This week on Fashion Profiles I am excited to present Monica Johnsrud, as Associate Designer for Milly in NYC. In the 5 years since graduating college, Monica has successfully found her niche in the design world, learned from some of the best designers in the industry, and tackled NYC – all while maintaining her endearing midwestern charm. Below is her favorite design (which was on the cover of WWD no less!) and account of how she landed her dream job.
What made you want to be a designer?
Looking back to when I was a little, there really wasn’t an arts and crafts project I didn’t tackle. I spent hours at the kitchen table making beads, jewelry and sewing. I really loved and still love doing anything with my hands. Growing up in Milwaukee and taking shopping trips to Chicago, everything was inspiration – I just couldn’t get enough of the fabrics, colors and textures. Becoming a designer was the perfect combination of so many things I love – art, texture, crafts, color, and fabrics.
What kind of experience did you have in design before working at Milly?
Like many young designers I graduated college without a job, so immediately upon moving to NYC, I began pounding the pavement. About two months into my search I had an interview with Susana Monaco, a high-end contemporary designer. She had this amazing wall in her office of inspiration photos or “tears” as we call it in the industry – I knew it was the right fit. It was a smaller company that did a wide variety of high quality clothing, a novelty line including both knits and wovens, and a basic cut-and sew knit line made in the United States. It was the perfect foundation for my career.
About two years later I moved to Catherine Malandrino. Catherine traveled around the world gathering inspiration, and always brought a creative vision back to the office. As a designer it was a challenge worth meeting to fulfill her vision. I was surrounded by so much talent in the office; I just soaked it up like a sponge. It was an atmosphere that taught me how to design details and the little touches that make a garment special and designer quality.
Where do you find inspiration for your design work?
When you live in New York City – it’s everywhere; from a handbag someone is carrying on the street, to the New York Times, to art galleries in Chelsea. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is the Museum of Art and Design in Columbus Circle. I went a few years ago to a cut paper exhibit that has stuck with me to this day. The patterns and the play on positive and negative space inspired so many of my prints and embroideries.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The visual process. I love being able to see a person wear a garment, embroidery, or print that was once just a figment of my imagination. Being inspired from a detail, changing it in my head, putting it on paper, and then seeing it come to life is so rewarding. I’m lucky that it’s my job.
What is the best advice you would give to someone who wants to be a designer?
Stay true to yourself. Fashion is filled with diversity, people from all walks of life, some talented, some not, and amongst this chaos people tend to forget their own real goals and passions. Look at the diversity as an opportunity to succeed and grow, not as an obstacle.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial side, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to own my own company someday. With all the connections and friends I’ve made in the industry, I think that goal in some shape or form could happen someday – of course combined with a lot of hard work. It’s worth it to dream a little.