This week we caught up with Alessandria Redley-Bagayan, Concept & Trend Designer at Elloquii, a contemporary plus size apparel and accessories brand. Alessandria has had a life long passion for all things fashion which started at a very young age. She got her first sewing machine as a tween and hasn’t stopped since! Here we learn about some of the amazing things she’s done in the fashion world and how she ended up with such a cool and unique position at a fashion start-up.
When did you realize that wanted to be a fashion designer? Has it always been your dream?
I realized I wanted to be a fashion designer at age 11. I was channel surfing one afternoon and came across a television show called VIDEOFASHION! Weekly. On it I saw interviews and fashion shows with Katharine Hamnett and Gianni Versace. I was mesmerized with the idea that they were the masterminds behind those beautiful clothes. I immediately began looking at major fashion magazines, begging my mom for yearly subscriptions to Sassy, Seventeen and Vogue. I sought out other shows to watch weekly like VH1’s Fashion Television with Jeanne Beker, CNN’s Style with Elsa Klensch and MTV’s House of Style with Cindy Crawford. I guess all of this was like an early fashion education for me and I haven’t looked back.
How did you get started? Can you tell us about your time in fashion school at Parsons?
My parents were fully aware of my obsession with being a fashion designer. I received my first sewing machine as a Christmas gift in 7th grade. I took a sewing class and the first garment I ever created, I made the neck opening too small that I could not even pull it over my head or anyone’s head for that matter. It did not stop me though. I was accepted into Cass Technical High School in Detroit MI. It was the only high school at the time to have a fashion illustration and design program as a concentration. It is one of the top high schools in Detroit (if not the best) and it was highly competitive to get into. So my fashion education/career started there. I was fortunate to be able to attend a school that allowed me to balance my core classes like math, science and English along with art classes like fashion illustration, figure drawing, commercial art, freehand drawing, color, etc.
My parents were also afraid that I would be some sort of starving artist if I received a degree in fashion design. So I enrolled at Kent State University and received a fashion merchandising degree and minor in business management. I worked in buying for a few years and then went back to school a few years later to get a second degree from Parsons in fashion design. I enjoyed my time there and made so many connections and most whom I am still in contact with to this day. Parsons was extremely challenging which taught me how to constantly push myself to be more creative and work hard.
What is your favorite thing about fashion design?
My favorite thing about fashion is that it is in a state of constant creative change. I get to be creative every single day. I like how fashion can sway from being labeled as art or commerce.
Can you tell us about the company where you are now, Eloquii?
Eloquii is an online startup that sells contemporary plus size clothing in sizes 14-24. It really is in a class of its own as we strive to deliver trend-driven fast fashion for plus size women. I think what most people do not realize is that the average size woman in America wears a size 16. Tim Gunn recently wrote an article in The Washington Post about his frustration with the fashion industry for completely ignoring the majority of women in this country by not making clothes for them. We don’t ignore them, we celebrate them at Eloquii!
Some looks from Elloquii’s Look Books:
You are a trend & concept designer there! Sounds so cool! Can you us tell about what you do? What’s your day-to-day like?
I am senior designer of trend, concept, color and print at Eloquii. I have always wanted to be in trend forecasting and concept development exclusively, but it is known to be a bit more difficult to get into. So I started out designing apparel for other companies which included a little trend forecasting, but mainly flat sketching, choosing fabrics/prints, tech packs and PLM (product lifecycle management).
I worked my way up so that I gained the experience I needed to land the position that I always wanted. There was no job advertised for Eloquii, but I had been following the brand for over a year and I really wanted to be a part of the team. I took it upon myself to send the Creative Director a very heartfelt email on why I feel what Eloquii is offering is so very important to the fashion industry today, why I wanted to work there and also detailed why I am very qualified to be a designer and manager. She responded! After a series of interviews I was offered this newly created position.
I work alongside my counterpart, another senior designer, and we report to the Creative Director. We manage a team of 4 apparel designers, 1 print designer and 2 interns. I am responsible for initiating trend, concept, print and color for each of our deliveries. We start by researching trends and concepts to come up with a theme for the delivery. Prints and embroideries for each group are chosen by buying them from a print house or by creating them from scratch based on an inspiration. I then need to choose the colors for the delivery based on the concept and initial print direction. The print selections are then re-colored by our CAD (computer animated design) designer using the colors we have chosen. Any new fabrics or techniques we would like to introduce for the group are usually finalized by this stage. I then use my trend research to select what trends, messages and silhouettes I would like for the designers to sketch into based on our concept. I review the sketches the designers create prior to them creating the initial tech packs for each style. We receive samples based on the sketches/tech packs we passed off and we fit them until we are happy with the look. It may take a few rounds of fittings until its right.
I do not have a typical day to day routine. I usually start my day by reading the latest fashion news. We fit 4 times per week so that is also a part of my daily routine. Trend and market research play a large role in my day to day. We have to constantly know what’s currently out there but also need to be able to predict what trends will be the next big thing. It is really important for our designs to always be relevant.
Our office is always buzzing with energy! Our photo studio is located in our office as well so there are photo shoots for the web and catalog happening daily, the patternmaker could be making patterns in one area, someone may be altering a garment on our sewing machines in another area, fittings on our fit models are taking place, marketing team hashing out new initiatives in one corner and well known bloggers and stylists dropping by for various meetings. We dressed quite a few people for the Emmys and it was really cool seeing them come in and out to choose their looks!
Aidy Bryant from SNL wearing the Embroidered Tulle Fit and Flare Dress.
Where do you draw your inspiration from each season?
It can come from anywhere. A lot of times the prints will dictate the mood for the delivery. I can be inspired from something I saw on the street, a blog, a magazine, an art exhibit, something on television or even the latest current events. The biggest inspiration comes from the women who buy our clothes. They inspire me to be on top of my game so that they can be on top of their fashion game every moment they step out into the world! I feel like I am designing with a true purpose, an amazing reason to get up and go to work every morning.
Tell us what fashion means to you…
Fashion is freedom. Fashion is love. I am doing something that truly makes me happy. It doesn’t feel like work when you love it so much and that itself is a form of freedom. I also don’t design with any rules or preconceived ideas for what plus size clothing should be. If its fashion forward and fierce, it’s in! Fashion forward clothing should not be limited to just straight sizes.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I love fashion and love to try out new trends. So my style may change from time to time. What is fashion for if you don’t try it out from time to time? I love a good heel too! No matter what I am wearing I always make sure I feel comfortable in it and effortless. You shouldn’t have to try too hard because then it will look like you tried too hard. It should just flow and come naturally.
I don’t wear athleisure outside of the gym/workout. That is the only trend I don’t see myself getting into. I like to get dressed up so the idea of just throwing on a pair of leggings and a tee just does not appeal to me. And if you think about it, if you get lucky one day happen to meet someone like Channing Tatum while traveling through the airport and he is feeling selfie generous…do you really want that moment to be immortalized with you wearing colorful leggings and a sweatshirt? I think not. So why not step it up every day in case you have that once in a lifetime moment. And even if you don’t, at least you know you looked amazing today!
Follow Alessandria here: