A Yearly Reflection: Looking Back and Moving Forward

As we find ourselves at the end of yet another year, we look back to reflect on the good, the bad and everything in between. It seems like we were celebrating the New Year just five minutes ago and we begin to ask ourselves how? Did we notice time just ticking by? What were we doing that whole time? Did we grow? What did we do? Did we remember to pick our heads up from our cubicles and actually see the world changing around us? Did we notice?

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Love this sewing clock.. sew little time!

I have been asking myself these questions for the last few months as the year was coming to an end. The older I get the faster time seems to go. This year I turned 26- the ripe age of another reality of adulthood coming to fruition; getting booted off my parent’s health and dental insurance. It wasn’t pretty at first, but I did survive.

 

This year I made the choice to stop depending on anyone or anything financially. Part of being an adult is learning to handle things ourselves, including our money. I reject the idea of being a princess waiting to be saved. No one will save you, you have to save yourself and be your own prince charming. I decided this year to take my finances by the balls and make them my bitch; taking control of my financial life and my future with a clear budget and a plan. The only person I need to depend on is me.  I find myself a year later- further down the road of independent financial adulthood.  And I must say it feels just fine!

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I have realized over this past year that this life is entirely my own journey and no one else’s. There is no set course and no set time table. What I choose to do with it, how I spend my time and money, and with who, is up to me. Not everyone is going to understand my journey (and yours), and that is totally OK- they don’t have to. I reject the idea of a predetermined time frame of which I have to obtain certain mile stones in my life. I will decide if and when the time is right for me and if I want those things at all. Marriage?  Probably. Kids? Maybe. When?  IF and When I decide.  This was a year of choosing for me and I chose to continue to pursue my fashion career and build my plus size fashion business and I couldn’t be happier. I did also get engaged this year! (Read all about it here)- But when we decide to walk down the aisle is up to us.

Looking back, one of my proudest moments this year was being a part of a special collaboration of plus size bloggers who represent style above a size 22. Check it out here! This is a huge deal because women who are a size 22+ are often left out of AD campaigns and online shopping options. I am honored to be chosen to represent an underserved segment of plus size women. I put my big girl pants on and faced my fears of being in front of the camera. I put on one of my very own hand made plus size dresses and rocked it!

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I also got to catch up with some of these amazing women in NYC during one of the biggest plus size fashion weeks around! Looking back this year was full of excitement and adventure! NYC is like no where else in the world. You get the chance to create who you are and be who you want to be. This summer while in NYC I had the best selling season of my hand made plus size dresses ever! I got there and did my very best- and this time, it worked! And the best part was, it made me happy, because I was doing what I loved (and I was making other people happy too!)

You should do what makes you happy and define your own version of success. I have decided that the plus size fashion entrepreneur life is for me. Level: Difficult- Challenge Accepted. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is to not let anyone tell you, you can’t. I was brought up with the notion that “if you tell me I can’t, I will show you I CAN.” And I try to live that every day; remind myself that it is OK to fail, as long as I get back up and try again, for as long as it takes.

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I don’t always know the destination of my future because it continues to evolve. You do not have to have it all figured out. Trust me, no one does, and if they tell you they do- they’re lying to you. Don’t lose sight of your dreams, but accept that your dreams can change. Like most young adults I am continuing to try to figure it out, the best I can. Trying to build the life I want and choosing to believe and invest in myself. And you should too!

Appreciate all those small steps, no matter how tiny and allow yourself the feeling of joy and pride as you reflect on your year. You did this! Look at how far you have come! Savor in the moment! Get off your damn iphones and let it all in. Take a minute to stop and look around every once in a while, if you don’t, you just might miss it! Reflect and appreciate yourself and what you have achieved. Make a plan, and keep kicking ass in 2017!

Want to know what I am up to for 2017? Sign up on my mailing list and find out here!

Rock on!

-A

Full Figured Fashion Week and The Curvy Con! 2016

Hello again and welcome to the work-a-holic chronicles- I mean The Koker Chronicles; the tales of a plus size workaholic, entrepreneur fashionista!

This year I had the pleasure of attending Full Figured Fashion week’s Celebrate My Size Expo, and The Curvy Con! Both events are held in NYC every june! I am not going to lie, its my favorite time of year! These events are not to be missed!

