By Jessie “Decipher” Kim, Staff Writer
Emily “impreza” Li crossed in fall of 2009 at Emory University as a member of her chapter’s lambda class. She graduated in 2011 from Emory with a bachelor’s degree in psychology before moving onto the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she earned an associate’s degree in fashion/apparel design. From 2013 to 2014, Li interned with designers Rebecca Taylor and Zac Posen.
Li now lives in New York City and designs for JS Group International, working with brands like Badgley Mischka, Monique Lhuillier, and Cynthia Rowley. Get a glimpse of her life as fashion designer and what it means to her in the conversation below.
Why did you choose fashion design as a career? Have you always known you wanted to be a designer?
I’ve been a creative person ever since I was young. I’ve always liked drawing, painting, and anything crafty. I didn’t actually become interested in fashion until I was a teenager (although one could hardly tell looking back at my choice of outfits). I went to the mall often with my mother, and I’m pretty sure that was the beginning of it all. But I seriously became interested in it close to my senior year in high school. I did this senior project, and I was super ambitious. I told myself I was going to create five garments, mind you I had no idea of how to sew or anything.
The project didn’t go as planned, but I did complete the five garments. By then, it was too late to decide to go to fashion design school. Having Asian parents, that idea wouldn’t even be on the table. I went to Emory, which I am super happy about. Great experience. But after I graduated Emory, there was this unavoidable voice in my head telling me to quit my marketing job, move to NYC, go back to school and seriously pursue fashion design. So I did, and here I am.
What is the best part of being a fashion designer?
The best part about being a fashion designer, or a professional in the creative field, is seeing your ideas come to life and the happiness it can bring someone who wears your garment, feeling absolutely beautiful and great in it. The other great part (there are many great parts) is that there is no right or wrong design. The possibilities are endless, and a designer can do so many things. I still get pretty excited when I see something that inspires me, and I can’t wait to put it into work.
What does a day in the life of a fashion designer consist of?
So many people have this misconception that being a fashion designer, or anyone working in the fashion industry, is all about drinking martinis, partying with celebs, wearing designer clothing, etc. But it’s not. Being a fashion designer has its glamorous moments for sure, but on a daily basis, we put in work! When I was a fashion design student, I’m pretty sure I wore sweats and a T-shirt with my hair in a messy bun. Fashion designers often work long hours, especially as an intern. You have to do a lot of dirty work, like carrying 10-pound fabric rolls crosstown. As a professional, we have weeks where we plan the upcoming line, pick out fabrics and colors and finalize sketches. Once we do all of that, most of our duties involve communicating with our vendors and factories to make sure samples come out the way we want them to.
Creativity is a big component in being a fashion designer. What are some of your inspiration?
My work inspiration and my personal inspiration are two different things. For work, most of my inspiration comes from learning about our customer base, that means really understanding what our customers are looking for (i.e. Are they a bit older and have problematic areas they may want to hide? Or are they younger and trying to look sexy?). For my personal inspiration, I am inspired by a plethora of things including current events, certain artists, photography, nature, cultures and architecture. Really, anything under the sun! I think most creative people can be inspired by anything. It’s how we interpret and translate our inspirations that make us unique.
What words of wisdoms would you impart to someone who beginning their journey to become a fashion designer?
For someone who is eager to become a fashion designer, I definitely say GO FOR IT! Follow your dreams, but don’t follow them blindly. Take some classes in fashion design, or if you know anyone working in the industry, shadow them for a day or two, just to make sure you really are into it. But the most important thing, I would say, is you must really want it and be willing to work hard for it. Don’t take criticism too harshly because everyone always has an opinion. And don’t be too prideful in your work, but know your worth!
Featured Image: Special to The Jade Times