1. How did you get started in fashion design?
I got my degree in Thailand, and I started designing things without any fashion knowledge. I did some sketches, and then I talked to some sewing people and had them make the sketches up so I could wear them myself. When I came to the U.S., I saw they had a fashion merchandising degree at Ashland University in Ohio. So, I got that degree, and this will be my sixth season creating fashion. Usually, there are two seasons each year — spring/summer and fall/winter.
2. How did you launch your own clothing line?
First, I went to New York and signed with an agent. I didn’t know anyone in the fashion industry, and I knew I couldn’t do this myself. I contacted an apparel agency in New York. I presented my sketches to them first, and then an agent decided to represent me. Each agent has a lot of sales reps, and he presents my sketches to those reps. They see if any of my sketches would be something their clients would like. I got sales reps who liked my line. I started with sales reps in Los Angeles, New York and in New England, though she is based in the Boston area. That’s how I got started.
3. How many stores carry your line?
Right now, I have 45 to 50 stores in 10 states that carry my line of fashions.
4. When do you start preparing for a new season?
Usually, six months ahead of time. So, right now I am doing the fall/winter season for 2015-2016. Sometimes, it take up to a year, but it is usually six months.
5. So, how do you get from a sketch to clothes in a store?
Before you do any sketches, you look at fabric. I go to shows, sometimes to Thailand because I know sewing people there. The shows forecast the popular fabrics about a year ahead of time. It depends on the designer as to which fabrics and colors they pick. When I go to the trade shows I look at what color pops and what I want to do. I choose the fabrics and colors and the sketches are based on that. I design the silhouette based on the fabric. I then have a pattern maker in Thailand do the patterns for the sketches. I can do some pattern work, but when a design is complicated it is better to have a professional. Then I have samples made – those are a mock-up of your line. I have three reps, so I have three sets of samples made. The samples are taken to trade shows and shown to the clients. They look and buy what they want, and then I have the clothes produced after that.
6. Do you have a signature look for which you are known?
My signature look is I usually use silk. I use silk and cotton for the spring/summer season, and I use silk for the fall/winter season but thicker. I also do silk batik scarves – that is when you use wax to make patterns on the fabric. A lot of my customers call my fashions Pop silk.
7. How many individual pieces make up a collection?
Normally, 25 to 35 pieces make a complete line because you need to have tops, bottoms, some dresses — a complete look.
8. What are your future plans? Do you want to expand?
Yes, I want to expand. Last season, the spring/summer season, I had a department store, Dillard’s, their buyers liked my pieces. At the time, I was not ready to do mass production. I feel, in the future, I would like to do department stores and not just boutiques.
9. What do you enjoy the most about fashion design?
I like to create things — that’s the part that is the most fun. I don’t like the business aspect as much. That’s why my husband, Nathan Mills, he handles all the accounting, and I do the creating.