Interviews w/ Industry Leaders
These interviews were completed during my time as a Communications Intern for My Favorite Outfit, a nonprofit that empowers underprivileged youth through fashion.
Title: Communications Intern
Time Period: March 2017 - August 2017
These interviews were conducted for the ongoing blog series, "Women Who Inspire Us." The series features women from any and all industries to showcase their successes and talents. I was in charge of choosing the individual, conducting the interview, and executing the blog post. Keep scrolling to read the inside scoop on these industry leaders' perspectives.
Shernett Swaby is a Fashion Artist who was born in Jamaica, grew up in Canada and is now based in Chicago. She was a top 5 finalist on the television series, Project Runway. Since 2009, Shernett has operated SWABY, a showroom that carries only couture women’s apparel designed by Shernett, herself.
1. You grew up in Jamaica, moved to Canada, and now reside in the United States. How were those transitions influential as you were learning how to become a fashion designer?
All of these moves were apart of my journey in becoming a designer. Jamaica is where I first learned to sew from my mother who was a seamstress. When I moved to Canada I was presented more opportunities than I would have in Jamaica, like attending school for design. At the International Academy of Design I learned how to start my own business. After having several Swaby locations in Canada me and my husband moved to the United States. Coming to Chicago was an exciting new step for my business and allowed me to bring my clothing in front of a larger market. Chicago turned out to be a great fit for me. The city has a more open minded audience that wants one of a kind avant-garde pieces that my work represents.
2. Your work is known as, “edgy with a wearable artistic flair.” How did you create that aesthetic and why?
I use my collections to express myself as an artist and create something original and interesting. I like to use a lot of leather, and play with different fabrics to make three dimensional shapes for architectural details. I ended up with that style because all of those things represent a more androgynous aesthetic that describes my personality.
3. Elaborate on your mission statement which is to use a detailed oriented collection to promote and celebrate individualism in the fashion industry.
With all of my collections I focus on the detail whether it is flowers, origami, or bubbles. Those interesting details are what makes it special and different. I think my creations encourage people to think outside the box. The people who wear my clothing see my work as an opportunity to celebrate their individualism and embrace being different.
4. How do you stay inspired?
My dream of seeing my clothing on the runways in Paris keeps me inspired. I am continuously thinking of ideas to get my work around the world, and that is the motivating factor that keeps me creating everyday.
5. What is it like being an entrepreneur in the fashion industry?
It is very challenging! It is such an over saturated industry that is very competitive to make it, so it is valuable to have something unique to set you apart. However, it is an opportunity to earn a living doing something that you love.
6. Tell us about the SWABY showroom.
The showroom is open by appointment only which gives each customer one on one time with me as your own personal shopper/tailorist. We offer free alterations because it is important to me that each piece is a perfect fit to your unique body. We host open door events monthly at the showroom listed on our website. The first Friday of every month are “Fashion Fridays” for customers to enjoy discounts and complimentary wine while you shop!
7. Tell us about your Canada Project Runway experience! Why Project Runway? What did you learn? Do you have a favorite garment that you made on the show?
The Project Runway experience was very intense and fast paced, but I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be on the show. I loved watching the show and when it came to Canada my husband encouraged me to apply for it. The show taught me the importance of being true to your own style. You have to believe in what you're doing and your point of view as an artist. My favorite garment that I ended up winning was for the Bratz doll challenge.
8. For someone looking to break into the industry, what advice would you give him/her?
My advice to someone looking to be a fashion designer is to know all sides of the industry. Creative talent is important but it is also just as important to understand business. If you want to have your work out in the world you must know how to get it to the marketplace, and make a profit to sustain a business.
We can't get enough of this month's Women Who Inspire Us feature! Meet Shernett Swaby, Fashion Artist and founder of SWABY, a showroom that carries couture women’s apparel designed by Shernett, herself. Shernett was born in Jamaica, grew up in Canada and is now based in Chicago. She was a top 5 finalist on the television series, Project Runway. Read on to learn more about her journey as a designer!
Meet Olivia Rink, fashion and lifestyle blogger and the creator of OliviaRink.com. After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles, she decided to start her own blog to spread the word about petite-friendly brands and petite outfit inspiration. Now, she’s living in Chicago providing inspiration to everyone around her, including us! Read on to find out what keeps this 4’11” beauty on top of her game.
1. What does confidence mean to you and how do you portray that in your wardrobe?
Confidence is knowing who you are and dressing the way that you feel the most beautiful and comfortable. I think that is different for everyone. Personally, I feel the most comfortable when my clothes fit me really well and when they represent my own personal taste. I think that’s big when it comes to confidence; just knowing that what you’re wearing fits and aligns with your personal style.
2. How does being petite affect you in your day-to-day life?
It is the biggest challenge of my job! I am 4’11”! Alterations are huge. A lot of times when brands reach out to me about advertising, posting or collaborating with them, my first question is, “Do you carry petite or XS?” I can only alter something so much before it’s to the point of no return. I do have to model everything I wear! My whole thought process revolves around finding brands that cater to petites.
3. What do you love most about the blogging/fashion industry and running your own blog?
I have always really liked fashion. What I love most about blogging and this industry is the freedom to express your creative side. I love shopping, picking out outfits, etc., but I love the production side of it, too. So, picking a shoot location to match the theme, writing the content, editing photos, and all the ways you can put your personal touch on an outfit is what I love. It’s a work of art.
4. What is one piece of advice you could give to a young girl that wants to find her dream job?
The first thing about “dream job” is that that is so vague. I get asked this question all of the time and how someone can get my job. My answer is, “I don’t even know what my job is!” I’m creating it every single day. I think it really comes down to deciding that you want that more than anything else and putting all of your effort into making it happen.
So, my best advice is to be extremely consistent. Follow up, follow up, follow up. If you want something, call or e-mail them 100 times! Persistence is key. Put yourself out there and do not be afraid if it’s not taking off right away.
5. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog?
In the beginning, determine if you want it to be a hobby or a full-time job. How passionate are you about what you want to blog about? Don’t go into it thinking it’s a business. Go into it because you love it and are passionate about it and it’s something that is going to make you happy.
6. Describe to me a day-in-the-life of a fashion blogger.
Every day and month is totally different. For instance, today I woke up really early and I had a couple skype meetings and phone calls. Then, I went to lunch with a few Chicago bloggers. It’s so fun because I’m going to lunch with my friends, but it’s also a networking meeting, which I also consider business. It’s funny because you are really always working in the blogging world! In a little while, I will style an outfit for tomorrow’s shoot, contact the photographer, set up a time, pick out a location and then finish the full outfit so it’s ready to go! I will be coordinating my travel for New York and LA next week, and setting up sponsorships for when I’m out of town.
Every day is different. I’m not shooting every day. Some days I stay at home and answer/send e-mails for 7 hours, and some days I am shooting all day. There’s so much that goes into it. I love it! I wouldn’t trade the entrepreneur/blogger lifestyle for anything. It’s the coolest job!
7. How do you stay inspired?
As far as finding inspiration, I get it anywhere! From Pinterest, to coffee table books, to fashion magazines, if I find a photoshoot that was done in Vogue or on Pinterest, I’ll save it in a folder, so the next time I’m meeting for a photoshoot ill have those images for inspiration. We can kind of recreate that.
8. Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model is my mom. She’s helped my so much with my blog. It’s so nice to call her and have her read a post or ask a question before I post it. I value her opinion so much. She’s such an incredible woman. Also, my grandma is one of my biggest role models, as well. I’ve been so lucky with all of the women in my life. They have both really inspired me.
Meet Corri McFadden, founder/owner of Chicago’s favorite luxury consignment company, eDrop-Off. Since 2004, eDrop-Off has specialized in the resale of designer handbags, clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. Corri started her business in 2004 at the age of 22. eDrop-Off has made over 450,000 successful transactions and has been featured in top publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Marie Claire, and People. Corri’s business even had its own reality series on VH1 entitled “House of Consignment.” She sure has made her way to the top! Read on to find out the inside scoop on her business, day-to-day life, and what’s she’s learned over the course of her career.
1. What started as your senior-year graduation portfolio business plan for a brick and mortar e-Bay store is now a multi-million-dollar international luxury consignment company. What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs in the market today?
