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!

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-A

 

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

ASK Fashion At Full Figured Fashion Week 2015!

First I want to say hello again, and welcome back to my blog! This is the ramblings of a quirky 25 year old on this crazy journey known as life as a plus size fashion designer and entrepreneur! It is quite a ride let me tell you! Today I am highlighting my experience at the infamous Full Figured Fashion Week in NYC.

This year Full Figured Fashion Week had many sponsors- the biggest sponsor was Fruit of the Loom- who launched a new plus size, and new fit underwear line. I just want to say those ladies were AMAZING and I literally have a least 60 new pairs of underwear! (And I must say they are fabulous thus far!- microfiber being my favorite!)

There were several events held that week- all which were fabulous!

The first I attended was the buyer/press conference that was held on Tuesday June 16th. I got to meet a lot a awesome people! I had a little table set up, with my business cards, portfolio, pictures and logo. It was really cool. This event is the first time you really get a chance to talk to anyone (well, it was for me, as this was the first event I was attending). See below a picture of my little table!

I am also currently obsessed with panoramic views! See the picture below of the entire room! So cool!

It was an awesome event! I got to meet up with a few friends of mine! It was a really nice meet and greet moment- a perfect beginning to the week!

In between- there were seminar type events going on as well. One of the best parts of FFFweek is all the amazing people you get to meet. I met up with friends I made last year, and made even more new friends this year! After a business event that we held- we all went and got lunch together! Sharing experiences, swapping stories and advise- it was amazing. There are so many women out there, business owners, designers, models, editors, etc and they have so much to share- its quite incredible. I must say- one of the things that makes FFFweek so special, is that it is a space where women are just helping each other up and through; such a supportive group.

The next day was my favorite day- it was the day of the white boat cruise! The fitting for the designers and models takes place during the day- but the all white boat cruise is my favorite evening festivity! The fitting went well- as it usually does; the models are fantastic and prepared! It went pretty smoothly, with only a few minor adjustments. Needle and thread in hand!

Right after the fitting, its a mad dash back to the hotel- to get ready for the boat cruise! This year I was running late- as usual- and I couldn’t hail a cab for the life of me! I was so afraid I was going to miss the boat- I ended up getting a ride from a bucket bike driver! He was so nice, and to his word- he got me from 37th, down to Pier 41 in just under 15 minutes! If I had taken a cab, I would have missed the boat!

My bike peddler was really funny and made the trip really fun! So needless to say I got there in time! And even had time to spare! While we waited I found friends of mine, other designers, models etc and took pictures! They even had a fake Instagram picture frame to take pictures in!

I mean take a look at our bad ass boat!

This boat was really kick ass! It had 4 floors, and you could look down onto the dance floor from the second balcony floor! Just look at how kick ass this view is!!

Luckily it didn’t rain- although is was VERY windy that day! My friends nicknamed me Marilyn, because my white dress had a life of its own, and just would not stay in place! The wind would blow and skirt of my dress went up with it! Haha- luckily I was with a very awesome group of inspiring women, who just had a great time! We all had a good laugh! I met up again with Karen Ward and her Husband- of “Her Big Sister’s Closet” up in Canada, and with Madeline Jones of Plus Model Magazine! They were nice enough to take a picture with me! wooo!

Thursday was a nice quiet day. My boyfriend came to the city to support me, and of course to go to our favorite restaurant to celebrate our 4th anniversary! Woo! Our favorite restaurant is a small place called Ninja. It is amazing! A little on the pricey side, but we only go once a year. If you have never been, I highly suggest it! They have an underground/ ninja like atmosphere and all the waiters play the part of ninjas. Each table has a little cubby type place, with sliding wood doors for a little bit of privacy. Its hilarious! The waiters come out of no where and scare the crap out of you! Its really a great time!

After ordering dinner, one of the “ninjas” who is really a magician comes to entertain you for a bit. And I must say, the last few times we have been the magicians have been incredible! We always give them a good tip, and one magician, (all are wearing sleeveless shirts btw)- made a potato come out of thin air. But really- he did- I couldn’t logically figure it out, and it was a real potato- I held it in my hand after. I was like- holy shit!

I just love this picture of the lantern that sits outside Ninja. From the outside it literally just looks like a door. When you step in, you meet a hostess, that brings you to the elevator, and you descend down into the little ninja world. Its quite an experience. This is in NYC, down in the Tribeca area.

