6 Steps to Working Remotely & “The Fashion Story” is a continuation of last week’s blog post (Part 1), I mention that writing professionally came about ten years after I ran my own small-production fashion design company called MEW Design. (M.E.W. are my initials.) Here’s the drama of how I got to my current remote work life. (But, if you’d like to skip the drama and read my tips, no worries! Just scroll to the heading, 6 Steps to Working Remotely, highlighted in pink at the end of the post!)
(Part 2) How I Bucked the System & Created a Remote Work-Life
After I said “duces” to my former boss, I moved to New York City in the summer of 2005.
In a small, one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side I shared with a best friend, I sewed my butt off to supply to 14 boutiques from Nashville to Washington, DC. Needless to say, I got burned out without any help to sew, promote my line, or refill orders (or even know to seek help in those areas).
After that, I worked as a receptionist for a fashion showroom in the Garment District and learned that designers actually hire people to wholesale for them – what a concept! But after a year of seeing designers walk in and out of the office, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, with hopes of relaunching my business. And for several years, that’s what I did.
Luckily, Charleston was having a little fashion explosion of its own, thanks to Ayoka Lucas, who was a head fashion stylist and visual director for Charleston Magazine at the time. She’s now professionally styling in NYC. GO, AYOKA! (Ayoka wore a headscarf I designed one year, and it made my life!)
Charleston Fashion Week was her vision and became THE event of the year. It still goes on to this day, but not to the degree as when Ayoka was in charge. CFW started in 2006, and in 2008, I was chosen as one of the designers. I just knew this was my big break.
Author’s Note: because I love you so much, here’s an extremely embarrassing, CRINGE-WORTHY video from my year at Charleston Fashion Week. (What the hell with my hair and clothes?! And my face is so bloated from alcoholism…with that said, I hope you enjoy it!)
Fashion Exploration and Deterioration
Let me walk you through a brief photo history of my life as a small-production fashion designer. You comfy? Let’s go!:
My company, MEW Design, began with redesigning vintage T-shirts like this sweet Grateful Dead one here. I started selling tops in a local boutique when I was in college, and they sold out quickly. This was 2003, so redesigning vintage T-shirts for the commercial market was kind of a new concept back then.
The halter top was the only other design I did at the time. Imagine me tracing, cutting, and sewing up to 20 plus a day in a small NYC apartment. After the burnout, I got a job at a fashion showroom in the Garment District in 2006. (Photo by Scott Krause.)
When I got accepted to Charleston Fashion Week 2008, I took sewing lessons and learned to make a full collection. The dress that got me in looked similar to this one but was made entirely of vintage T-shirts, and I still have it. The model, seen here, had eyelet bloomers underneath. Models danced on the runway to Jackson 5 and Kool & the Gang, and we had a blast. Afterward, we got hammered. (Photo above by Charleston City Paper.)
After the show, I fell into a deep depression, though I didn’t know it at the time. The momentum of working on a collection all those months and culminating at a big production fashion show left me lost with no idea how to proceed. A few months went by, and I dabbled in vintage T-shirts again. I loved searching for T’s in thrift stores and figuring out new ways to cut them, style them… (Photo by Bob Mulé.)
I wish I could find pictures of this collection, but you kind of see it here. This was taken in my studio in a historic Charleston home built in 1835. I loved this home, and it became a part of me, in a way. This collection was magical, with see-through tie-dye fabric to die for! I miss the pants I’m holding up on the left side of the picture. (Photo by Paul Cheney.)
My studio (seen above) inspired my final collection, which was based on Civil War-era uniforms and styles of women’s undergarments back then. I visited local museums and the Charleston library to research colors and fabrics and read stories. My friend and talented seamstress, Heather Rose Johnson, made a few samples for the collection, but everything in this photo I sewed myself. (Photo by Amy Berenyi Haun.)
I sewed this myself, too. Made from bridal lace, the fabric was super hard to cut and sew because it’s so “slinky”. I wore this one to Charleston Fashion Week that year (I was not presenting) with a nude bralette, black suede fringe vest, and cut-off jean shorts underneath. It was fire! (Photo by Amy Berenyi Haun.)
The finale walk for Charlotte Fashion Week in Charlotte, North Carolina. (The “other” Carolina. 🙂 ) This was in 2012, I think. Heather Rose Johnson made the grey vest sample, seen here. (Photo probably taken by my homeboy, Bob Mulé.)
In a last-ditch effort to save my fashion soul, I went back to redesigning vintage T’s, but this time, I made kids’ clothes. I had just published a children’s book, and it seemed like the best fashion collaboration/transition. The kid’s dresses were my favorite designs. Working with vintage T’s once again was familiar and comfortable but not enough to keep me in the game. (Photo by Bob Mulé.)
