9 to 5: Patria, Jewelry and Clothing Designer

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Hola! My name is Patria (puh-tree-ah, please don’t mistake it with Patricia!) and I am 24 living with my boyfriend and our dog, 2 cats and a rabbit in downtown Los Angeles. I run a jewelry line called el tomboy and am a full time women’s apparel designer for the line Amber Sakai. You can find me most often at eltomboy.wordpress.com and for work at ambersakai.blogspot.com. Or twitter of course! 

Describe a typical day at work.
Well I usually get into the office between 9-9:30 (it’s usually on the later side, let’s be serious) and I check all of my emails. I speak directly to fabric mills in Italy and trim companies in France, so my email is usually chock full in the morning. Once I’ve taken care of all urgent matters I will usually go over the day with my co-workers. Since we are such a small company we all rely very heavily on one another to do their job to the best of their capabilities. It’s like a little pow wow to cover all of our bases which can include the weekly schedule, deadlines, inspiration, meetings with public relations, the factory, showrooms, etc.

Once we are all set and on the same page we typically break off and do our own separate things. I for example am a designer, so I will go over to my patternmaking table with my mannequins and see what we have to make for the day. I am a huge list maker and go through one to two full legal notepads in a month! That is where I keep all of my notes about what to be working on, when certain styles need to be finished by, what stage I should be in of the final development of the collection and how I should organize my day.

For the most part the head designer and I will work side-by-side coming up with the collections, choosing colors, fabrics and general silhouettes. We attend the tradeshows in Paris twice a year to have the latest and greatest in trends or fabrics and hardware. We have rough sketches all over that are the original ideas, these will be tweaked by the time we get to the end result, but carry the same traits as the pencil drawing. We are one of the few remaining companies that actually drape each and every piece on the mannequin to ensure fit and quality from beginning to end and this is the biggest part of my job. Anything we sketch, I bring to life on the mannequin using muslin or jersey and a countless amount of pins! Each and every piece was painstakingly brought to completion with extra special care.

After a full day of making clothes I like to switch gears when I get home and work on my jewelry and blog. I’ll turn on some X-files and hunker down with my huge jewelry box and just go for it. I have all of my beads completely organized, so crafting is a joy! I start out with my silk and leather as a base and just start beading. I include everything I love into these necklaces, feathers, crystals, sky blue beads and lots of hand stitching. Each necklace takes 3-5 hours, so I can usually finish one a night. Another aspect of the creative process that I like equally as much is the packaging. I have spent a lot of time trying to make the finished product look as amazing as the necklaces themselves.

The most rewarding part is when I wear one of my necklaces out and seeing people flip for them. It’s very exciting for me to be able to make something that people actually want. I am putting a lot of effort into my etsy account and trying to gear up and actually blog more, but I’m sure you can tell I’m a pretty busy lady! 

Did you always want to be a designer? How did you get into this field? What kind of schooling or background did it entail?
I always always always knew I needed to be in a creative industry. When I was a kid I thought I wanted to model, then I got into photography and painting, and then my grandma gave me a sewing machine and my life changed! I would steal all of my dads super soft Hanes under shirts and completely re-make them into ultra cool tops for the awesome 12 year old that I was.  All through high school I made a dress for every dance, friends Halloween costumes, mended clothes, and updated vintage pieces to bring them up to modern times. I completely immersed myself in fashion, reading magazines, going to the thrift stores every weekend, and constantly making things. Well anyways, when it was time to start looking at colleges I knew to only apply to arts schools. My dad always wanted me to be a lawyer, or a doctor, feeling that the creative fields were not consistent enough to make a living out of, but I followed my heart and applied anyways. I flew to New York for my interview at the Fashion Institute of Technology and have never been so scared! I had a box full of the things that I had made and a book of sketches that I tooled around with. I sat down with 2 professors and went over some of my pieces and really I had no idea what I was talking about. One of the professors asked if I had “draped” this dress I had made for prom… ummm what? Draped, like drapes?? Yeah, I was dumbfounded. I told her I hung it on my body and pinned it that way then followed where it hung nicely to sew it. Draping, sure! They said I was “raw” talent and accepted me into the fashion design program! School was rigorous, completely different than all of my friends that went to “regular” college. We didn’t have lecture halls, we didn’t have lenient schedules, we didn’t have a “quad” or whatever it’s called! I was living in New York city, broke, starving and having the BEST time of my life. I was in school around the clock and learning more than I knew was possible. This definitely set my work ethic that is still with me today. 

Is this what you hope to do for the rest of your life? If so, how do you see yourself growing in this career? If not, what else do you dream of doing? Where do you see yourself in 10 years, career-wise?

I do hope to always be in a creative industry this is for sure. I always wanted to do a children’s line or an intimate apparel line (think white cotton, not overtly sexy) and I love what is happening with el tomboy, my jewelry line. In 10 years I hope to be fully independent or working for a HUGE company, and that could even be the one I’m with now. I just hope in 10 years I’ll be able to support my family comfortably with a job being a full time creative individual. 

If you could tell your 17-year old self (fresh out of high school and ready to face the world!) anything about your life today, what would you tell her?  Is there anything you wish you would have known back then? 
Hey little one! You have NO idea what’s in store for you! You have been accepted into the fashion design program at the Fashion Institute in New York and this is only the beginning to the incredible path you are about to be on.

Things that you will do right…
-Stay out of serious relationships in college, especially not your first year! Keep focused and keep your eye on the prize!
-Follow your gut. You’ll know that the year long trip to Italy wasn’t in the cards for you, and you’re also right that you will be able to go when you’re a little older and it will be much more fun!
-Sell yourself. Even if you are just the receptionist at a Beverly Hills salon, when your manager starts bragging about you, go with it. This will land you the best career you could have dreamed of.

Things to do different
-Take your internship more serious! Yes, I know you’re not getting paid, but free lunch counts for something, no?
-Cultivate more friendships, they say you start networking in college, so keep in touch with your professors and remember to email them even AFTER you graduate!
-Please work on your portfolio a little more! It would have really paid off to just go that extra step! Don’t worry, you’ll update it in the future, but that extra boost would have made that way easier!
-Pay attention in your pattern making class. It’s a lot less embarrassing for your professor to tell you that you forgot a notch than a production company yelling at you for forgetting a notch that compromises an entire run of a style. Don’t worry, it all works out ;)

You’re doing the right thing, and will continue to do so, just keep your head screwed on tight, don’t do what you’re not supposed to and just wait until you meet the love of your life! Oh! And you get your very own puppy, can you believe it?! And you get to go to London, Milan and Paris AND fly first class? What?? And I’m not gonna name names, but you will meet some successful and talented people that you always dreamed of working with. Just go with the flow, learn from your mistakes and always stay open to any and all opportunities, you never know where life is trying to lead you.