ERIKA SEIKO TOGASHI

DESIGNING IN PARADISE

DESIGNER & BUSINESS OWNER of SEPTEMBER-THE LINE

 

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Profession / Business / Title: Designer & Business Owner of SEPTEMBER the Line – sustainable surf & swimwear; Jane of All Trades

Website: www.septembertheline.com

List of brands designed for: Patagonia, The North Face, J.Crew, Deus Ex Machina

How long have you been in your profession? 15 years

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Real talk- PRO’s vs CONS in your profession? It’s not ever what you think it’s going to be. 

PROS: The people.  I’ve met some of my closest friends through work.  I wouldn’t be where I am now in my career if it weren’t for the amazing mentors and role models I’ve met throughout the years.  I’ve been so fortunate that at all the companies I’ve worked for, the level of respect, encouragement and compassion towards each other in the design department has been next level.  I know there are many companies where that is not the case.  Being creative and seeing your vision come to life.   There is a great joy and feeling of accomplishment when you see people appreciating and loving your designs.Being able to travel to all parts of the world for work.  Seeing and experiencing other cultures and see parts of the world, I would never otherwise see.   Product testing gear I was designing for pro athletes let me also snowboard, climb and mtbike to some amazing places on earth.  This is unique to the working in the Outdoor Industry and I didn’t have it working for fashion brands – but the work life balance that is highly encouraged and a big part of each companies’ culture. I didn’t appreciate it until I no longer had it!

CONS: You only really design about 10% of the time.  The rest is dealing with the backend of design ie: dealing with factories, ordering fabric, fitting samples, reviewing patterns, QC and the list goes on…POLITICS of the game.  In the Outdoor Industry it is still very much a boys club and well, if you’re not a boy, the uphill climb is that much more difficult.  In the fashion world, it’s all about who you know, and what you wea & where you went and if you’re not able to play that game…well….you’re most likely going to be on the outside circle.    

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Best moment in your career? When I was hired to design for J.Crew Men’s after everyone said it would be nearly impossible to move from designing in the Outdoor Industry to designing in the fashion industry without a design degree. And right now is another best moment in my career, after 1.5years of product testing, launching my own surf & swimwear brand – SEPTEMBER the Line.

Most challenging moment in your career? Taking that final leap and really committing to SEPTEMBER the Line 100%.  Everything associated with SEPTEMBER is me – my heart and soul and putting it out in the world can be really challenging. I no longer can hide my designs behind the mask of another brand. 

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What advice can you offer potential designers? It’s never as glamorous as it looks from the outside, but it’s way more rewarding then you can ever imagine.  Listen, learn, be patient and earn your dues.  Hustle, put in the long, late hours and understand that there is so much more to learn about being a designer than what you learned in school.   Respect everyone you work with regardless of what department they work in.  Trim development or QC testing might not sound as ‘glamourous’ as being a designer, but it’s a team effort and without everyone collectivity working and respecting each other – the product will always suffer. 

Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry? It’s been over 4 years since working for a US based brand and I hope things have changed since then, but the majority, if not all, brands I’ve designed for have been lead by white males and it was a real exclusive ‘boy’s club” and if you of a different race or gender – it could be real isolating.   From what I hear and read, that’s changing – but I wouldn’t be able to tell you first hand.  I’m a little out of touch being in Bali.   

Favorite inspirational quote? You don’t need a lot of things, you just need the right things. 

#LEAP #DITCHTHEPOLITICS #DESIGNYOUROWNPARADISE

#SEEYOURSELFHERE

 

 

 

NATALIE NELSON

MOOD INDIGO

HEAD OF DENIM & DENIM DESIGNER  AT ARITZIA

 

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Profession / Business / Title:  Head of Denim / Denim Designer at Aritzia

Website: NatalieNelson.studio

List of brands designed for: Sass & Bide, Levi Strauss & Co.., Gap, and Aritzia

How long have you been in your profession? 19 years

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Real talk- PRO’s vs CONS in your profession?

PRO’s: Seeing your work out in the world. Making social and environmental impact through product decisions. Inspiration shopping. Traveling around the world.

CON’s: Long days. Crazy deadlines. Meetings about meetings.

Best moment in your career? Teaching women in Vietnam how to improve their families, achieve independence, while understanding their rights, through training them for finishing roles in a Levi’s development center there.
 

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Most challenging moment in your career? Faced with a verbally abusive, and physically imposing manager, finding the inner strength to stand strong, despite knowing that it could affect my future career. Treating my moment of adversity in a manner that would set a strong example for my daughter and other people coming up in the design industry. 