More cool T-shirt dresses that Heather’s team of seamstresses sewed for me. It was the first time I had a small production company on my side, and I felt I was finally getting the hang of it. I just had to sell. I had hundreds of dresses made and sold in stores from SC to CA with minor success. Side note: this was photographed at the first playground in South Carolina, which happened to be right down the block from where I lived on Mary Street. (Photo by Amy Berenyi Haun.)
Fashion was fun until it wasn’t.
Trying to make money from a craft I was falling out of love with meant my pieces were a pain to make, though I faked it like a mo’.
That, mixed with a ginormous drinking problem, and I nosedived fast. (Read, Drunk with Envy for my true story of fashion, alcoholism, and jealousy! Update, my friend mentioned is currently on Season 3 of Making the Cut!)
I loved being creative; it’s all I’ve known to be. But in fashion, I didn’t have a defined style or understood the message I was trying to convey.
Confusion, minimal inspiration, and a drinking problem I had yet to face meant that after ten years as an entrepreneur in the fashion grind, I slowly called it quits.
I finally listened to my mom.
My mom always encouraged me to write.
“Meggie, you’re a great writer! Why don’t you try to write?”
I denied her idea for years (what do moms know anyway?!), but finally, I listened.
Especially since my favorite part of the fashion design process was writing product descriptions for my online shop.
I turned to a friend who was an editor for the Charleston section of the blog, Ask Miss A at the time, and asked how I could get started writing professionally.
She advised me to get a few pieces of writing together to show to the publisher, Andrea Rodgers. “Anything that shows you can write,” she said.
Coincidentally, I had started a blog in hopes of resuscitating my fashion biz, though it sucked, and I barely posted. I sent a link to Andrea without expectation.
And when I got the acceptance letter, I felt like I was given a second chance at life. (Thank you, Andrea, for giving me a chance!) From that moment on, I was all in.
My passion for fashion faded into memory when I settled in California twelve months later.
During my first full year on the West Coast in 2013, I wrote for Ask Miss A, worked at a boutique in Montecito, and wrote for the Santa Barbara Sentinel while selling my children’s book and the remaining pieces of my children’s collection on the side.
The side hustle was ALWAYS number one.
With a dedication to the written word, the art of journalism, and learning the tricks of storytelling, my career snowballed from there.
Though slow to grow and become successful in its own right, my life as a freelance writer hasn’t gone down without a fight.
Phew! Are y’all still with me? Awesome!
Now, here are some tips for working remotely that I hope work for you:
6 Steps to Working Remotely
Carve out time for yourself. It’s the key to creative sanity. Discover your most productive time of day, and try and block 1-3 hours to solely work on your craft. Be firm in your boundaries, and treat yourself like you would a business or client. Give yourself that room to grow!
- Find out what you love to do. What is the main activity that makes you happy? Meditate or pray (or however you find stillness, do that), and ask yourself that simple yet profound question, What makes me happy? If you’re having a hard time, ask what challenges you to develop and grow. Where do your interests lie? For me, it was writing. As much as I didn’t listen to my mom when she mentioned I should try writing ALL THESE YEARS, I finally caved, and a happy place ensued.
- Find a mentor. Reach out to someone you admire and ask them for coffee or a Skype chat. Then, ask another person. And another after that. If you want off-hand advice, this is the only way to do it. People are usually very happy to share knowledge with you. Especially if it gives them an opportunity to talk about their passion because that’s when the real, shoot-from-the-hip conversations occur.
- Make up your own mind. Now that you’ve collected all kinds of wonderful information from friends and mentors, your brain is probably swirling in confusion as to what direction you should go. Breathe, reboot, and follow your gut.
- Start small. You don’t want to strangle your craft right off the bat. If you’re not careful, you’ll put so much pressure to make money that your dream won’t fulfill you anymore. You’ve got to preserve that passion and continue to check in with yourself to make sure your chosen craft still makes your heart sing. If it doesn’t, find new ways to use it until it does.
- Start where you are. I love this saying. Literally, there is no pressure, just start where you are. You don’t even have to tell anyone about what you want to do. Just sit down in your favorite chair, grab a pen, and jot down ideas. No one is here to judge you. List why you want to go down this new path. Seeing your words rather than hearing in your head them is the first step to staking your claim on the wonderfully challenging and fulfilling road ahead. YOU GOT THIS!
Do you have questions about remote work-life, writing life, or just want to chat? Please let me know; I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or email me directly at email@example.com. xo
Catch up on the Freelance Writing series, Money Talk: