“Fashion is an all-encompassing thing. It’s everything.” –Loretta Leong
Loretta Leong has certainly made the rounds in the fashion and design scene worldwide. From a very young age, she had an interest in style and fashion: as a young girl when she’d ask for new clothing styles, her mother would tell her that she wouldn’t buy it, but she’d make it. So off to the fabric store they went, and a love for fashion design was born!
Though her original passions were art and painting (and were what she wanted to pursue in college), her parents dissuaded her from studying art and she enrolled at the famed Parsons School of Design in New York City on scholarship. Leong received a job offer in Los Angeles after graduation, and she relocated to the West Coast and launched a career-long streak of undeniably cool experiences: she designed clothing and album covers for the L.A. rock scene, and also designed clothing and handbags, selling to small boutiques in Los Angeles. After several years in California, she relocated to New York, then back to L.A., and then on to Austin, where she’s been for the past two years.
Leong says that Austin reminds her of Los Angeles “back in the day”: it’s very young, creative and pulsing with energy, yet still peaceful and relatively safe. Everyone is warm and friendly, and it’s got the culture and music scene that keep this city buzzing. Leong said that she loves being able to escape to quiet if she wants to, and now prefers the vibe of Austin to the bustle and noise of New York or L.A.
After many intense (yet rewarding and incredibly fun!) years of designing for large retailers and flying across the globe on buying trips, often gone for more than 7 months out of the year, she’s settled into life working retail in Austin and creating an online collection of travel bags, calling back to her first love of painting. Leong says she loves having had the globetrotting and blink-or-you’ll-miss-it experiences in her career, but she loves now being able to have more control over a small project that she feels truly passionate about. A brief Q and A with Loretta…
Favorite designers, past and present? Gianni Versace, Armani, Michael Kors, Zac Posen.
Advice to newbies in the fashion design world? Number one is learning a craft: technical knowhow and then learning to hone and apply those stills is invaluable. Make connections to get a job in the industry you want is also important. Work as an apprentice or an assistant. You may need to go to one of the big fashion centers (New York or L.A.) to get experience. Working for yourself and just starting out is incredibly tough and somewhat risky, so you have to work very hard and know what you want and where you want to be. Create mood boards to set the tone and always keep new ideas flowing for your designs.
What is the key component to an education in fashion design? Merchandising! This is something that often gets overlooked, but is so, so important to be successful in fashion. There are two sides to merchandising: the designer selling to the retailer, and the retailer looking to buy from designers. Knowing how both work (and learning the personalities and preferences of the different types of buyers from a variety of retailers) will give you a leg up in fashion merchandising. Buying is HARD work, but learning the process is a huge advantage.
Loretta Leong is teaching Fashion Merchandising at ASFD starting Monday, March 14.
Written by: Liz Feezor at stylishdisaster.com