Candace Cooper is a talented and successful clothing designer studying here at LIM College. She not only creates a line of clothing every season but also works around the clock every week making sure her clients’ closets are stocked with all of her original designs. We sat down with Candace to ask her a few questions about what life is like for a designer at a “Business of Fashion” school.
LEXINGTON LINE: How did you start as a designer?
CANDACE COOPER: I love designing, and the dream of attending a fashion school quickly became a reality for me once I graduated high school. Being from upstate NY, I didn't really know if I was ready at the age of 18 to move to New York City. I ultimately decided to attend Genesee Community College where I pursued my Associate’s degree in fashion design. During my two years at GCC, I grew up so much as an individual and discovered my sense of self as a designer. I ultimately decided on LIM over the other fashion institutions in NY because I believe in the power of my business, and I know that no other school can give me what LIM has to offer.
Take us through the process of creating a dress for a client.
The process of designing a garment for any client involves many things. Whether it's a simple party dress for a girl’s night out, or a prom dress, all garments take time to make sure that they are exactly what the client wants. The initial stage in the design process is the consultation. Many of my clients will contact me via email or social media for their consultation. I never consult or give price quotes in the public eye; I always respond with my email and tell them to contact me that way. Once I have all of the design details in place, I ask for measurements, then request a deposit in order to purchase the fabric and trims necessary for the design. From there it’s just me and my sewing machine!
You recently had an extremely successful runway tour of your designs. How was that?
Cande's Fashion Tour took place in April, and it was a complete dream to me. There were a few surreal moments where I couldn't believe that I was finally doing what I loved so early on in my career. During the month of April, I was contracted to show my spring collections at various venues across the NY area. I was featured in a total of five fashion shows in just one month while trying to prepare for finals and complete client work. There were many sleepless nights, a lot of staying up until 4 a.m. adding finishing touches and getting up for class at 8am. My work load was strenuous, but I loved every minute of it. On my tour, I was able to meet with various celebrities and bloggers -- I met Claire Summers, who's the founder of the most influential multicultural blog, "Fashion Bomb Daily." I interviewed with her about the inspiration behind my collection, which she loved. I also met with reality television star Arianne Davis from VH1's Love & Hip Hop. I designed a dress for her as well. The fashion tour was nothing short of amazing, and I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to be able to travel and showcase my designs. I’m looking forward to another successful tour in 2016!
Would you ever want to open up your own “Cande” boutique?
I would love to have my own store! I know I will before the age of 25. Owning my own brick-and-mortar is a major long-term goal for myself.
Where do you find inspiration for each of your collections?
My design inspiration comes naturally to me. I rarely find myself looking at other people’s designs for inspiration. I love creating designs from my own intellect and bringing them to life! I think that it shows true originality, and clients love that!
Where do you see yourself going with Cande in the next five years?
Within the next five years, I see myself designing for celebrities and having my gowns draped on the red carpet at the Oscars. (We can all dream, right?) Right now, I design for my clients, which I love, but I really want to have time to create a collection that's going to launch my career even further. I want to create a portfolio that I can send to design houses in hopes of getting an internship. In five years, I will have my Bachelor's degree and my boutique up and running. I also will have had at least have had one gown on Beyoncé.
What advice would you want to give to all of the other LIM designers?
I strongly advise not only the design students, but all students to use their resources. If the opportunity doesn't present itself, it's up to you to create it and make it happen. There are many stylists here, and they're always involved in projects and photoshoots. I get so many inquires from students asking if they can use a few of my designs in a photoshoot which is always exciting for me because I love getting great photos to add to my design portfolio.
I would also say to not feel discouraged or think that you won't be a successful designer. If designing is what you love, why wouldn't you pursue it wholeheartedly? Don't let anyone tell you that it's not realistic or that you won't be successful in this profession. You have to believe in the power of your dreams, and from there everything else will fall into place.
My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. I have innumerable supporters, and I'm truly thankful for everyone who continues to stick with me on my journey. Having people who have your best interest at heart is what has gotten me this far in my career. Thank you to everyone who believes in me and continues to encourage me to follow my endeavors.