What are your thoughts on that?

Right now we’re at a shift where black girls and other girls of color are being celebrated more. Designers like Mara Hoffman and Mansur Gavriel are using more girls of color in their ads. Where they decide to use a girl of color against a pastel background, because it does look better.

I reflect back a couple of years ago when I was told that my designs weren’t going to sell because it read as something else, which is insane, when I think about it now.

I think that we’ve always known we were dope and we were trying to convince everyone else, like “look at me, look at me”. But it wasn’t until we decided to decided to do our own thing and create our own lanes that’s when people want to jump on the train, like, “Oh what’s going on over there?”.

L+A: What is something that you love working on?

Wax carvings - before I was just soldering and whatever I was working on, if I made a mistake or cut a piece wrong, that was it. With wax, I have more control over the design and if I don’t like something I can just carve it out or I can melt it. It gives me more creative freedom and I can lose myself when I’m creating a wax carving, so that’s kind of my jam right now.

L+A: What advice would you give young girls of color thinking about going into a creative field?

I would say to figure out the things you like doing and things you don’t like. Once you find it, experiment different ways to do them and whichever way you’re good at stick to that, so you can perfect it. Also, try to get into mentorship programs, talk to your counselors that can guide you and provide you with exposure to what’s out there.

L+A: What is something that you’ve made peace with?

That there is always going to be someone doing something better, than what I’m doing. However, that doesn’t take away from my talents or what I have to offer. I have come to terms with that, and appreciate things I love that others are doing and also appreciate what I’m doing.

L+A: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a woman?

It was actually from a former design professor it wasn’t necessarily advice, but something that I needed to hear. She was a very tough professor. I don’t remember exactly what happened but my first class with her I was very upset, crying in class, she asked me to step outside and to get myself together. She was very encouraging; she told me that I was very smart, very sophisticated, and that she could tell I had a sense of myself. What she said resonated with me as I was going into my womanhood.

Photo Credit: INDIVIJU, Laurent Chevalier, Aineeaimeeaimee