So much has changed since I took this on. I was 22 when I wrote this business plan and it was the beginning of the internet as far as e-commerce goes. This was back when people were skeptical of putting their credit card information online and there was no social media except for Myspace! When I started it was a very difficult landscape because there weren’t as many resources readily available. Now, what I tell entrepreneurs is that there is a difference between being an entrepreneur and having hobby that you really love. Having a hobby that you love is a really beautiful thing. This whole “girl boss” movement, “work for yourself,” and “be your own,” has a lot of people feeling pressured to turn something that they enjoy into a business and that’s not what being an entrepreneur is or what it means. It’s fine to have a hobby that you can make money off of, you love, and enjoy. Don’t ever let someone pressure you into turning something into a business. If it’s meant to be a business you should feel it in every single grain of your makeup. If you don’t, keep it where it’s at and don’t take that step.
2. Tell us as if you were talking to someone who has never heard of the phrase “luxury consignment”. Explain what eDrop-Off does and how it works.
eDrop-Off redefines the way you look at your closet. Let’s say you buy one pair of Chanel sunglasses and then, one day, decide you don’t want to wear aviators anymore. Naturally, what happens is that, because they are designer, you start pushing them to the back of your drawer because you want to hold onto them because they are Chanel. But, at the end of the day, you aren’t using it. So, rather than holding onto those things because they are nice, we can turn them into money to help create disposable income. We’ve created this with something you are constantly consuming, yet you’ve never looked at getting something back out of it.
I always say that it’s not all about the money, too. It’s also about the weight that merchandise holds. Your closet should always be a reflection of who you are today. Everything in there should fit you and it should be something that you would style and wear in some way. If it’s not, it’s holding weight. Keeping your closet clean and curated makes your life so much simpler. When you can get a check out of it, it’s even better!
3. You started your company at the age of 22. Looking back, what advice to you wish you could give yourself?
I’ve been through a lot of hurdles just because I started my business at the age of 22 and I’ve been self-funded. In that respect, I never had anyone else to lean on. I would tell myself, “You’re going to have some difficult chapters ahead of you, but they are only to prepare you for something greater later on. Look forward, keep hustling, and keep moving because everything will always fall into place.”
4. What is a day-in-the-life like of Corri McFadden?
My days are crazy and no day is the same! I usually get up at 6 a.m. and my daughter gets up at 7 a.m., so I like to get time with her when she’s up. Since becoming a mom, I am really possessive over my time with her because being a working mom comes with a lot of guilt. So, in the morning, I like to have at least two hours with her before my nanny arrives. We play tea part and hang out and it eases me for the day ahead! After my nanny comes, I usually work at home for a couple of hours just to get myself afloat in my e-mail inbox. I am in the office about 4 days every week and I try to work from home one day every week. I am REALLY productive working from home. My days at the office usually consist of a lot of meetings. As far as my evenings, I try to get home by 6 o’clock, so I can hang out with my daughter for a few hours before she goes to bed. I’ll go out to a dinner maybe once a week. As I’ve gotten older, I only go to what I need to be at or what I really want to be at. Learning how to say “no” is a beautiful thing and there’s nothing wrong with that! So, wherever I am, I am there, and I am physically and mentally present.
5. You were the star of your own reality show, “House of Consignment” on VH1. It focused on the in’s and out’s of eDrop-Off, which meant you, your employees, your clients, and all of the behind-the-scenes fun. What was that like for you and your business?
For my business, it was amazing! Back then, reality T.V. was totally different. I mean, they sent me a flipcam to record in my office! Each chapter of this was an experience. I filmed for 16 weeks, all day every day, 6 days a week. I was filming during the day and doing my real work at night. I was exhausted! I got in the groove after a couple weeks and it was SO fun. It brought about so much opportunity. One of the coolest thing was when they flew me to Brooklyn and they built a whole set just for me!
Now, no one was doing “luxury consignment” when I started this 15 years ago. I founded this! So, I think it was a really good time to tell our story. It brought tremendous traffic and opportunity.
6. You started college wanting to be a police officer/crime scene investigator and then took up fashion design as a concentration. You found your niche and stuck with it! What advice would you give to people who are struggling to find out what they love to do and are passionate about?
Just go play. Just go figure it out. Figure out what you need to live. How much do you need every month? What will pay your student loans, your rent, and your Panera bill? Go find something that can cover it and you can get by, and go experiment! It’s a beautiful thing to figure it out. If you have interest in something, explore it.
7. What is one thing you could say you have stayed true to while running eDrop-Off?
My work ethic. I work extremely hard and I am willing to sacrifice whatever is needed for my business, except for my family. There’s no task that I’m above. So, I would never be like, “Oh, I’m not going to empty the trash.” No, if the trash needs emptied, I’ll empty the trash.
