I vividly remember having my hundreds of Crayola crayons and markers layed out on my carpet- in color order – and designing my dream house room by room when I was about 7 years old. Each room was a different color, and I had a spiral staircase with a custom-made fish tank built into the hand rails. I definitely had a wild imagination, fueled by any products sold by A.C. Moore and my mother’s willingness to buy them, despite the fact that all of the craft projects would be done within the next hour. I began drawing my dream tree house, dollhouses, and clothing. I made up every aspect of my life and drew it onto paper. I was a girl who had always known what she wanted.
I began drawing clothing, my halloween costumes, and first-day-of-school outfits. I began imagining shoes, and dresses, and being utterly disappointed with all the stores that didn’t have them. Hadn’t someone thought of those things yet? I sketched them all, in dozens of notebooks given to me by family members. I showed my mom outfits that I drew, and she noticed that months later some of the things would show up in stores. I had a knack for predicting trends. I would cut up my jeans and make them into skirts. I’d cut shirts apart and imagine how they were put together. My mom was not so happy about that.
My mom attended SUNY Oneonta and SUNY New Paltz where she had gotten her Masters degree. She told me that she had heard of a SUNY school that was centered around fashion. She wanted to take me to visit. We went down with a couple of my friends, to visit this school, The Fashion Institute of Technology. It was 7th grade and I was on my first and last college visit. I knew where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do with my life by the time I walked out of the Katie Murphy Ampitheatre.
My grandmother bought me a sewing machine the following Christmas, and lessons with a friend of hers, a seamstress. Both her and my mom said if I was going to design clothing I had to understand how they were made. I had no idea that it would be some of the best advice I would ever get. The seamstress who taught me is incredibly talented, generous, and kind. She became like another grandmother to me and was a huge part of me being accepted into FIT.
I loved reading, I was great at simple math, and I thought history was interesting. My mom’s friends and coworkers said they wish they had students as interested in learning, but for some reason, I hated school. The school I went to was not exactly the highest ranked, and had very little funding for the arts. I began absolutely dreading school. Every day was a battle with myself to go. I knew I had to keep my grades up to make sure I got into FIT, but school was extremely discouraging. I asked my mom if she would homeschool me, but she told me to visit the school that she had taught at instead.
I was amazed with the school, Fox Lane. They took art very seriously, and had great teachers who were motivating and helpful. The academics however, were another story. The standards were higher than I had imagined, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep up. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could in art, and I knew I would have to keep up in my other classes to. The competitive edge in the school would push me to do better in all of my classes. I decided to switch schools after one quarter, and go to Fox Lane, in an affluent area, a culture I had never seen before, with kids who had grown up together and were complete strangers to me.
There weren’t any classes related to fashion or sewing, but there were dozens of clubs. I decided to start a sewing club. I was craving the company of people who loved to do the same things as I did. We raised money to buy several sewing machines, cutting boards, irons, and fund several trips to the city.We went to Mood Fabrics and received free tours, we went to fashion shows at the Waldorf-Astoria, we ran workshops to give blankets to kids in the emergency shelters, and what hit closest to home was visiting the Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met. I had heard of Alexander McQueen, but I didn’t know much about him. By the end of the tour I was obsessed. I had been battling depression just as he had, and found the same love for design as he did. The rooms evoked emotion, and the passion and detail in every garment was incredible. I used to shy away from my edgy side, unsure of how people would feel about it or stereotype me. His work inspired me to not be afraid of who I really was, or putting my feelings into my work however bizarre they were.
So my eagerness to get into the fashion world grew, until it engulfed my life. I had a 45 minute commute to school, and had to stay after to run clubs and so my mom could do after-school help. I was working in the art room during every free moment I had, and I went to FIT on Saturdays. I left at 6:30 in the morning, and got home at 7:30 pm. It was exhausting, but I loved every minute. My skills were getting better with every class I took.
Mondays, I would get into school and talk nonstop about my classes. One of my friends had been working at Panera Bread when a costumer came in and started talking to her about her daughter. She said she wanted her daughter to take photography classes at FIT, and my friend told her about me and how much I loved it there. The woman handed my friend her card and told her to give it to me.
It turned out that she was the Senior Buyer at a department store, and she wanted to see my portfolio. I got together all of my work from my FIT classes and brought them to her house, where we talked about possible internships. It was as if a miracle happened. Somehow, another amazingly generous person with endless knowledge became a part of my life and had wanted to help me reach my dream.
She had given me a phone number to call, a small design company called NCO2. Everything on was a dream. I had interviewed with them, the two owners and two designers, and they were incredibly kind. They taught me so much in the short Summer I had spent there, and I was on Cloud 9. I honestly couldn’t have had a better first experience in the business of Fashion, getting to experience the life of a designer. On the train ride in every week, I would read biographies on fashion designers. It seemed as though it had been my calling in life. Excerpts from close friends of designers would describe their personalities, as if they were describing me.
Every time I went to FIT it got harder to not actually be in school there yet. I wanted it to be my every day life, I wanted my classes to never end. I wanted to learn everything the professors could possibly teach me. I daydreamed of my life there, exploring the city for inspiration, my dorm room, and the new people I would meet. I loved the competition. It drove me further into love with Fashion.
I spent my last year of high school taking the Fashion Portfolio class, perfecting every detail of what would determine my future. At school, I took an advanced placement art class where I decided to make artistic garments for my portfolio. There were many, many late nights as I also had a part time job to start saving for college and buy the ridiculous amounts of art supplies I used. I waited for my letter to come, getting a little more frustrated every time someone asked if I had heard back yet. I had thought about what might happen if I didn’t get in, but the thoughts hadn’t been very deep. I couldn’t really imagine not getting in. I had to. I had no idea what I would do if I didn’t.
When the day did come, it was a huge wave of relief in some ways. In other ways, I still had the same stresses. I just wanted to be there already. I had been waiting for so long.