Interviewed by: Cindy Jean

Every year Stevenson University hosts a fashion show, showcasing the work of the senior designers. One of the designers that will have her work displayed is senior Candace Cruise.

Interviewed by Cindy Jean

Why did you become a designer?

Answer: I do not really think of myself as just a designer. I prefer to say I am an overall artist. Fashion design is only one facet of my creative being. I love to create, be it drawing, sculpting, jewelry-making, painting, or designing clothes. I love fashion design because it can encompass all those things I mentioned above and more. I am interested in fashion from an artistic point of view, where the garment tells a story or is conveying something about a character. There is something magical about being able to take flat materials and turn them into three dimensional works of art.

What are your muses/inspiration/influences?

Answer: I find that when I design things, I am very much inspired by nature primarily. I am intrigued by patterns, colors and textures that are naturally occurring. I marvel at the beauty of life and living things, the powerful forces that keep us alive, and nature’s cycle of creation and destruction.

I love using color in whatever I do and seeing how I can mix and match things that don’t seem like they would work together.

My mom and my grandmother are my biggest influences in life. Their perseverance and strength gives me the courage to conquer my greatest fears and be successful in life. And my son is my biggest motivation for coming back to school to pursue a career in art. He made me want more for my life and his future, so here I am on the verge of completing a degree in fashion design. Something I thought was a missed opportunity for me.

What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?

Answer: I had always skirted around the outside edge of fashion design. At first it was just something I did to express my creativity through my personal style. And I knew that it was something I had a natural knack for. Before coming to Stevenson, I had dabbled here and there, did some fashion shows and even won a competition, all on self-taught skills. I knew if I wanted to take my talent to the next level that the next step would be learning the technical skills that could get me hired in the business. But, school was far too expensive and I had pretty much given up the idea of ever setting foot into a higher education. For thirteen years, I worked meaningless, unsatisfying, low wage jobs to pay my bills. Talk about miserable! Then once I had my son in 2013, it was like a light bulb switch went on. I had an unexplainable courage that allowed me to step out on faith and next thing you know I was on an incredible path to achieving my goal of completing school. After a year in community college, and with more opportunity ahead I suddenly realized that I could really make my dream a firm reality.

What is your brand? And how has your brand evolved?

Answer: My brand has dramatically changed over the course of my time in school. I basically had no brand or identity as a designer and was hoping that I would figure it out before I graduated. It wasn’t until I took a philosophy class last year that I was able to really gain introspection and fully understand what I am trying to contribute to the world and why. Essentially my work is a reflection of me and therefore I put some part of my experiences of life into every piece.

My brand is deeply personal because it is about putting my experience of existence into an art form. I try to focus on the intricacies of how everything we see (all matter) is built up from smaller components to make something larger from a subatomic level. Like how a photograph is made up of millions of tiny pixels. My work is carefully hand-crafted based on this premise, with attention paid to details, from color and materiality, aesthetics of the design and more often than not, a labor intensive process.

What skills according to you are necessary for a successful fashion designer?

Answer: you have to be confident in yourself. Personally whenever I put out a piece of work, I am displaying a part of me to be judged by others. Artists have to understand that not everyone will appreciate what they have to say. People will find it easy to judge what they do not understand.

You have to be tenacious and be firm, because people will always try to tell you what is wrong or right, or what you need to change about your designs.

Communication is key because a fashion designer needs to be able to work with and communicate ideas to many different people from buyers to a production team. As for me, a costumer will always need to be part of a team of people. Knowing how to convey my ideas to my team will be the only way to deliver a successful finished product. Lastky a designer needs to have a strong vision and imagination. This is very important for any artist to establish a unique brand and stay relevant in fashion, one of the most exclusive and competitive fields there is.

Question: What challenges have you faced as a fashion designer?

Answer: In the past I have struggled with communicating my aesthetic to others. As most artists, I prefer to work primarily in solitude so when it comes to collaborating or conveying where the inspiration for my design is coming from, I found it to be a difficult task. As I continued to grow and develop who I am as an artist this has become easier.

It also found it hard to narrow down what specifically I want to focus my talents on. Within the past two years I have found that my particular set of skills would serve well as a costume designer. I am not interested in fast fashion or direct to consumer sales because I don’t like repetition. I like the challenge of creating something new for a character or theme as well as the freedom to push the boundaries of conventional design.

Is there anything specific that you would label as your biggest challenge thus far?

Answer: My biggest challenge so far I would say is just finding my “In Road”. My biggest question has been how to do I reach that goal of being a costumer? How will I find my way to working as a designer for Black Panther 2 (lol)? This is the main thing that I have yet to answer.

Describe your creative process?

Answer: My process can change depending on the challenge at hand but generally, it all starts with the idea, or the problem as I like to call it, because designers are problem solvers after all.

The process loosely goes:

  1. Idea generation
  2. Sketch
  3. Pick fabric choices and colors
  4. Pattern creation
  5. Prototype

At this point there may be some back and forth adjustments and changes made between any or all of the above steps leading the final garment. I will say that for me the final look almost never stays the same from beginning to end. My designs tend to evolve as I work.

How do you stay up to date with fashion?

Answer: In general, I don’t. This may seem weird but I don’t let what is going on in mainstream fashion influence too much of what I want to do. I like to design based on what I’m feeling at the moment. I will also use images from nature or historical costuming to guide my idea generation process.

I don’t follow any particular designers but occasionally I will catch a few of the current seasons of fashion shows on YouTube. Mainly because I don’t want to fall into a trap where it feels like I am copying anyone’s designs.

Tell me about your senior collection?

Answer: The theme is nature’s revenge. The concept behind it is inspired by the relationship between nature and modern man. The course that nature takes as a result of the toll that human invention has exacted on it, as well as the destructive yet purifying processes of nature. For instance, one look is inspired by an image of a dried up river system poisoned by an oil refinery. Another is taken from an oil spill in the ocean and another is from an image of a solitary plant sprouting through a crack in an asphalt road.

We started out with a ten look collection and then that was whittled down to the 5 pieces that get shown in the fashion show. For me, it was difficult to choose which 5 could still convey the story I am telling but each look from start to finish has been an experience that has challenged me to push myself in ways I never thought were possible. When I stand back and look at my collection I am not only proud of what I have accomplished but very appreciative of what I have learned about myself as a person and an artist.

How long did it take you to complete your collection?

Answer: It was developed over the course of two semesters so I will say on the order of about 8 months.

As a designer how do you know when a collection or piece is complete?

Answer: Usually I am never completely finished with a piece. I can always find something I want to add or change.

When I know I’m ready to present something there is an indescribable feeling of satisfaction that makes me know that nothing else needs to be done. I usually comb over a checklist in my head and when all the parameters are met I can say it’s done.

What words or inspiration do you live by and how does that contribute to your ethics?

Answer: I live each day with utter appreciation for every second that I am alive and able to experience life. The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. I give thanks to God every sunrise for my life, my family and the privilege to exist.

I think this contributes to how I just get along in the world in a way that makes me open and sympathetic to the experiences of others. I try to be present and not dwell on the past or the uncertainty of the future. I don’t let myself get caught up in trivial or meaningless conventions of society.

This influences my work in that I give my very best effort to everything I do, being sure to never take for granted the blessings that I have been given. I don’t give up easy, and I now know that there is no such thing as “too late” to achieve my dreams!

What would you like to achieve before the end of the year/after graduation?

Answer: I am ready to see what the next chapter has in store and I would love to be set up to pursue entrepreneurship with my mother incorporating our love for crafting as well as work as a freelance artist and costume designer for film and performing arts.