Well some of you may know, In my spare time I design and sell plus size hand made dresses. I was fortunate enough to be able to do a pop up shop at both of these amazing events.

First, I love NYC. There is something about that city that makes me feel like I have returned home. The familiar streets, fashion ave, cheap $1 pizza slices off 38th street, there is nothing quite like NYC. I return several times a year; sometimes do to a pop-up shop and other times to find fabrics and sometimes when I have a life and am not working (which is a rare occasion) I do find time to visit friends and have a glass of wine!

A few years ago at the Full Figured Fashion Week event in NYC, I met my friend and fabulous fashion blogger Farrah Estrella of the Estrella Fashion Report. She is an amazing fashion blogger, and a great friend. I am so happy to have met her in NYC. We started talking, and hit it off right away! And she is super sweet, she has even showed her support by purchasing a few of my hand made plus size dresses! Did I mention she looks kick ass in them? That’s a photo of us below!

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Below is a photo of my floral scuba dress that sold out while I was doing pop up’s in NYC. Doesn’t it look great on Farrah?? Want to see what else I have? Check out my shop here!

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On the day after I arrived in NYC, was the Full Figured Fashion Week Expo. This was an event hosted by Plus Model Magazine, Full Figured Fashion week and Fruit of the Loom! This is an event where you get to meet and greet various plus size brands and do some shopping! Big and small brands were there! Boots by Pamela, Yona New York, and of course, me, ASK Fashion!  There was also the main sponsor, Fit for Me, bu Fruit of the Loom. I must say they have a fantastic underwear line out (Fit for Me) and one of my favorite parts was getting free samples to try! And I must say, I love them!

Here are some more photos from the event!

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One of my favorite things about attending these Expo’s and Conventions, is all the great bloggers, shoppers, friends and more that I get to meet there! There are so many inspirational women, all gathered in one place to come together and be fabulous. I saw shoppers of all shapes and sizes, all rocking their own personal styles and it was quite fun! Having gone a few times, I tend to run into people I know.

The next day, was The Curvy Con. Below is Jess Baker: The Militant Baker. She wrote an amazing book called “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” Check her out here! She is amazing and always so fun to see! I first her met her in Boston on her book tour! She had come by my local Lane Bryant in Braintree, and of course I had to meet her and buy her book! Her book is also awesome and full of truth and love!

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This year was my first time at The Curvy Con. It was a two day event of friends, shopping, seminars and more! Sponsored by JC Penny, who just recently launched a new plus size ad campaign, that you gotta see! (Jess Baker, above, is in the campaign!) Check it out on youtube! JC Penny is also working with Project Runway winner, Ashley Nell Tipton, who is a brand ambassador that designed JC Pennys newest plus size brand addition, Boutque+.

Ashley Nell Tipton

My other favorite part of these amazing plus size events is all of the body love and positivity. I took a picture in front of the Curvy Cons Instagram wall. I loved it!

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I also met Alysse Dalessandro from Ready to Stare (bottom left) And Emily Ho of Authentically Emmie-(bottom right) two amazing fashion bloggers that I have followed for a long time! Check out their blogs! Also, another wonderful woman I met last year during Full Figured Fashion Week, who also stared on the hit tv show, Big Women, Big Love. She is amazing, full of fun and laughter! Running into her is always a fun time; Sabrina Severance. (Top right). And of course, the two lovely ladies who are the creators of the Curvy Con- Chastity Garner of Garner Style, and Ce Ce Olisa, Plus Size Princess!

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My absolute favorite part of participating in a Pop Up shop, is being able to meet and talk to fellow plus size fashionistas! I just love getting to know people, and hear what their needs and wants are, because after all we all want to be heard! I was so excited to see my customers light up with delight when they tried on one of my new hand made plus size dresses! They light up inside, just like I do when I am making them! Its an incredible feeling.What an amazing time! I can’t wait to go back next year!

Did you miss me in NYC?! Well don’t worry, I am participating in another Pop Up Shop in Boston Ma- during Boston Curvy Fashion Week on July 30th! Get your tickets here! Can’t wait? Check out my Etsy shop here!