What advice can you offer potential designers? Walk before you run. You get great through practice, and experience. Great designers know their constraints, and know them because of the time they put in doing the work. 
 

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Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry? I am seeing more and more POC in the design industry. Progress is being made, and I look forward to more people pursuing the hard work and education that will bring them into, and add diversity to the world of great designers.

Favorite inspirational quote? "One may know how to conquer without being able to do it."

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#DREAM  #BEBRAVE  #SEEYOURSELFHERE

HAROLD ARANDIA

MAKER OF THINGS

SR. FOOTWEAR DESIGNER ADIDAS BASEBALL

 

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Profession / Business / Title:  Artist / Maker of Things / Sr. footwear Designer Adidas Baseball 

How long have you been in your profession? 15 years in Footwear with  gaps in between creating other projects.

Brands worked for: Adidas, Asics, Unfold, Chocolåtl, Food Architecture & my own company MRARANDIA

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Real talk- PRO’s vs CONS in your profession? 

PROS/// PEOPLE. The riches I have received have been in the mentors, friendships and in some cases the extended family I have made. Meeting these different people has enriched my perspective on work and more importantly life and has changed me in the best possible way.

Travel was another Blessing . Through work I lived in Europe for 12 years. 5 years in Nuremburg, Germany and 7 years in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I also worked with Asics while in Amsterdam for about 4 years which allowed me work in Japan extensively . Professionally and personally it was hugely enriching to be exposed and taken in by different cultures. I am fortunate to call Amsterdam a second home and I have extended family all over the world now.

CONS/// I would say EGO’s, politics, and abuse of power. These are a terrible combination together and unfortunately are a part of life in general and the root of some of the problems we see in many industries today. I think we are starting to see some baby steps of change but time will tell if its treated with the attention and action it consistently deserves. I will say some experiences have taught me the type of person I do not want to be. My hope is that it has made me a better person in the process.

As you go through your career I think you have to be mindful to keep yourself in check and never forget where you came or how you treat others.

Best moment in your career? Hmmmm there are a couple honestly but I’ll try to limit it to two but to me they are connected.

The first was being given the opportunity to live and work abroad . Adidas HQ Germany was where my life in Europe started and a world of new experiences would begin. I can’t Imagine my life without those experiences , good and bad, and all the  family I acquired along the way. I never got into this for titles or positions but to do good work and later on in my career to leave a positive mark in the people around me. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share my skills and learn from a great number of people better than me.  As my career progressed I have been lucky enough to create positive change and progress with different teams I have had the privilege of working with. 

The  second is admittedly a bit selfish but one that made me happy. When I was living in Amsterdam I had the opportunity to represent Asics/ Onitsuka on a Hypebeast feature called Pen & Paper. I got to work with some great people like Joy Yoon who was executive producer of the piece and helped me through the process. I was always a fan of the  Pen & Paper series so to be a part of it was such a huge honor.  

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Most challenging moment in your career? My most challenging moment is also two things. The first was taking the chance to move to Europe. I had  been asked three times before I said yes on the third. It was scary decision  because I was new to the business, young and filled with allot uncertainty but it was a great decision.

On the same token it was equally challenging to resign from Adidas when I did. I chose to leave and continue my adventure in Amsterdam to do things on my own. Again, a challenging moment in my career but equally one of the best decisions I have ever made.

“If I wasn’t doing______ I would be doing___________.” If I wasn’t a designing footwear I would most definitely be painting. I have always painted and created art in my spare time. No matter what my day job is it is something I always spend time doing. Painting is the therapy my soul needs and the outlet that needs fulfilling that my job can never fill.

What advice can you offer potential designers? I’ll offer a coupe pieces of advice…… 

Don’t be afraid to fail and be open to opportunities that were not part of your plan.

Learn to collaborate

I am not perfect and have failed in many things but and I always try to remind myself to not let that stop me from trying again. The most meaningful lessons in my life have come from my mistakes. I have always just tried to focus on learning quickly from them moving on and not making the same mistake twice.

Own your ideas but be ready to share it with other trusted people around you to make it better. Any big idea you have will not be done alone so the sooner and better you get at collaborating with fellow designers, marketing, whoever -the better you and your idea will be.

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Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry? In a field where a majority of the consumers are people of color and female to not see a better reflection of that in the design industry is sad. There is no simple answer to this.  It’s complicated to fix first because in order to fix it you have to see it as problem. I don’t think it is truly accepted as a problem but hopefully eyes are starting to open more. 

