The world of textiles is no match for Stephanie Oge, a business savvy textile artist based in Brooklyn, New York. She’s gone from fashion apparel to owning her textile studio, selling prints back to the companies she used to work with. Apart from being talented she attributes her success to receiving great advice, opportunities, and leads from a network of people along the way.
As a true artist she uses many mediums- pen, ink, watercolor, oil, charcoal, and different paints- to create a pattern you might find yourself wearing one day. “I experiment with different things,” said Oge, owner of SOGE Studio. Her commitment to providing a great service to clients is evident with the advice she gives during her conversation with Trendcue. “When it’s your own business it’s so hard to think about yourself.”
How did you become interested in the fashion industry?
When I was a sophomore in high school the teacher said, “I want you guys to pick a career and do a presentation about it.” I was like “I’m going to pick a fashion designer.” It was pretty interesting, and that led to me start to taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in the summer for their program Summer Live. I always took art classes and then went to FIT after high school.
How did your career start after college?
When I graduated I worked at this company, Lee and Fung, and within this company we did 80 million things. One day I was working on a men’s brand, the next day I was working on a children’s brand. We had different groups under us and I got to travel. Then I got bored with fashion because it was taking over so much of my life. I was 26 years-old making good money with a team under me, and I didn’t like it.
How did you get into textile?
After getting laid off from selling insurance in 2009 I started freelancing and doing artwork more. From there I never looked back I’ve been doing textile ever since 2009.
During my time in the fashion industry I met graphic designers who taught me some tricks because I already knew the fundamentals of Photoshop and Illustrator. That’s the good thing about freelancing I was at so many different companies that I got to learn different techniques through different people. After learning those techniques I just implemented my own.
It happened organically realizing I had talent here. When you work in fashion it sometimes restricts you in these offices because you can’t be free to really experiment. You don’t have time to say I’m going to draw this with a pen and paper then scan it in. They want you to do it so quick that you rely on drawing in Photoshop or Illustrator digital drawings. I forgot what it felt like to draw.
What advice do you have for people looking to do freelance fashion design?
Have a good six months to a year of savings. A lot of people say they don’t want to do their 9 to 5 anymore. Okay, so you’re no longer doing a 9 to 5 you may get a freelance gig that’s for two weeks, what’s going to happen while you’re waiting to build up your clientele and get your next gig? You need a back-up plan before taking that leap of faith.
What are the perks of freelancing?
It depends on what kind of freelance you’re doing. As a textile designer you’re either working from home or in an office.
In an office you don’t have the politics like if you’re working there full time. I always suggest never get an email address, barely email people just go in do your art, get along with people, and keep it moving. Also, you have to LLC yourself for taxes because when you’re a freelancer working in these offices on a W-2 you’re not really getting the benefits until you LLC yourself. You’re able to go into the office and say I’m not doing a W-2 I’m doing a W-9 and I’ll handle my taxes. I think that’s more beneficial because you can write off your Metrocard, lunch, and all those random things because once you freelance you have to walk into a place and think of yourself as a business. You’re a business providing a service for this company not one of their workers.
Working from home there are so many advantages. You can roll out of bed and do your artwork in your underwear. You can take that gym class at 10 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. before work. The only thing is you have to be very discipline to get your projects done and meet your deadlines. Sometimes I know the beginning of my day I’m not going to do anything, but the second half of the day I know I’m going to be working into the midnight hours.
How do you go from freelancing to having your own studio?
A little over a year ago things started to get slow while I was working at Jones so I decided to do the studio. I had a friend who encouraged me and gave me tips. I started selling artwork back to the companies I worked at. Instead of sitting there doing the artwork you’re now selling the artwork to them.
It was going slow, but through referrals from friends I was landing interviews. I did a trade show recently in August called Print Source and it went really well. I got more clients. Now I sell to Macy’s, Fila, Clinique, and a couple other brands. I still take on clients that I’ve worked with before.
What about your advice for starting a textile studio?
Have a big library or artwork before you start. Even though you have to stay current with the seasons people always want to pull other artwork. For example, you may be showing for fall, but the client might want you to pull something for spring because the buyer didn’t like what they put in, and need to take it back and get something else going for that.
The library should have different inspirations like flowers or geo. I would start off with 500-1000 prints. I showed my artwork on paper in the beginning, but showing it on fabric makes you so much more credible. You want to save money at the beginning so do maybe half fabric and half paper.
What’s your personal style?
I like to dress up, but I don’t have time to do it anymore. I definitely need to be comfortable so I like to throw on heels with jeans and a comfortable top. Casual sexy is what I’ll call it.
With fashion I feel like it’s very personal. You can look at other people’s style and like it, but when you feel comfortable and put it together it becomes your own things. I only use to wear skirts before, but now because I’m running around so much I’m casual sexy. Just be you. If you ate 10 cheeseburgers and put on an oversized shirt just make it look good in the process.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
I like Zara, and I know they take their stuff from the
higher end, but it’s something that is just chill and relax about them that I
like. My favorite jeans are Joes or Rachel Roy because I like the fit. Calvin
Klein jackets because they’re always clean.
I like Chloe’. I also like Tom Ford especially when he was a designer for Gucci the tailoring was like Mmm.
How do you keep up with the trends?
WGSN- it’s a website that every fashion company follows. And Instagram.
It’s very important with textiles to keep up with trends. When you’re selling them some of the companies that are market driven like to stay on trend. I always have to have piles of stuff even if they’re not selling like hot cakes so people can see that I’m staying on trend. At the same time all the art I sell is usually what I did for the hell of it.
Why do you think that is?
The newness maybe. A lot of companies will see 10-15 print studios in a week. Maybe I’m popping up with something new to them. I sold an animal print yesterday and they were like, “It doesn’t look like your typical animal print, it looked like a sting ray mixed with cheetah mixed with a something else.”
Color drives me first when I’m doing artwork. Then whatever happens after that.
How do you balance the business side of things?
I always try to take a day every two weeks to go through receipts. Making sure that everything is organized so when I have to do my taxes at the end of the year it’s an easy process. It’s the boring day. You have to implement a system. The Chase app has this thing on the phone called Jot and you just take a picture of the receipt and put what its for. It makes it where I don’t have to go in an excel sheet and type everything in. At the end of the year I get a statement with all the purchases organized on it.
Also, when I’m sending artwork I do the invoice at the same time.
What else should people know about textile?
Explore. People go to college for it and learn the basics, but I’m still learning as I’m going. Just be creative- like I saw someone cut open a lime put watercolor on it and used it to create a pattern.
Work at a company before you start your own company it gives you an opportunity to mess up on someone else’s design and learn.