Fashion Footsteps with Jill Garvey


Success seems to come easy to people who are as talented as Jill Garvey. She is one of most talented designers I know even outside of fashion.  While it may seem like success falls on some people’s laps, it often is masked by behind the scenes sweat and tears that never see the light of day.  In this interview, Designer Hacks shines the spotlight behind the scenes on one up-and-coming designer Jill Garvey.  No matter what field of design you’re in, get ready to take notes.

Designer Insider with Jill Garvey

Jill Garvey Fashion

Directly after graduating college Jill was hired at the Urban Outfitters corporate headquarters for their brand Free People.  Since being hired, Jill has had numerous designs produced and in stores, a select few of which are featured in this post.  Jill’s well on her way to becoming a big name in fashion, so I figured I’d get her on Designer Hacks to tell her story and inspire.

What’s your story? What inspired you to go into fashion design?

I was always drawing girls in dresses when I was younger and loved making dresses for my dolls, but never really considered fashion design as a career. My sister was the artist in the family and so she got a lot of the attention when it came to creativity, so I just always thought she’d do the creative thing and I’d grow up to be a kindergarten teacher :). But one day when I was probably about thirteen, I was just playing around and took the slip from my bridesmaids dress I wore in my sisters wedding and cut it up and reworked it into a new dress….the next day my mom was screaming my name from my bed room and I was thinking “oh shit, she found the slip all cut up and she’s going to kill me!”. Turns out my mom was so impressed by it she encouraged me to start taking sewing classes, so then I got to high school I enrolled in home ec class and the rest is history! From that point on I knew exactly what I wanted my profession to be.

What are the crucial points of your education/career that help you land your dream job at Free People?

I think the fact that in college we were really encouraged to do these grand show stopping collections for our final senior collection helped me land my job. I did the craziest silhouettes …padded exaggerated hips, giant padded wings, a lot of hand beading and quilting. My boss was actually in the audience at our fashion show and my collection caught her eye…she approached me after the show and helped me get an interview with Free People. My collection was hardly ready-to-wear, not even the bohemian “free people” style, but it was definitely eye catching. I feel like most companies what to see you think outside of the box and not just follow the crowd in terms of fashion.

What three tools do you use to stay efficient at what you do?

Well, ever since I discovered Pinterest I have so many new ideas and inspiration right at my finger tips! It’s a great tool, you can literally just search something like “ethnics embroidery” and find a million different artworks for inspiration. I also always carry a small sketch book with me everywhere. You never know when you’ll get inspired! I may walk past a girl with a really cool t-shirt shape on and I’ll just do a quick sketch to remember it. Lastly, the best tool (that I’m lucky enough to be able to do) is travel. I’m in India right now, and one trip to the markets in Delhi or Jaipur can give you enough inspiration to design a whole season!

Delhi dye house

What book has had a major influence on you?

My boss gave me the Alexander McQueen book from his exhibit at the Met last year and It was so inspiring! His work is mind blowing and has constantly influenced me since college.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I definitely draw inspiration of traveling and seeing different techniques for embroidery and printing. I recently went to a dye house in Delhi and saw some great wash techniques I’m excited about. And also went to a natural dye house in Bahru and saw indigo dying and block printing. I also get inspired from just checking out new merchandise of sites like ShopBop and Net-a-Porter where you can view a lot of different designers in one shot.

If there was only one designer you could learn from who would that be?

Oh this is hard! Well my boss has taught me SO much these past three years and I will always be eternally grateful for. I love Isabel Marant and her ascetic so I’d love to shadow her for a few months if I could!

Isabel Marant

If there’s anything you could go back and tell your college self what would that be?

Learn more about fabrics!! College didn’t really prepare me in terms of fabric qualities and their content, etc. I really learned all that at Free People. I remember feeling really unprepared when I first started working! If I could go back I would have researched and learned more about different fabrics on my own.

jillgarvey_05Jill Garvey Fashion Design

What’s one setback you have had in your career/education and how did you overcome it?

Actually, when I first started working I was really shy and had a hard time speaking up in meetings and giving my two cents. I think that had a lot to do with being so much younger than everyone in my office and never having worked anywhere else! But I eventually broke out of my shell by doing a lot of mocks and sketching outside of what was required of me. When I started getting a lot of positive feedback it gave me more and more confidence!

jillgarvey_10 jillgarvey_08

Any parting words of wisdom?

Jill GarveyIt’s corny but just believe in yourself and don’t let anyone make you feel inferior or unimportant. I had a little bit of that when I first started working but one day I was just like “I’m not doing anything wrong and I’m not going to let this person make me feel like I suck!” Once I had that attitude, that person started treating me with respect. And it’s been a pleasant working environment ever since! :)

If you’d like to get in contact with Jill Garvey, you can email her at [email protected]

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