I fell head over heels in love with Becky’s (aka Tortilla Girl) designs when I came across them on one of those happenstance web searches. At the time I was actually looking for a bag for personal use and came across this beauty, but then quickly became entranced by her clothing line. In particular her Pont Neuf dress (pictured below), forgive the cliche but oh la la. I started following Becky on Twitter and, after continuing to fall for her creations and then getting a window into her design processes and business ethics through her blog, decided I had to reach out to her for a profile.
Q: You went to design/fashion school, so obviously you’ve had intentions in this direction for a while, but did you plan to work for yourself/run your own show?
A: Okay, here’s a bit of a funny story, and it’s a little bit long.
When I decided to go to fashion school, it wasn’t something I had thought about or planned. I had been creating for a while and blogging about what I was making, but didn’t think about doing it professionally or going into business for myself with it.
Then one summer, I got a sewing machine. I taught myself to use it and wanted to draft my own patterns for my own designs. I needed direction for that, and I had an advantage: I was already living in a city in France where people come from all to study design and tailoring at the school downtown, and I was motivated. So I picked up the phone even though the school was closed for summer, and what I can only think of as divine intervention caused the director of the school to be there to answer. After I introduced myself and gave a little speech he said, “Hey! Come on over right now for an interview.” So I did. I was accepted and three weeks later I was starting the school year with all the other new students.
When I finished school (among the top of my class, I happily add) I thought I’d work at a company in order to “learn the ropes” before branching out on my own. However, after a very short while of doing this and seeing my designs being commercialized under someone else’s label, I changed plans. I wanted to bring my own ideas to life without any more
creative limitations and I wanted those who purchased my designs to know that I was the one who created them. That’s when I decided to fully dedicate my time to running my own show.
Q: You are very multi-talented what with the gorgeous clothes, bags and knitting prowess. How do you focus and not go off in your many talented directions?
A: There are so many things that I want to do and so many ideas I get that I could easily veer off into too many directions so I focus on what I know I do well.
Clothing is my main focus. I remain organized by creating small collections each season, researched before I even start drafting. (For example, this spring and summer I’m all about 19th century “en plein air” impressionists, pre-raphaelite art and outdoor picnics.) Making sure my collections are always cohesive and in my chosen colors for that season keeps me from going off in other directions. While I often get the urge to make over-the-top designs I was encouraged to do in school, my pragmatic side allows me to keep my items creative yet wearable so they’ll appeal to my customers.
The bags are just a plus. Here’s another funny story about how they came about: During my second year of school I worked an internship at a studio that designs and commercializes accessories in boutiques all over the world. When I got there one of the many tasks they entrusted me was that of designing bags and making the prototypes, so I had to learn pretty
quickly how to make beautifully constructed bags. I took advantage of this newly acquired talent by making bags on the weekends and selling them in my online shop (which paid for a lot of my art supplies and materials for that school year!)
As for knitting, well, I’m always knitting in the evenings or during my son’s karate tournaments as a way to relax. These knitting projects have to be small and portable so I currently focus on accessories.
Q: You’re very adept at getting yourself online and out there — with multiple websites (see here and here and here), Etsy, Twitter, etc. — how does your blog/social media factor into your business? Is there a planned relationship there or has it been more organic?
A: It’s definitely more organic. I do my social networking online without thinking, “I have to market myself and my creations.” It’s mostly my way of connecting. I started blogging when I moved to France in 1999, before blogs existed as we know them, and it was mostly a means to share what I was doing in my new home country. I was lucky enough to get mentions in some magazines and newspapers so before I knew it, I had a large readership that included a lot of people other than my family and friends.
When I taught myself to knit in the summer of 2000, I started showing what I was making to my blog readers along with the other daily musings. I did the same thing when I taught myself to sew, and then when I went to design school. Sharing slices of life is as important as sharing my creations. If I find a new web application that will help me connect more easily with people who feel the same way, like Twitter, I try it out and stick to it if I like it and am having fun with it.
Q: What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
A: Creative freedom, and organizing my day the way it works best for me! I love that I have no one to tell me that I have to design something while worrying about production costs or whether or not a commercial agent will be able to sell it. I love that I can pull on my jeans and bike to the post office or to the notions shop at 3:00 in the afternoon. Best of all, I love that I’m making what I want, when I want and how I want. It’s all good.
Q: What is one (or are some) of the more challenging aspects of self-employment for you?
A: The administrative aspects, and thankfully my husband gives tremendous support. On the creative side it’s a bit of a challenge doing everything myself from sourcing materials and sketching designs to drafting patterns and sewing. I enjoy doing it, but it requires lots of time-consuming work and effort.
Q: What inspires you to keep going as an entrepreneur?
Having customers return and seeing my work featured. It is rewarding to know that someone likes what I make so much that they’ve come back for more and/or sent others my way. This is one of the reasons why I constantly come up with new designs and strive to make my creations better and better.
Q: How do you define success as a designers and entrepreneur?
A: For me success is not always lucrative, and I know this because I gave up a good position at a big law firm before I became a designer. It may sound cliche, but for me success is being one hundred percent happy about going to work in the morning and having people like what you create enough to wear it as a means of personal expression.
And if all that leaves you wanting more, you can read more about Becky at this Etsy featured seller interview as well.