We can’t just get stuck on the problem. What I have come to realize is that every problem is an opportunity for you to offer a solution or steps toward a solution. I see this with what D’wayne Edwards has done with Pensole as well as with what you have done (Angela Medlin) in partnering and creating FAAS. I am trying to find ways to talk to younger kids about design and art. I think each of us have to be active participants in creating small bits of change. Kids need to see people similar to their color, gender, background, doing work they never imagined. This exposes them to new dreams and opportunities hopefully changing the makeup of our industry in the future.

Favorite inspirational quote? “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” – Chuck Close

I feel that quote is applicable to life itself . It reminds me to get out and do and not wait for the feeling of everything being perfectly aligned.

#DREAM #ELEVATEDIVERSITY

#SEEYOURSELFHERE

 

 

 

RACHEL KONTE

TWO DECADES IN DENIM

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Profession / Business / Title: FOUNDER @ O.N.W. by OwlNWood + CHIEF OF DESIGN @ Red Bay Coffee (IG@owlnwood)

How long have you been in your profession? 25 YEARS

Brands worked for: LEVI STRAUSS & CO, TOMMY HILFIGER AMSTERDAM, FOUNDER  OF O.N.W. BY OWLNWOOD , CHIEF OF DESIGN RED BAY COFFEE ROASTERS

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Real talk- Pros and Cons of your design profession:

PROS: I had  the amazing opportunity to work and travel the world with my work at Levis  and it has taken me from Copenhagen, Denmark to San Francisco, Ca in the early 90’s. Being in my mid 20’s and ready to dive in and give my all was an experience I will never trade for anything. I have met my best and long lasting friends in the industry and I have learned a trade and valuable skills that I could not have gotten anywhere else. I am using everything I learned in the Apparel industry every day. Specializing in Denim and Indigo takes you into a unique world where old and new are constantly influencing each other. It gave me the love for vintage and established my respect for simple design, functional style and quality over fashion..

CONS: Politics and career hype. The reality that you give your best years and your creative soul to big companies, that really only value you as long as they need you. It took me many years to realize that they are not my family and that they have their own interest first. When you work so many years for the same company, it becomes part of your DNA and the friendships, the connections and the prestigious jobs, makes you believe that you are part of something special.

But reality is you have to take control of your own destiny and career. For a lot of us it is hard to make that choice before you are burned out from giving your best ideas and talent away. There is a price to pay for the big job and it is important to understand that you will not get a Thank You at the end of the day for all your hard work. It's a business deal, that's all.

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Best moment in your career? I really think it was my first week at Levis Europe/Nordic Region. I was right out of Design School and had worked 1 year at a small denim company in Copenhagen. When I got the call that I got the job at Levi’s and that my first day on the job was to meet the Design team in the Airport to go to Tokyo on an inspiration trip. I don't think I could have felt more happy and accomplished. It was my dream job. I was 28.

Most challenging moment in your career? To find my groove after Levi’s. Transitioning from a big job with a big title and the money was really difficult. It took me 3 years, lots of stress, sleepless nights, insecurity about my worth as a designer (without a corporate title) and lots of running exercise to get myself back into balance. I really had to find my own creative spirit. I had never developed my own style as a designer, because I had spent more than a decade becoming a specialist in designing for big brands and their needs. I had to detox from thinking like a cooperate designer and learn to embrace my own style and literally start from scratch finding my own creative  voice with O.N.W. By OwlNWood

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What advice can you offer potential designers? Take charge of your own destiny early on. Look at your career and work as an investment for your future. Save up and get a 401K right away. And always keep your secret dream and plan alive. Stay connected to the relationships you create in the industry and know that there are a world out there that you will join one day again, bringing as much talent and skills with you as you can gain.

Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry? As an Afro European designer from Denmark,  I was always surprised that I was imported from Europe to work for one of the biggest companies in the US, where there are so many people of color already. I was at that time the only black designer for the company. It seemed unbelievable to me that they would not have been able to find anyone of color for that position. But due to the fact that I already had experience from Levi’s Europe and the skill level to be competitive in the US market was to my benefit. I see a lot of  young black aspiring designers being directed into merchandising and production because there is a lack of knowledge among their teachers and parents that you can create a cariere and make great money in design. It is important for the industry to be aware of the lack of diversity and make an effort to channel the young people of color into the specialized fields of Design, it's like the chicken and the egg. There won’t be enough of us with experience if we don’t get the jobs and we can’t get the jobs if we don’t have the experience. Our voices, style and flavor is important for the future of fashion.

