Sandy Novak graduated with a degree in Fashion Design from FIDM in 2003. Now a Senior Technical Designer at Nasty Gal in Los Angeles, she visited her alma mater last week to share with the students what's it's like to be a technical designer. She said, "I have come to the conclusion it was never about the clothes. It was always about the people wearing the clothes and how I wanted to make them feel—beautiful, empowered, and loved."
We caught with her to find out more about this inspiring designer.
Tell us a little about yourself: I have been working in the Los Angeles fashion industry for over 10 years and started out as a fashion designer. After working as a design assistant for two years, I started my own clothing line with one of my fellow classmates. We were both designers, so I ended up taking on more of a production role and realized I still had a lot to learn about running a clothing line. We closed the company and I decided to switch careers from design to technical design. The past six years as a technical designer has made me a much better designer. So when people ask what I do, I tell them I am a designer because even though I am a technical designer at Nasty Gal, I still design all the time.
Tell us about what you do at Nasty Gal: I am a technical designer which means I am in charge of the fit of the garment.
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? FIDM was the start of my fashion education—my first taste at the Los Angeles fashion industry. When Los Angeles had their first Fashion Week, FIDM Students volunteered to dress the models. One of my first fashion shows was for designer Jennie Kayne whom I followed throughout school and where I ended up with my first job out of college. Even though school was always hard work, there was always the glamour of the fashion industry that I loved and that fueled my desire. FIDM not only taught me the basic skills to be a designer, but also allowed me to keep dreaming big while I was in school.
How did you find out about FIDM? FIDM is one of the few fashion schools in San Diego where I am from. I started school there and ended in Los Angeles.
How did you decide on your major? I think I have always known I was a fashion designer because I was designing Barbie clothes with my mom when I was five. I was the creative director and she was the seamstress. I would pick out the fabric; she would ask me what I wanted to make; and then she would sew it. I also played with my Barbies until I was 18. Not because I loved barbies but because I was obsessed with making outfits for them. I know that sounds silly but am sure other designers can relate.
Fast forward a couple years I started working in retail and kept thinking how I should be designing these clothes. I never even considered a major in Fashion Design—I was sure I would end up as a Business major. But the desire kept growing, so then I finally decided to go fashion school.
Looking back, which classes at FIDM were most valuable to you? The pattern classes were definitely most valuable. but to be honest my favorite classes were always art history.
Any advice for current FIDM Students? Best advice is to find a really good internship. Your internship could end up being your first employer if they feel that you are are valuable. So it's important to choose one that you would like to work for. Also don't worry if you are not the best illustrator or pattern maker right now. Employees will always hire you based on your work ethic and personality and I believe talent comes second. No matter what, you are going to get better over the years.
What is your biggest goal right now? I have two goals right now: 1) make sure I continue to help Nasty Gal grow, and 2) work on my own nonprofit t-shirt line, Project Parallel. I feel like I finally have the knowledge to build a successful company and it has manifested in me wanting to give back to future designers and artists. The nonprofit t-shirt line is its infancy as far as clothing companies go, but sometimes the beginning is the most fun.
Anything else you’d like to share? I am so lucky that I have a job that was always a dream of mine. I have been both successful and failed in this industry, but I have never wanted to give up. I have come to the conclusion it was never about the clothes. It was always about the people wearing the clothes and how I wanted to make them feel—beautiful, empowered, and loved. So it really doesn't matter what you do for a living, in the end it will always circle back to what it is you would like to give back to everyone.