Fashion designer, Sofia Quigg grew up in Oakdale, Minnesota, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout in the quaint little college town of Menomonie, WI. Sofia graduated last year and has since started her own business, VanQuigg Apparel Designs Company, an online clothing shop. In chatting with Sofia, she shares in the interview her career beginnings and continuing journey in fashion along with personal experiences involving the influences of her parents and her earliest recall of when she decided to become a fashion designer. In addition, one noticeable standout about Sofia is that she is very excited about her career choice and future in fashion. Now, let’s learn more about Sofia’s journey from an aspiring designer to now–fashion designer.
Elaine Pizzini | Where does your inspiration come from when creating your designs?
Sofia Quigg | I often find that I’m most inspired by imagining who would wear this garment. I sometimes make characters in my head and imagine what they might wear. I’m very into Dungeons & Dragons and storytelling so characters come easy to me.
Elaine | Is there a specific time of day that you find you are most creative?
Sofia | I find I work best during the morning. My husband has slowly turned me into a morning person. After my morning walks my head is clear and I can start designing. It helps me feel fresh.
Elaine | When did you know that you wanted to be a fashion designer and what was the first step you took to make the dream a reality?
Sofia | My junior year of high school. I was participating in our school’s theatre club. We had a rehearsal on Halloween and everyone was planning on dressing up. I decided I was going to make my own costume so I bought a store-made pattern and got to work. I’d never really done anything like that before but it came very easily to me and I really enjoyed it. At that point, I realized I have some amount of natural talent and I could make a career out of this. I then started looking for colleges that offer Apparel Design and chose Stout. | University of Wisconsin-Stout
Elaine | Is there anyone in your life that you recall influenced your decision to become a designer? If so, how did they influence your decision?
Sofia | Both of my parents are very creative. My dad is a graphic designer and my mom is a professional photographer. They both were very supportive in my following my dreams and have been very supportive of my career this whole time.
Elaine | Is there a famous designer that you admire?
Sofia | I admire two designers the most. Iris Van Herpen is one of them. I think that the way she has innovated her own genre of fashion is something I aspire to. Her use of movement and texture is truly phenomenal. I also admire Christian Siriano. I love how he designs for every body type and will often design for the woman who isn’t always “desirable” by other designers. I always want my clothes to feel accessible to everyone and I admire that that is part of his message as well.
Elaine | Do you recall where you were when you decided to become a fashion designer?
Sofia | I was in my parents’ basement craft room that would become my work studio for the next four years and where I would drag thread from all over the house, much to my mom’s chagrin.
Elaine | What is it that you strive for when you are creating a new design?
Sofia | I always want to make something I’m proud of. I always strive for perfect quality and something that looks beautiful. I also want to make something that makes my wearer feel like they’re wearing an extension of themself. Something that makes them feel beautiful.
Elaine | If you were given a garment, for example, a dress to redesign, what would you do first and why?
Sofia | I have a background in alterations so I would always look at the construction first. Construction always dictates aesthetics. Then I would strip down details and build off the current construction. It’s a lot harder to add than subtract.
Elaine | What is your favorite color? Do you use this color often when designing? What is it about this color that you prefer?
Sofia | Pink. I use it a lot. I used to be one of those girls, when I was younger, who hated pink and anything “girly”. I thought the worst thing in the world was to be seen as “too feminine”. But as I’ve grown older I’ve started to love it more and more. Color doesn’t have a gender. And to me, pink is happy and bright and bubbly and can brighten a room with its presence.
Elaine | Is there ever a time when you draw a blank when working on creating a design for a project? How do you overcome the challenge?
Sofia | I get design blocks from time to time. Often a change of location helps. Designing somewhere like a coffee shop often gets me out of my head and helps me see things differently.
Elaine | Having become a fashion designer and business owner, how has it impacted your life? What would you like to change or improve if you could?
Sofia | Having my own fashion line has been one of the best things I’ve done in my life. It’s allowed me to dictate what I do and enabled me to do what I love. I am the only one who can dictate how hard I can work and the possibilities are endless. The only thing I would change is having more hours in the day.
Elaine | Once you have completed a design project, what is that you hope you have accomplished?
Sofia | I hope that I’ve made something that makes someone feel beautiful and like themselves as much as they possibly can.
Elaine | What do your friends and family think about your business in fashion design?
Sofia | They’re all very supportive. My friends and family all watched my last show. Some of them even made their families watch and texted me encouragement during the show.
Elaine | How long have you been a small business owner? In addition, why did you choose to be a business owner rather than design for a boutique or fashion house?
Sofia | Since the start of this year. I love being able to have my hands in every step of the process because I love all the different facets that go into designing and producing garments. I don’t ever just want to do one thing.
Elaine | When designing some of your first garments, did you design for a family member or friend? If so, what was the outcome?
