Vero, what got you interested in fashion design and what are your reasons for choosing fashion design as a career?
V.A.: I’ve always loved to sketch, and I painted a lot when I was a kid, it’s always been a passion. I remember at the age of twelve, sketching garments and playing ‘the designer’ just for fun. I absolutely loved it and knew that ‘Fashion Designing’ would be perfect for me. I knew I had a certain level of creativity that could be honed into a skill that I could continue to use. Obviously, it’s not just sketching that’s required, in fact only a small percentage of it is needed at my work today, but I was lucky enough to love working with the computer, love sewing and every other element of Fashion Design. I just don’t see myself doing anything else.
What is your current job designation and where?
V.A.: I work as a designer for the i.am clothing brand at Manhattan International Trade.
Wow! How did you get this job?
V.A.:I was looking for a job for about four months when I saw an advertisement in The Gazette; it was actually the first place in a long time that was looking to hire someone for a designer’s position. Of course I applied, got to meet with the head designer of handbags for an Industry brand. That head designer thought I would be a better fit as a designer for i.am, and she gave my C.V. to the head designer of that brand. At a later date I met with this other head designer and was told the next morning that I was selected for the job. I have now been working here since October of last year.
Where did you study fashion design and what prompted the choice?
V.A.:I studied Fashion Design at Campus Notre-Dame-de-Foy in Quebec City. I am originally from Lac-St-Jean, and I thought it would be easier to leave for Quebec City, which wasn’t too far away, considering I was young and only seventeen! And picking that school in Quebec City is a choice I will never regret!
Who or what are the influencing factors in your design choices or work?
V.A.:I am inspired by many things, more specifically art, commercials, magazines, fashion boutiques, a lot from the internet. Even though I work in men’s wear, I often absorb ideas from women’s wear, and tweak them. Also I can’t forget to mention that for me public places are an immense source of inspiration.
What was your first job in the industry and how did you get your foot in the door?
V.A.:In 2002, I moved to Montreal chasing my dream to work in the fashion industry. I really needed to find something quick but I had no experience. I went to every clothing company I could in person, dropping off my résumé, covered all of Chabanel too, hoping that somebody would hire me. I ended up with a manufacturer, ironing seams open. Barely three weeks into the job, I was thoroughly fed up, but I knew I had to do all the crap jobs in the beginning to get what I wanted.
What about your other jobs in the industry and how and when did you find those jobs?
V.A.:In 2002, I worked at Simons (flagship store, downtown Montreal) as a seamstress for garment repairs and adjustments. I am not really sure now, but I think I had applied to an advertisement somewhere for that position, got the job and ended up working there for almost a year. I learned a lot during that time, because sewing was not one of my best skills, and that experience gave me the chance to improve tremendously. In 2003, a friend who was doing her internship at Philippe Dubuc was offered a job as production assistant. She couldn’t accept it because she had to finish her course, and suggested that I do it. I was finally in fashion, but not ‘design’. It was a tough year…at the end of which they cut my position and for the next six weeks I was job-hunting again. I saw an advertisement in the newspapers for an Import technician at Buffalo Jeans, applied and got the job tang care of fit, trims, approvals and communication with orient. The job required proficiency in speaking and writing English, so I was lucky I got the job, even though my English wasn’t strong. It served me well because in eight months I became fluent in the language, and was ready when Twin Heart Clothing contacted me with the offer of a position as assistant designer. I worked there with many different brands and private labels, for almost three years. At which point I began to feel the need for something more creative. As luck would have it, I ended up here, at Manhattan.
Without naming names what were your worst moments in the industry? What, from your experience are the negative aspects of being in this industry for the designers who are working for commercial labels?
V.A.: There are no ’worst’ moments really… I think when I started I was young and didn’t know how to handle certain situations. But with time, I got stronger, so even if I were to return to the worst situations now, it wouldn’t be the same.
The negative aspect of fashion industry is money, money all the time! And I think that many designers are artistic souls, it is hard for an artist to think about the money aspect, or the productivity… it is really restricting on the creative side.
You had mentioned to us that you loved your current job. We'd love to know more about it; what are the best parts, and why you love it?
V.A.:Well, I know it’s still a pretty new job, and I am really excited about it for now. But for the first time, I have a real ‘designer’ position. I work on Will.i.am’s (from Black Eyed Peas) line. Even though it not my personal line, I really enjoy bringing my ideas to it. After agreeing with Will about the styling and feel of the season, I do my research, people from the office go to Europe to shop for new trends…I feed on all that info and build the line. My supervisor looks it over and we then pick the fabrics (for which we’ve done research too). I prepare tech packs, and then for the first prototypes, we go to China to work with our suppliers. Next we get our sales samples, and present them at the project shows. We have sales reps here in Montreal as well as L.A, New York, Toronto and Vancouver. Once we get the orders, the line goes into production, and at that point the production team takes control.
My favourite part about the job is working on the first prototypes, and watching how my ideas are crystallized from imagination to finished product. I love when we get the final garments, build the groups, merchandise them together and see the possibilities. And of course travelling is something I really enjoy.
My company also does some private label production for some customers, so once a while I work on those as side projects. I like having the chance to do different things; it keeps me from getting fed up easily.
Tell us something more about your current place of work, your coworkers, the environment etc.
V.A.:We have many different brands and departments, so I don’t work with everybody in the company. I love the group I work with; we are half design and half production. We take care of everything as a team and everybody works hard. I love that we have the combined energy to go through critical situations and rush times, and in the end accomplish so much with so little sometimes!
Couple of weeks after I started, Mira was hired. She is in charge of accessories for the line of bags, hats, socks, and scarves among other things. She also helps me a lot with the clothing part. We work on separate projects, but also have the chance to work together on private label projects.
It is really quiet here, and I truly appreciate that. My colleagues and I work as a team and don’t compete with each other. Each of us has our tasks and we’re always busy doing our part.
I really appreciate that my parents have always supported me in my career choice, even though it’s not an easy road. Not everyone ends up working right after school. I think because I know they really want me to succeed; it has pushed me to be better everyday, so I can show them that they were right. My husband always been there too, we’ve been together since I went to fashion school. He has always supported my choices, and he really wants me to be happy at my place of work.
What is your advice to someone who is looking for a job in the industry? What s the best way they can expect to get a job similar to yours?
V.A.:Just not expect to get the perfect job too quick. Like in any industry, you must show what you are able to do first. Accept all menial jobs for the learning steps they are meant to be, and you will only get better. You need to persevere, and don’t loose sight of what you were after in the first place…your dream.
Sounds like very good advice, thanks a lot for your time Véronique, we hope the information you have provided will be of help to others who are looking to follow a similar course.