Denim Design Specialist
Q. When did you decide you wanted to focus on denim? Walk me through how you become the expert denim designer you are today
A. To be honest, I’m really not sure. Denim is just something that I feel has been a constant presence in my life from a very early age. As a child, I watched my mom pouring herself into what was the forefront of designer denim at the time- Calvin Klein Jeans. It was a whole process, getting her into those jeans- often involving laying on the bed and me helping pull up the zipper. My mom would then step into a pair of platform heels or boots, throw on a skin-tight t-shirt and walk out of the house in a cloud of Chanel #5. I think those moments of watching my mom... those moments were the beginning of my love affair with denim. I thought she looked so beautiful & powerful in those moments. To this day I still think that there is nothing sexier than a woman in a great fitting pair of jeans who just OWNS IT. My love for denim grew as I started buying vintage jeans as a teenager and although I didn't know it at the time, I was incredibly drawn to the special characteristics of vintage denim. Rigid, sturdy but soft, faded in all the right places and nothing like what I could buy new at the mall. Each piece was special and unique. By the time I finished design school, I had a growing collection- most of which I have to this day.
How did you land your first design job and how did it shape the designer you are today?
As I started my career, I landed at a few different brands that focused on denim and hard-woven garments- think jeans, twill pants & jackets. At assistant level, you're really not doing anything creative, but I was learning a lot about denim & how it was processed. As I moved through my career, I became an associate designer and then a designer. I started working with a really amazing creative director that saw my passion for denim thoroughly encouraged it. I was able to work with industrial laundries and learn about actually processing denim. I was obsessed. I wanted to learn everything possible about denim and what I could do with it. I spent hours on end, week after week, month after month working with and creating relationships with the developers at the laundries. Eventually, I gained enough knowledge and expertise to understand how to achieve authentic-looking vintage washes, which is now my specialty. Working in fashion can be quite crazy and to be honest, I don't know where I'd be without that support. Not only did I learn about denim and design, but I also learned how to BE a designer. Working with him taught me how to hold myself on the design floor, how to manage people, how to build lasting relationships, how to treat people with kindness, how to negotiate deadlines, how to build concepts and most importantly, how to tell stories with great design. I've carried those fundamentals all the way from Designer to Senior Designer to Design Director.
Q. What's been the best or at least the most memorable moment of your career?
A. Meeting you Sarah, duh! In case you didn't know, Sarah and I worked together at Nasty Gal- she was creating Nasty Gal Swim & Lingerie and I was launching Nasty Gal Denim while overseeing all of Outerwear & Woven Bottoms. But that's a story for another time... I feel like the most memorable moments have come from being involved with the creation and launch of new brands. I'd say that launching the Nasty Gal Denim line was definitely a highlight. I remember when it launched and seeing everybody in the office and on the streets wearing it. It was really lovely seeing women's reactions to the fit. We were one of the first brands in the market to use comfort stretch when everyone else was still using super stretch. We were able to make a product that molded to your body and held you in, but that you were still able to move in. The same thing is true for Trave Denim. When the brand was initially created, I really wanted to modernize the vintage aesthetic that I'd become known for. The owners really trusted in me and my vision for the product, which ended up creating a denim line that was 75% rigid- again not something that a lot of other brands were doing at the time, but it was something we believed in. Putting on a pair of jeans from the first Trave Denim production run is one of the most memorable moments of my career. I remember sliding them on and thinking "Oh thank god this worked- they fit amazing!". I've never been so relieved.
Q. OK let's get serious. Your silver hair is a showstopper. How do you get it such a perfect hue? When did you stop coloring it?
A. Thanks, Sarah! I started going silver when I was a teenager. I had natural jet black hair so it was really noticeable. I started dying it immediately because I was HORRIFIED. I was not ready to be silver at 20. By the time I was about 31 or 32, I was so tired of sitting in the chair for hours on end getting it colored every 3-4 weeks. I began to dread it. I started going longer and longer between sessions and then one day I just stopped making appointments. By that time, I was pretty evenly silver by about 80%, so I just let it grow. I looked like a crazy person for about a year with a visible line of silver to color, but by the time the last of my dyed color was snipped off I was left with a super healthy mane of silver. I am phenomenally lazy with it now- the only thing I do to it is use purple shampoo and conditioner to give it a little depth and keep it from appearing brassy.
Q. If there were words to live by Michelle Weinberg, what would they be?
A. Just in case no one told you today:
You're doing great
I believe in you
There's also a really great Cher Quote that I love:
Mother told me a couple of years ago,
"Sweetheart, settle down and marry a rich man."
I said, "Mom, I am a rich man."
Q. You're one of the most unapologetically confident women I know. Any tips on how we can all be more like you?
A. TRUST. Trust in yourself. Listen to yourself. Often as women, we don't listen to our inner voices/intuition as much as we should. That tiny voice inside of you is there for a reason. Use it. That voice has urged me to step out of my comfort zone time and time again and although I've mostly been terrified at the time, I've come through the other end happier and healthier. That trust in myself has allowed me to transform and thrive in ways I never thought possible. It's that trust in myself that allows me to say "It's cool. I got this", and that's where the confidence comes in. Because of course. Of course, I got this, and so do you.