Then it was Friday! Show Day!

Photo By Farrah Estrella

That’s me! I love that I now get to say- that I am wearing an ASK Fashion Dress. How cool is that?!? I finally get to wear my own brand! The coolest part I think is seeing my company name in the label. That was surreal.

The entire experience of FFFweek is surreal- as it goes by so fast! You prepare for months to get ready for the once a year fabulous week! And then its over! I can’t believe its already been a month since I was in NYC! Like honestly, where did the time go?

The fashion showcase went by quickly. This year- Gwen Devoe- the fearless leader and kick ass fashionista of FFFweek- made things a little different this year. This year, all the designers were interviewed right before the collections walked down the runway. That was pretty cool- and really exciting. Your in such a state of euphoria that you feel like your floating. Honestly its the best feeling in the world.

And then its over! So exhausted after the show- we hauled ourselves back to the hotel! Thanks to Fruit of the Loom- the main sponsor of FFFweek- I walked away with at least 60+ new pairs of underwear. Not only did we get new pairs in the gift bags from the showcase- (my parents and grandparents each got a bag filled with underwear) but I was given even more underwear at the vendor event earlier in the week! I am happy to say, we found homes for almost all of the underwear- many different ladies are happy; as we received many different sizes.

We finished our NYC trip on Saturday- at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My boyfriend and I spent almost 6 hours! And we barely finished the first floor! We have to go back to explore the upstairs portion. However we did stumble upon the fashion exhibit “Through the Looking Glass: China”.

It was AMAZING! Below is the Buddha dress! This dress was in the center of the room. On the edges of the room were many different types of Buddha-esque statues. It was pretty damn cool.

The trip to NYC was truly an amazing experience! What a blast! I still cannot believe its been a month since we were there! How fast it comes and goes!

They have already announced the dates for FFFweek 2016! Mark your calendars now! See you next year!

Were you at any of the events? Which events did you enjoy the most? Have you been to NYC? What other kinds of events have you been too? I would love to know!

Stay Classy!

-A

Ⓒ ASK Fashion LLC & Ⓒ Rose Riot

ASK Fashion Goes to Full Figured Fashion Week 2015!

I am SOO Excited to share with all of you that I will be heading back to NYC for Full Figured Fashion Week 2015! I am so VERY excited! This year is going to be better then ever! I have already made the hotel arrangements!

I cannot believe in only 46 days we will be back in NYC! Wow! Almost a year has gone by since we showcased last season in NYC with FFFweek.

I must say- I am VERY grateful to all the independent plus size design support that is out there! Especially thankful to Gwen Devoe- the master mind and kick ass creator behind FFFweek- for not only providing this amazing event, opportunity and audience, but for taking a chance on me and my small company.

Our Indie Designer showcase takes place on Friday June 19th in NYC. We will also have a vendor table at the Celebration of Women event- which also takes place in 6/19. Don’t miss out! We will have our entire Spring 15 line available for sale!

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I am so very excited to be returning to NYC this summer! Boston is my home, but NYC is my city! I just love going into the fashion district and feeling like I am home.

I just know the events that Gwen Devoe is going to have are going to be bigger and better than ever! I cannot wait.

The famous white boat cruise is probably one of my favorite events. Of course I will be sporting an ASK FASHION White Dress- soon to be available for sale! Stay tuned! Last summer I also wore my pink converses to this white cruise- my feet were in such bad shape that day. BUT it was funny, that Gwen had also worn her converses too! That made me feel better. (I wasn’t the only one, not wearing high heels)

My other favorite events are also the showcases of course! I just love seeing all the new fashion! Its so cool and interesting how each designer truly has their own voice- I love it! Everything is so different and that is what makes it so great!

I also LOVE all the models! The casting team does an amazing job choosing these girls! They are the best! They are truly professional and so easy to work with! It really makes my job easier as a designer- when I have the best team to work with, and I am so happy and grateful that I am provided with a truly kick ass team! Couldn’t ask for better!

Stay tuned for more! Only 46 days until FFFweek Begins! I hope to see you there! Have you ever been? What fashion shows have you attended and/or wanted to attend? What did you think? I would love to know!

-ASK!

Ⓒ ASK Fashion LLC & Ⓒ Rose Riot- All Rights Reserved