I could feel the excitement stirring up inside of me! Would she be able to make my designs? Was I ready to work with a manufacturer in India now? Was she going to be the one to fulfill my dream of being a fashion designer? Was it going to be this easy?
All these questions raced through my head. I tried not go get ahead of myself but it was difficult not to. Over the course of a week I finalized my design sketches and had a phone conversation with the sample maker in India to learn more about her business and what she was capable of with respect to creating samples of my designs. At the time, I only had design sketches and had not selected fabric. I knew the color and types of fabrics I wanted to work with but was going to give full reign to the sample maker to choose them based on our conversations and the fabric swatches I would be sending to her.
It goes without saying that this experience was nerve-wracking - I had just mailed my design sketches to a stranger across the world and I was limited to voice and Skype calls to communicate with the sample maker. I worried about differences in business practices between India and the U.S. and how that might impact the timeliness with which the sample maker would meet deadlines. What I did know was that this was a necessary step towards finding the right person to create my designs. There was no turning back.
Now came the waiting game. A few weeks went by, and I thought, “Why don’t I just give her some time to purchase the fabric and start sewing, and then I’ll check in.” So I waited a while longer. Another few weeks went by. I finally called to check in. I was told it was being worked on. Another few weeks went by. I called again for a status update and was told that it was wedding season so they were busy finishing other outfits. After that it was Diwali (Indian New Year) so most of the employees were on vacation. “Is there a timeline when I can have these done by?” I asked? I was becoming impatient.
While all this was happening, I was still taking fashion classes. I came across an incubator program offered in Chicago to foster new designers and help them with their new collections. I read over the application and felt like I had a chance of being accepted. I spoke with my program director to get her thoughts and she also felt very confident and told me to give it a shot. I proceeded to fill out the application. One of the requirements was to have six samples of your garments to discuss at the interview. What perfect timing! My designs were currently being made and I could show all my potential designs to the interview committee. The only thing was that now I really needed my designs as soon as possible.
I submitted my application and was selected for an in-person interview. Here was my chance! This could open so many opportunities for me and with the help of the program mentors I felt like I would be in good hands. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity go.
I frantically called the sample maker in India and said, “I have an important interview to showcase my designs and I need everything done in two weeks!” I left about a week for wiggle room just in case of any delays but even with that, I was nervous. Anything could happen still like the package getting lost in the mail. I received confirmation and tracking information that my package was sent out and I was to receive it with a few days to spare. I thought I was in the clear. I can still remember the day when I looked up the tracking number and noticed it was sitting in New York. The plane would go from India to NY and then come to Chicago. I was working with a boutique in NY that would act as the middle-man and handle the package and send it to Chicago. When I realized that package was sitting in a warehouse in NY, I called the boutique owner and pleaded with her to make sure the package would be forwarded to me as soon as possible. I literally received the package days before the interview. I ripped it open and was in awe as I looked at the samples of my very first designs! I hung them up on the hanger and admired them. What a feeling. I took pictures and sent it out to my family. They needed a few tweaks but it was a start and I was ok with that.
With designs and portfolio in hand, I arrived at the interview excited to share my vision of BhavyJ Designs. There was a panel of about six people all with a background in fashion or business. They asked me questions like did I know who would buy my product, what was my design aesthetic, what was I designing and why, what avenues would I use for selling, and most importantly, what was my business plan? These were all questions I thought I knew and and had prepared for, but in reality, I was still so new to the process. I left the interview not really knowing what was going to happen, but with the hope that the panel realized my dream and knew that I was going to work hard to get there and that I knew there was much work to be done. Two weeks later, I was told I had not been selected into the program. I found out while at work and excused myself to a separate area. I read the email again and the tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t going to stop me but rejection is a feeling that is difficult to deal with in the moment.
Now I was left with my designs and no plan as to how to move forward from here. After waiting months to receive my original samples, I was too tired to deal with the challenges I had faced in working with a company overseas. Overall, it logistically did not make sense for me to start off like this. I laid in bed, scrolling through my phone, feeling sorry for myself, when I came across one of the fashion newsletters that I had subscribed to. It highlighted two companies in the US that would develop your designs. These were fashion production companies that would take you through the whole process from development to manufacturing. This is what I was looking for! This was it! I jumped out of bed and immediately found their website to learn more. I then emailed them and set up an appointment with both companies to learn about the process.
Things were starting to look up now. I felt like I wasn’t in the dark anymore blindly trying to figure out what steps I had to take to develop my line. I could finally have some direction and do this the right way, step by step. I was determined to get make this line a reality and I was going to do whatever it took. With that, I leave you with a song from Imagine Dragons which gives me motivation to continue forward in all that I do.
Want to know what happened next? Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Pill Dispenser Turned Fashion Designer where I continue my story about my personal journey to becoming a fashion designer.