Favorite inspirational quote? Quality never goes out of style (Levi Strauss & Co)

#WEPREPRESENTDIVERSITY #SEEYOURSELFHERE

JOCELYN RICE

DESIGNING WITH PURPOSE

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Profession- Designer / Business – Outerwear Designer 

Title: Apparel Designer II/ Inclusion and Diversity Strategist

Brands designed for: Columbia Sportswear, Eddie Bauer

How long have you been in your profession? 8 years

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Real talk- PRO’s vs CONS in your profession?

PROS: Soooooo many. Traveling, lifelong learning, problem solving, we are futurists! How fresh is that! Even if the tastemakers don’t vibe with our future ideas yet they can’t take them away from us. As designers we speak the language of the future, color and sound, we think like inventors and poets, it’s a beautiful and rewarding profession. To get paid to create gives me life. 

CONS: I had no idea what a tightrope walk apparel design was when I chose it as a profession. Art and Commercial Business are in baked in to the foundation. Truth is, the majority of designers don't get to dictate what's fresh. We really need to see more diversity in the [apparel] design world to weed out the Homogony and get some diversity of though into the products we all put on our bodies. How do we get more women in the tastemaker’s position? More POC’s? How do we include more people in disadvantaged situations? And Individuals whose movements, who’s senses are limited. Homogenization of the [apparel] design industry isn't due to the fact that most people working in the field are white male, it's due to the fact that first and foremost it's a business that is set by a handful of tastemakers. Push the boundaries if you want but recognize that those who are in a position to push the boundaries of art and design are usually those who have been advantaged enough to do so, and again we continue this cycle. 

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Best moment in your career?  As I type this. Right now. 2018. Hands down. I’m becoming increasingly more involved in racial equity work and infusing it with my design skills and background. This has by far been the most exhilarating time in my career, in my life. I always separated my equity and justice passions and my design work. Racial equity and social justice were something I did before and after work and designing apparel was something I did for my day job. I’m loving how this is defining my work as a designer and affecting change in my community. #Imgonnadoitagainandagainwontstopitcan'tstop. 

Most challenging moment in your career?  Second verse same as the first. Right now, is hella challenging. Being a champion for change in this space brings up so many things for me personally. Taking a seat as a teacher, feeling grounded, and having enough capacity that I am not pulling from an empty well is critical. The practice of letting go of what I want someone’s experiences to be, letting go of expectations requires constant care. What I offer as a designer, as a champion for D&I is a gift, and when we give someone a gift we cannot chose how someone receives it.  

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If I wasn’t doing Apparel design I would be a performance street artist. 

What advice can you offer potential designers?  1. Learn the business side of design, even if it’s just a little. Being able to jaw about ROI’s and profits will be invaluable, I promise you.  No matter if you go on to start your own brand, or work for a corporation; Investors and a board of directors, the “tastemakers” can struggle to understand a creative vision, BUT if you can tell them how your design will increase revenue or reduce expenses…you golden. 2. Try not to be intimidated by what you don’t know. As designers we do things differently than a lot of people, and that can be your biggest strength.    

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Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry? We need a set of strategies. The design community, the individual contributors need to get together and talk multicultural initiatives. We gotta unionize in thought! How do we develop a set of strategies that promotes skill development to better manage the baked in power differentials in our industry? This is our house! 

Favorite inspirational quote? Ok, this changes like every day I read something new, or go to a conference or sit down with a homeless kat on the bus...but right now my favorite quote is: “You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere. - Ursula K Guin 

 

 

KERYN FRANCISCO

A CREATIVE WOMEN'S ACTIVIST

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Professional Title: Creative Director

How long have you been in your profession?  25 YEARS

Brands worked for: Levi Strauss & Co, Nike, Lucy, The North Face

Real talk- PRO’s vs CONS in your profession?

PROS IN DESIGN CAREER:
One word:  TRAVEL.  Factories are scattered all over the world, often in the most obscure and remote areas of distant countries.  It's made me more empathetic to the people that sew our garments, the farmers who grow our wool, and the communities that our work impacts. Seeing the world through the sights, smells, food and people of different cultures makes me appreciate the 5 mile radius in which I live daily, and gives me a wider perspective that makes me a better citizen of the world.  Travel is something that I share with my son so that he can embrace the fact that he is part of a larger community of different beliefs, lifestyles, colors and environments.

CONS IN DESIGN CAREER: 
Sometimes the apparel industry is a real grind.  Season after season...spinning the same ideas...with the same antiquated tools, and having many product dreams evaporate seemingly arbitrarily.  One mentor once told me...brutally, "You have to learn to kill your babies", meaning that you can't get attached to your art.  Also, the higher the food chain you go, the more politics become more of your reality...the further away you get from being an artist.  But you also evolve into a strategist, and really start to design "the culture of design" which is way more fulfilling than designing another jacket.

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Best moment in your career?
I felt the most empowered in my last position as Creative Director at Lucy Activewear. I worked with a majority of women, and was a part of an all-female executive team. I was proud to be a woman of color at that table, and eventually I presented to the Board of Directors in North Carolina....probably a first.  In that position, I felt like we delivered product that really spoke to women.  I won my first design patent, broke conventions that empowered women, and gained a fiercely loyal consumer base.

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Most challenging moment in your career?
I burned out at the age of 29 working as a designer at Levi's.  We were working 80 hours a week, I was barely sleeping and I was just depleted and exhausted.  A woman sitting next to me on a plane took one look at me and said, "You know, I had a heart attack at 27."  I gave her an indignant look...and realized that what she was really telling me:  I reeked of stress and depression.  It was time for a change.  I took myself and my job way too seriously.  It was just colored cotton I was stressed about.

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What advice can you offer potential designers?  Embrace technology...it's your greatest weapon and tool next to your innate creativity.  Being an undercover geek, tech has always given me an added advantage and a foot in the door.  We're in the midst of another tech revolution with Digital Product Creation (3D), so I'm excited to be a part of the shift.
 

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Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry?
I'll admit, it never occured to me that I was an outlier in the design industry because my insecurities were non-racial at first:  Imposter Syndrome is real.  I never believed I was smart enough, talented enough, original enough or creative enough to be either a student at UC Berkeley, or a designer at several global brands.  

It wasn't until I worked for an all-women's brand that I grew into my own authenticity and stepped into my power.  We advocated for women through body-positive imaging and messaging, we had women of all shapes, sizes, hair texture and ages in our marketing.  We designed clothes for women with real curves and nuanced our fit to make her feel amazing.  I have also worked for extremely male-dominated companies, and after the Lucy experience, I was awakened to (and shocked by) the unconscious biases that often pervades the workplace, as well as the overt sexism and exclusionary behaviors that often go unnoticed or unreported.  

Currently, I feel a personal responsibility to help remedy these cultural oversights.  I never considered myself an activist or feminist, but I realize that I CARE about women.  And as a single mom, I have great empathy for those who are working parents or caregivers, so I have become involved in our community to help.  I am a founding member of VF Corp's "Elevate Design Community", and serve as a Core Chair on our Women's Empowerment Network.  On both committees, I advocate for employees who struggle to be heard or can't speak for themselves.  In the same way that I approach design, I want people to know that "I see you." I can help.

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Favorite inspirational quote?  
"Black letter, black leather, black lingerie, black marks, black tie, the black box, black robes, the black frame that turns white paper into an obituary:  The depth of black takes each situation and makes it more so."  (Lorraine Wild)

 

#ELEVATEDIVERSITY #WOMENDESIGNERS

#SEEYOURSELFHERE

 

 

 

RONNIE WRIGHT

JUST DOING IT

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Professional TiTLE: NIKE SENIOR FOOTWEAR DESIGN DIRECTOR

How long have you been in your profession? 24 years

Brands: Adidas, Mecca, Pony, And1, Nike, Jordan

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PROS in design career: You learn a ton about the workings of this industry as well as the disciplines behind production at a commercial level. I get paid to study the consumer, travel to various parts of the world, chop it up with other creatives. Grow thru the good and bad. 

CONS in design career: Your job is to predict the future based on consumer insights, then present and sale your perspective… unfortunately, you fall into a ton of politics due to various professional perspectives and predictions based off numbers, sales, history, and business concerns… not the future… TIME is an issue as well. This business moves really fast… at times too fast. Speed hinders creativity a times. At times I feel I’m more of a fireman putting out fires rather than designing new, beautiful innovative concepts.

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Best moment in your career? Every time I see a consumer wearing something God has blessed me to design.

Most challenging moment in your career? Letting go of a concept I was blessed to conceive and reap initial success and then hand over to another team.

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 “If I wasn’t doing______ I would be doing___________.” Fortunately, my current design job doesn’t restrict my creative desires in creating music, etc….

Advice to aspiring designers: BE A SPONGE…. FOR REAL!!! Tell a story that attracts me, engages me, and captures me!!!

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#ELEVATEdiversity