While there are certainly outrageously excessive aspects of the fashion industry, like a Chanel or Dior Haute Couture show, the majority of the industry involves small, day-to-day behind the scenes work.
I think I was about 10 years old when I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. It was my birthday, and my grandmother gave me a children's fashion sketching kit. Equipped with a small lightbox and pre-designed garment templates, I was set. While it probably seemed like a fun arts and crafts activity to keep me busy, the small, unsuspecting kit changed the course of my life.
Prior to receiving the gift, I had been introduced to sewing by my grandmother and had attended my first sewing camp at age 8. I think she tried to acquaint all the girls in the family with sewing, but I was the only one to take any real interest. I'd spend my summers sewing Simplicity patterns here and there with her. And while I always enjoyed our time together, none of those experiences sparked an interest in me like the design kit she gave to me.
By the time I got to middle school, I'd doodle and sketch designs in the back of notebooks or on scrap paper. Even though I didn't know how to produce them, I just loved to think of new looks. I'd always imagine what it would be like to have one of my designs make it to the red carpet. So much so, that I used to joke with my friends saying that I'd dress them when they finally became famous. (If you're reading this, that offer still stands).
As I moved onto high school, I decided it was time to get more serious about sewing. I enrolled in a sewing class my sophomore year of high school and discovered that I had much to learn. I initially assumed that I'd learn all the tricks of the trade, but I was quickly set straight by coming to terms with my beginner status. Although I enjoyed the projects, they felt like a chore on top of my schoolwork. I stopped by junior year, but the classes hadn't entirely killed my passion for design.
By the time senior year rolled around, and it was time to choose a college, a major, and everything else about the rest of my life, I didn't have to think very long. I also didn't have to make very many decisions. During my senior year, I came to the realization that I'd never actually considered different career paths. Nothing else ever caught my interest- nothing. With ease and little concern, I chose to enroll at LSU in apparel design. I didn't know anything about the competitiveness of the industry, starting salaries, or relocating for potential jobs- I just went with it. There was nothing else I wanted to pursue a degree in.
The reality of this choice starts once I got to college. As a freshman, I didn't take many classes related to my major, but I still loved the idea of being a "fashion major." Cue the "oohs" and "ahhs." To work in the fashion industry?!? It was 10-year-old me's dream come true.
What 19-year-old me quickly realized, though, is that it wasn't going to be quite the dream I'd imagined.
When sophomore year rolled around and the six-hour sewing labs and six-hour illustration labs followed, I started to see my future for what it was really going to be. It wasn't going to be "The Devil Wears Prada" and rubbing elbows with celebrities. It was work — lots and lots of work. It was 8 extra hours a week in the sewing lab, it was staying up till 3 a.m. to finish illustrations, and it was anything but glamorous.
Gone was the false notion of a mysteriously fabulous life as a leading industry designer. My reality of the fashion industry shaped up to be a bit lackluster and mundane compared to the cinematic stereotypes people often think of. And yet, I still wouldn't trade it for the world. To me, my major has been a true "labor of love." The tedious, time-consuming work is what has made pursuing design such a worthy choice for me. Nothing brings me a greater sense of accomplishment than to create.
I've made quite a few garments during my time at LSU, I've illustrated a handful of mini collections, and I've even signed up for an elective couture technique class. As much frustration, impatience, and doubt as my major has brought me, it has also brought an equal amount of pride, excitement, and motivation.
As American radio host Earl Nightingale thoughtfully said, "never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." Yes, this "dream" of mine has been a long time coming, and it's also been an extensive amount of work, but I wouldn't have wanted to spend my time any other way. From churning out lightbox sketches at 10 years old to be able to produce the patterns for original designs at 21 years old, my dream of designing has continued to live on.