Sofia | Going to design school in the middle of Wisconsin the only models we could get our hands on were friends or family nearby so most of my early garments were for friends. I remember rushing to my friends’ dorm late at night because I had a project due the next morning and I needed to make sure the pants fit him properly. I appreciate all of them for all the help they gave me by modeling and coming to class for fittings.
Elaine | What would you like to see going forward in the fashion industry that you believe would be most helpful to aspiring and emerging fashion designers?
Sofia | I think that the pandemic and people working and living at home more has really driven the rise of the individual in the fashion scene. While trends are still heavily prevalent a lot of people are dressing more for self-expression instead of for what trends dictate. I feel like that’s wonderful for new designers who have something new to say that’s out of the realm of “normality”.
Elaine | What are your thoughts regarding sustainable fashion? What else would you like to see happening in the fashion industry today and going forward to ensure more eco-friendly products?
Sofia | I think that everyone who produces something should attempt to do it as sustainably and eco-conscious as they can. I make my garments to order so that there is no waste if something doesn’t sell. And I keep my scraps to make small accessories so there is less waste. I feel that manufacturers need to take responsibility to make things in a way that causes the least detriment to our environment. At the end of the day, everyone is only able to be responsible for themselves. And I make sure I do my part.
Elaine | Why did you choose to become an independent fashion designer? What was the catalyst that guided you in this direction?
Sofia | I like being able to be in charge of myself and my business. I like being able to do everything and do my own designs instead of making stuff for someone else’s brand. I also graduated in the Pandemic and there were no design positions open, they weren’t considered essential. So, if I couldn’t find a job I decided to make my own.
Elaine | During the time of Covid-19, how did you motivate yourself to keep designing during the peak of COVID 19 lockdowns?
Sofia | I have to admit it was hard at the beginning. On top of being scared for my and the health of my loved ones, I lost my senior show, graduation ceremony, and wedding. For a while, I didn’t want to do anything, especially not designing. But it’s what I love to do. For as much work as it is, it’s what I need to do to feel normal. My work has helped me crawl my way out of the pit I felt I was in a year ago.
Elaine | How do you go about choosing materials (prints, fabric, etcetera) when creating your designs?
Sofia | I like to design my own prints. That’s been something that I feel really gives my designs their own edge. I’m also a very tactile person and so I need to feel the fabrics before I use them. If I can feel it I can know how it will drape and feel on the body.
Elaine | What does the profile of your target customer look like?
Sofia | My customer is anyone who feels that the dress is an extension of themselves, of their personality. I want to dress someone and make them feel beautiful and confident and the best of themselves they can be.
Elaine | Name at least one fashion show that you have participated in within the last three years that keeps you motivated and interested in designing?
Sofia | My first fashion show ever was last spring for Minnesota Fashion Week. I was so honored to be chosen. And doing a show a year after graduating was a dream for me. I look forward to hopefully doing many more. I met some amazing people.
Elaine | When choosing a model for your products, what do you look for and expect of the model?
Sofia | Diversity is one of my top priorities when choosing models for me. I want to show a variety of skin tones, heights, weights, and abilities. I never want someone to look at my brand and feel like it’s not made for them. And representation matters so much because when you see someone who looks like you it removes the barriers that a lot of people feel when shopping for clothes.
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Elaine | What does fashion design mean to you and how do you determine success when designing?
Sofia | Design for me is my life. I can’t imagine not getting up and sewing or drawing or doing something in this industry. I determine my success if I am proud of the work I’ve done. People will always be divided on if they love or hate you so the only person I can please for sure is myself.
Elaine | What do you find the most challenging about being a fashion designer?
Sofia | The time commitment. I think people often have the misconception that design is easy. Because all they see is the pomp and glamour of fashion shows or press. But what they don’t see in the early mornings, late nights, working weekends, and pin-poked fingers that are my everyday. I have to make sure I carve out time for myself, whether it’s spending time with my husband, seeing friends, or making sure I go to the gym. But often I wish there was more time in the day to get everything done. But I love it and that’s why I put in so much time.
Elaine | What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring fashion designer currently thinking or working towards becoming a fashion designer?
Sofia | Be prepared to put in the work. Nothing will come easy and you will have to give it 110% every day. But in the end, it’s worth it. Because you love what you do and eventually it will reward you.
Elaine | On your journey to becoming a fashion designer was your training via college, university, or an apprenticeship? If so where? Also, in your opinion, what is the difference between attending a fashion design program at a college or university versus an apprenticeship? What would you say are the pros and cons of both training programs?
Sofia | I went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout in their Apparel Design and Development program and got my Bachelors of Science. I also did bridal alterations for about three years. Both of them have their pros and cons. I would say school taught me about 80% of what I use now in my daily work life. Alterations added about another 15%. There’s some stuff that just can’t be taught in a classroom. You need to get that practical experience to really understand how things are supposed to go together. And the final 5% has just been figuring things out on my own through experience and messing things up and having to redo them. | SQ