So speaking of work-a-holic, I am also working on a new plus size jacket line, if you want to get in on that action, make sure you sign up here! Be the first to know when we launch, an exclusive behind the scenes look at building a plus size fashion company from the ground up.

 

Fashion School Series Part 1: Rejection

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes looking back on past events you can pin-point and exact decision or moment that your entire life changed or shifted.

The first time I realized this was when I was 21, looking back on my college experience. Like every fashion design student my dream was to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. If you went to FIT you were going to make it- that was the mutual understanding: you would be among the elite fashion designers in the world. When the rejection letter came in the mail and it hit me like a brick to the face! My dreams had just been crushed! Then another rejection letter came, and then another! No one wanted me! I felt hopeless and utter shock! How was I going to pursue my dream of becoming a plus size fashion designer if no one would give me the chance?

I applied not only to FIT, (Fashion Institute of Technology) but also to Parsons: The New School of Design: Tim Gunn’s school. (Now Project Runway at the time had only aired its 1st season back in 06 or 07′- and did not have the following it has today- and I was only 16 and could not apply!) When that second, third and forth rejection letters barreled through my door, I couldn’t believe it! So upset at myself. I was convinced that all of my self taught efforts had been for nothing! I should have been so proud of myself; I learned so much on my own, even made my own prom gowns without any formal training and here I was being told I wasn’t good enough.

Not going to college was not an option- I wanted that college experience and I wanted to learn what I knew others could teach me about my craft. I mean I could always just transfer right? Begrudgingly I also submitted an application to a local private college (my mothers alma mater) Mount Ida College in Newton MA.  And don’t you know I was accepted! Now I wasn’t thrilled to receive the acceptance- but I was relieved that at least I could go somewhere. I just wanted someone to give me a chance.

I just have a stick it out a year- I don’t have to stay, I told myself. The school was smaller, and local (only 40 minutes from my home town). If I just stayed a year, I could reapply and transfer to my dream school- FIT. To my surprise, I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. My freshman class of designers had 35 students (this was a huge number of designers!) It was eye opening that some of the students I met had never sewed before in their lives! I thought- how could you want to be a fashion designer and have never sewed before? Well I guess you have to start sometime! Other classmates I met, even went to a high school that offered fashion design! Now I was impressed- I only wished I would have had that available to me!

Now I couldn’t decide if I was ahead or behind? I was so confused. The whole point of going to college was to be taught. I left my interview at FIT (I knew I blew it the moment I walked out of that door) feeling totally disheartened and frustrated. All of the other applicants I spoke too seemed to be almost twice my age, and have degrees in other subjects. Should I have been this accomplished before even applying? I didn’t get it.

The discovery that changed everything was that my current local small college offered a double major program. This was a new opportunity that might not be available to me elsewhere. I was already enrolled at the college, on my way to one degree, but why not go for two? Many students who graduate with a fashion design degree walk across that stage thinking that they are the next Valentino or Dior, and often that isn’t the case; not by a long shot. Fashion Design students (regardless of which college) tend to get slammed back into reality of the real world of fashion; interning, production, management, international business, marketing etc. Its much more then I think most bargain for.

This double major for me was a game changer. What if I could get a degree in not only fashion design, but fashion merchandising and marketing? I could learn not only how to make clothing, but how to sell it to! This lit my fire! My goal was always to make a living doing what I love, and this opportunity was another way to get there. And if I decided to continue onto graduate school, my merchandising degree would open that door, should I ever choose to walk through it.

My life changed the moment I decided I would stay at Mount Ida and work to receive two degrees in four years! Yes that’s right, 2 degrees in 4 years. I made a plan, and with some luck and careful consideration, executed it. Now I was one of Mount Ida’s first ever double majors to graduate in the history of the college (graduating mind you, with over 230 credits ((the average major is about 125)) and I might add, with a 3.9 GPA (Suck it doubters!)

The double major was a huge factor but it wasn’t everything. I had truly found an amazing support system. I was far enough away from home that I felt I had true independence, but close enough that I was only a short car ride away.  The longer I stuck with fashion design, the fewer and fewer designers remained. Remember that I told you we started with 35? Well out of those 35, we graduated only 8! EIGHT! Including me! Fashion is one of those majors with huge drop out rates; once students realize the long studio classes and work involved after hours, it becomes too demanding and too much.

