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

 

Sickness Essentials

Well its that time of year again- sickness spreads through my cube farm like the plague and everyone around you has an opinion about your sickness. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that.. etc. Regardless, whether you work in a cube farm like me, or just also get sick during the winter time, I made a list of some of me essential items I need when I am sick!

First on my list is a pair of warm and fuzzy slippers! Now you probably shouldn’t wear slippers to work, but I do. Part of it is because they are warm and snuggly, partly because my slippers happen to also look like snow boots, and partly because I just want to. Granted I can only wear them on days its nice outside, IE no snow or ice. Other than that one snow storm, which melted pretty quick, the walk ways have been pretty clear and dry- allowing for slippers!

slippers

My next thing on my list is tissues! Not just tissues, but Kleenex cool touch OR Scotties! It makes my nose feel so good! Scotties are extra soft, and Kleenex makes my nose feel cool! Needless to say, in sick season, and 2 sinus infections later, I have gone through easily 8 boxes all by myself. I couldn’t get through these colds without a crazy amount of tissues! Now that I am thinking about it, I wonder if they made more sustainable issue. I mean I could use a hankie, but I hate the feeling and idea of blowing my nose or sneezing into the same sticky and gross hankie. But maybe someone could come up with an idea where we have recycled issues or something of that nature? Hmm..

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Speaking of running noses, my nose also gets all dried out and cracked- I end up looking like Rudolph the red nose rain deer! I always have a tiny bottle of Vaseline in my pocket! Its about the size of a quarter. It’s right in my make up bag and is a life saver- well lip saver!

What else I also have in my pocket, is some Carmex! Ever since it started getting cold out, my lips dry out! The one of the worst things about having a cold is waking up and having your lip split right up the middle! Ugh I hate winter colds!

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Another item I couldn’t live without- and this is even without a cold, is Vanilla Chai tea! When I was in college I went through a phase where I didn’t want to drink coffee- I call it a phase because now I am back to drinking coffee on  daily basis. But my roommate introduced me to this Vanilla Chai tea!- She even told me to add in a little honey and a drop of Vanilla Almond Milk, and you’re in business! And it was delicious! Now I keep a box of Vanilla Chai tea on my desk in the cube farm- it helps my get through the afternoon- and it especially helps me get through my sick days at work.

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What are your sickness essentials? I drink lots and lots of tea, but that’s because I don’t like soup! Stew sometimes I like, but not soup- I am not a fan of broth. I need things in the soup- like stew things- but I wont eat/drink just a bowl of broth. Yuck!

I am also a huge fan of hot chocolate! Ever since Dunkin Donuts started carrying flavored hot chocolate- uh I can’t get enough! My favorite is the Smore’s! Now I can’t stop at Dunkin every day- because I am basically broke, but every once in a while is nice! Sometimes I even get a dunkaccino- which is perfect, because its a blend of coffee and hot chocolate! What more could you want! In the winter I tend to drink more hot beverages then cold. Though I am a classic New Englander who will drink Ice Coffee in the winter. Don’t judge me. I also prefer Starbucks over Dunkin, If I am being completely honest. But ever since they removed most of the Starbucks from my area, leaving me only 1 completely out of the way to my 9-5, I tend to drink my favorite Starbucks coffee on the weekends. I guess I will live.

It seems the east coast has survived snowmagedon- towards Baltimore got over 40 inches! That’s 3 feet! CRAZY! Well our 8 inches of snow in here in Boston is almost gone- keep bringing on those 40 and 50 degree winter day. Well, regardless if we have a real winter or not- stay warm and healthy my friends!

Did you know I am launching a plus size jacket line- that will be perfect for next winter! Check it out and be in the know! www.rose-riot.com

-A

© Copyright Rose Riot 2016- All rights reserved.

It all begins with a sketch..

Hello! Welcome to the Koker Chronicles! I renamed my blog- as this is the beginning of my journey- my chronicles if you will. (And my last name is Koker, so it just kina fit). I want to take you into my world of fashion design and the makings of a made in the USA, Plus Size Fashion Brand and Company. Here I will show you my behind the scenes of what it is to really launch a brand and make it work, and of what it takes to get there.

As the title of my blog post today states, it all begins with a sketch. When I first went to fashion design school (Mount Ida College in Newton, MA), I always started with a sketch first. I always had this vision in my head of what I wanted to create- I could see it. My sketching skills weren’t the best- but that was what fashion school was for- honing and perfecting my skills and learning new techniques to justify the visions in my head and realize them on paper.

I have always loved jackets- there was something about them that made me feel strong, and powerful and chic. In fashion school I would make one of my favorite tailored jackets- it was an ivory jacket with forest green contrast cuffs, collar, and buttons. God I loved that coat. I wished that I had made it in MY size. My model was beautiful, and a size 8. The jacket fit her perfectly.

1Ivory Coat 2009

 See it pictured above. Its a lovely jacket and I did spend a lot of time on it. But it got me thinking- why couldn’t I have this jacket in MY size? So, I started sketching..
sketch 2
This jacket would translate just fine into a size range that is plus size (14-28). I might even change the colors. Now that I think of it, I believe the original design was intended to be black and white, or white and black, but due to time constraints of college and deadlines, I ended up going for this ivory and forest green combo.
I love sketching. Its one of my favorite parts of the design process. I think one of the hardest things for me to accept was how the design process changes over time through development. Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn’t actually look good in 3D, or vice versa. Sometimes the fabric you find just doesn’t want to be molded into the design you envision. The hardest part of design for me was letting the design transform into what It needed to be; not being so stuck on your initial design. Sometimes the transformation was even better than what you expected- that’s the fun of it.
sketch 1
Keep an eye out for more sketches!
Did you know I am launching a Plus Size Jacket Line that will be manufactured right here in the USA? Sign up here www.rose-riot.com and be the first to know!
Stay Classy!
-A
© Copyright Rose Riot 2016