8. You started your business in 2004, so technology was a whole new ball game back then. How has technology, social media, and marketing changed the way you run your business in today’s day?
It’s 100% changed everything. What you’re able to do through social media is tremendous and who you’re able to connect with is a beautiful thing when it’s used correctly. Back when I first started it was like you would buy a commercial on cable T.V. and you would put a promotion in the coupon book that would land in your mailbox. Now, it’s doing strategic Facebook ads, field and influencer campaigns. It’s night and day. It’s not even the same at all anymore!
I do think this is a good thing and a bad thing. What it does is that any competitor that exists, it brings you all together because everything is so easy to search online, so you really have to differentiate yourself and take care of your niche. As well as, everyone is their own critic. You have to be aware that you’re going to get negative feedback. It’s just the name of the game. You can’t please everybody. But, it also allows you to connect with people instantaneously!
9. Do you have a favorite moment/memory since starting eDrop-Off?
My favorite memories are my early-on memories. When we were growing out of our 600 sq. foot space, we had a nail salon next store. I convinced them to let me rent their closet so we could put our computers in there with two chairs so people could work! That time was really exciting because it was that early growth and, to me, that time is so awesome.
10. What’s next for eDrop-Off?
We have a couple things that are coming up that I can’t say right now, but we do have something very exciting at the top of 2018!
Meet Kamie Crawford, former Miss Teen USA / Girl Boss and Designer of her own lifestyle brand, NOX. As a television host, multi-media journalist, producer, and model, she knows the name of the game! We're here to find out what keeps this beauty/fashion/pop-culture enthusiast on her toes. Read on for the inside scoop.
In 2010, you were the first contestant from Maryland to win Miss Teen USA. What was that experience like for you?
It was a whirlwind! The pageant world is so unique compared to anything else I had done before then and even now. I was able to see so many places and meet so many people from so many different walks of life that I probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure of getting to know had I not been Miss Teen USA, so it was awesome. Hard work – but awesome!
As a former pageant queen, what is your definition of the word “beauty”?
I think that being outside of the pageant space has helped me realize what beauty truly is and how to define it, which is that it can’t be defined. Beauty is all around us and beautiful people are the ones who change us and mold us into better versions of ourselves. It’s not about hair and makeup or gorgeous dresses – being beautiful centers around being a good human in my book.
Do you have a favorite outfit that you wear to feel confident/empowered? If so, what is it?
I live for a jumpsuit. A fitted black jumpsuit with a wide leg pant will always have me ready to slay!
Post-title, what is a day-in-the-life like of Kamie Crawford?
I’m an on-camera host and beauty expert as well as a working model in NYC with my own company, @shopnoxlife - so my day-to-day life is different depending on whatever is going on! It’s very exciting but also requires a lot of responsibility as far as scheduling on my part so that I stay on track and consistent with my work.
Same Sky is a women’s empowerment organization in Rwanda that provides jobs and promotes personal growth for HIV+ survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. What is it like being a global ambassador for them?
It has been awesome to watch an organization that I’ve loved for so long grow into what it is now and to be a part of that growth. Same Sky is a really special organization that changes the lives of so many women every day, so to be a part of that is an honor.
You started your lifestyle brand, NOX, at the age of 21. Wow! Tell us about it.
I started NOX to empower women to be exactly who they are, chase their dreams and know that they are beautiful when they’re “on” and when they’re “off”. I started with sleep tee’s because I’m an avid napper, and I wanted to start my brand off with something that I’m passionate about – which is beauty sleep ;) I’ve since expanded to NOXPLATES, which are customizable nameplate necklaces and our next launch are furry slide on slippers. My brand has no bounds, just like my unstoppable NOX Girls.
What advice would you give to someone who struggles with self-confidence/self-esteem?
Happiness is an inside job, and so is building self-esteem. Don’t count on outside forces to validate you – only you can validate you. You are special and worth so much more than the negative thoughts you feed yourself. So feed yourself beautiful words of wisdom and empowerment and cut out the negative voices. Don’t be so hard on yourself, because there is no such thing as perfection!
Who/what inspires you?
My mom inspires me. She has raised five girls with very unique personalities to be confident, poised, gentle and intelligent who are also strong and opinionated. She’s never lost herself in the process and I know that’s not an easy task, so I thank her and I’m eternally grateful for her.