Fashion design is not like Project Runway, you don’t just get some money, go to Mood Fabrics, and whip up a nice dress in an hour. Its measurements, and fit, and mathematics, and entire world of fabrications and technology, etc. I could go on for hours! It takes hours upon hours of hard work, endless sleepless nights, seam rippers and yards upon yards of fabric, and dedication. And sometimes, you have to just make it again. It really is blood, sweat and tears; but those who persevere and have the tenacity to endure, will succeed.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be during my time at Mount Ida I would meet a professor who would become the gateway to my now full time job in fashion. If I had changed schools, I life would have ended up drastically different. I wouldn’t have the day job I have now, working in men’s big and tall fashion in international business, global sourcing and product development. And for sure I would not have two degrees like I do now. I wouldn’t have met the same people, networked and push my career forward in its current direction.

I also might not have had the confidence to do what I love, despite the world telling me that I wasn’t good enough. In the word’s of Jim Carey- during a graduation speech he gave..” the eyes are not only viewers, but they are projectors, and the title of that story is, I’ll never be enough”. The world will always be telling you why you can’t do, what you can’t have etc. You have to decide to not give a shit and do it anyway. Go ahead and doubt me, you just make me want it that much more.  And again in the word’s of Jim Cary.. “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love”.

I am not a believer in fate, only in choice; cause and effect. But sometimes what looks like a set back or a major disappointment is really one door closing and another opening. Its hard to see at the time in this moment, but trust in yourself and in the process. You will get where you need to be, it just might not have been the way you intended; and that’s OK. My first life lesson: Success is not a straight road.

Thanks so much for reading! Did you have a college experience that way similar? Did you overcome people telling you no? I would love to see you comment!

Want to check out what I am doing now? Sign up for my bi monthly newsletter and get all the details and updates! Sign up here! www.rose-riot.com

-A

 

The ring I have been waiting for…

No- its not an engagement ring- although that would be nice. ::Wink Wink::

On my most recent Torrid shopping trip I spotted this black and silver rose ring and I had to have it! Not only was it pretty, but it was a real ring- that actually had a size. Rather than those rings that are “one size” and have that stupid stretchy back to them. I hate those rings! They always pinch my fingers!

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It is so hard finding jewelry that fits my big fingers. My ring finger is between a 10 and an ll, which is unheard of for fashionable costume jewelry. I usually find something I like, and it’s almost always not in my size. That seems to be a common theme for us plus size ladies. Jewelry is the worst.

Unless I shop at a specialty retailer like Lane Bryant, Avenue, or Torrid, I won’t find jewelry that is big enough for me to wear. The most common issue besides rings are the bangle bracelets; or just bracelets in general. My wrist is a solid 8″ and unfortunately most of the bracelets I like are either 7 or 7.5″ inches. Ugh.

However- I do also believe in shopping small whenever possible! There is a jewelry company called J Ashley Jewelry who sells Plus Size Bangle bracelets. Not only are they awesome quality and hand crafted, but they are made for a bigger wrist! My favorite design is below! Check out her shop here!

Jess Jewelry

Its that time of year- finally spring is on it’s way! Spring is my favorite time to wear more jewelry- there is something about the warm weather that just makes me happier and want to dress even funkier. Accessorizing my look is one of my favorite parts of getting dressed!

The weather is perfect! Now in the mid 40’s and 50’s its perfect for a kick ass leather jacket! I am so excited to be working on my newest jacket project! Find out more by signing up for my newsletter here!

Stay Classy!

-A

 

Valentines Day, Shmalentines Day: Fun things to do this Valentines Day weekend!

Valentines Day, Shmalentines Day: Fun things to do this Valentines Day weekend!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe Valentines Day is right around the corner. It seems like New Years just happened! Time is flying by!

I have been searching the local scene for fun and interesting things to do this Valentines Day; single or taken, these adventures and things will sure make your day a special one!

Now I am not one for big expensive teddy bears and overpriced roses. To me, love is something that does not need to be shown on a day that society demands it to be. For me the special unexpected surprises mean 10000 times more then a crappy box of chocolates would on Valentine’s day. Those early morning coffee and breakfast in bed surprises, or late night ice cream, or spontaneous driving adventures, or a fresh bundle of flowers left on my night stand- those small things are the ones that mean the most.

Now- don’t get me wrong, don’t make the excuse to be a shut in this weekend (or do because it will literally be zero, yes 0 degrees this weekend)- But there are super fun, local,  and exciting things to do this Valentines weekend worth mentioning! If you want to brave the cold- look into my fabulous Valentines day/weekend Ideas below!

1.) The Get Mortified Live Show in Cambridge MA.

“Witness a night of adults telling stories about their lives by sharing their most mortifying childhood artifacts (diaries, letters, lyrics, poems, home movies)… in front of total strangers”

Human connection is the bonding experience that we all need! That is why Post Secret does so well- we all want to feel connected. What a great way to spend “Singles Awareness Day” then with other people who want to tell their mortifying stories! Go alone, or with a partner or friend and you will surely have a some laughs!

Get Mortified tickets here

2.) Paint Nite!

Never been to a Paint Nite? Single on Valentines Day and wanting to meet some other single ladies? This is the perfect place for you! Wine, dine and get artsy! Easy and fun painting instructions, and no experience needed! Just a fun night out! You even get to take home your masterpiece, and treasure it for always!! Fun paintings and locations to choose from all Valentines Day Weekend! Hurry- these tickets sell out quickly!

Paint Nite Tickets Here!

3.) Single Date Night “Netflix and Chill Style”

Who says you can’t “Netflix and Chill” by yourself! I don’t know about you, but a big bottle of wine and some alcoholic ice cream is a night to look forward too- that and Netflix! A new line of Alcoholic Ice Cream, called Tipsy Scoop is now available at your local Daddy’s Dairy!

If Daddy’s Dairy wasn’t already awesome enough with its 3 locations (Stoughton, Brockton and Randolph MA) and their offerings of over 200 soft serve flavors, now they have this amazing Adult Made Ice Cream! Flavor shown below is Strawberry Chocolate Martini Kisses- pair that up with a box of chocolates and a bottle of “Fridays Brand” Mudslide and you’re in business! Who says you can’t spoil yourself on Valentines Day! Treating yourself to a lovely romantic night is just what the doctor ordered!

Have a Hubby? There is plenty of this alcoholic ice cream to share! Just don’t fight over the remote!

More ice cream

4.) Naked at the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt

What a lovely night at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston MA! This is not an episode of “Dating Naked”- Actually this is a version of Watson Adventure’s scavenger hunt! Risqué works of art and nude statues are on the scavenger list! Discover this amazing museum with a friend, or you significant other for a lovely and fun night at the museum!

$40, Friday, February 13, 6:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, February 14 and 15, 1 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, watsonadventures.com.

5.) Boston Wine School

Love and Chocolate? I think Yes! Explore chocolate and wine pairings, and dinner at this local Boston Wine School! A Saturday night event is perfect. I mean what’s more perfect then chocolate and wine anyway? Take your friends or your significant other- chocolate and wine- hell yes!

When:  Saturday, February 13, 6:30pm-9:30pm Boston Wine School, 1354 

Get your tickets here

6.) How to be Single- The Movie!

A movie is never out of style on Valentines Day, or any Friday night for that matter! Grab your girl friends and get ready for a belly full of laughs with this comedy hitting this screens today! Rebel Wilson is a total rock star- not just as a body positive advocate who recently launched a plus size clothing line with Torrid, but is a fabulous actress and hilarious to watch! You won’t want to miss this movie! Check your local movie theatre for listings!

Get your Braintree MA tickets here!- This AMC theatre has RECLINING/assigned Seating! Very very comfortable, and you don’t have to rush to try to get seats! Honestly there is no other way to go to the movies!

Just a few local ideas of how to spend this Valentines Day weekend! Whatever you do, stay warm and have fun! Speaking of the cold weather, did you know I am currently working on an exclusive plus size fashion jacket line? Get in the know! Sign up today! www.rose-riot.com

Stay Classy my friends!

-A