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Interviews With Inspiring Teen Fashion Designers

Got a passion for fashion? Check out what these teens are doing to design and create their own clothing.

Nov 20, 2019

Creating your own signature style is a fun part of being a teen. Some teens pore through fashion blogs and social media accounts to find their favorite looks, while others love to shop til they drop. Kidzworld connected with three teens who discovered a passion for creating their own designs when they were young and learned how to make their own clothing, costumes, and outfits. 

Kate creates fantastic furry costumes from creatures she creates from sketches. Shayley has been designing clothing since she was old enough to put pencil to sketchpad and is now following her dream getting a degree in fashion design. And Chloe upcycles clothing to break the chain of waste in the fashion industry. Kidzworld interviewed these fashionable and resourceful teens to discover what fuels their creativity and how they channel it into wearable art. Read on to see how they do it.

Kate, 15

I make elaborate costumes based off of my own original characters, which I typically draw in pencil and/or copic markers.  The characters are usually animals, and the costumes are called fursuits. I start by sculpting a foam base for the character, then I pattern the head using duct tape and plastic bags.  I use the patterns as a guide to cut and piece together fabric, which is faux fur. The heads are sewn together completely by hand; the arms, tails, paws, etc are sewn both by hand and with my sewing machine.  

“The best part about wearing the suits is that it makes people smile and laugh, whether it be with me or at me.  Making other people smile and laugh brings me great joy.”

Kidzworld: What inspired you to create these costumes?

  • Kate: A little over a year ago I found I had an interest in sewing.  I also found that I had an interest in making costumes.  When I saw pictures of fursuits I immediately knew that was something I wanted to make.

Kidzworld: How long does it take to make each one?

  • Kate: Making fursuits is a long and challenging process that requires many, many hours.  Just the head alone can take anywhere from 4-8 months (too many hours to count!!!), depending on my school schedule.  Tails are quicker and take about 3 days (6 hours-ish).  Paws are more difficult, and take around 14-16 hours.  I don’t mind how long it all takes, tho, as I have fun doing it.
  • My best friend also enjoys making and wearing fur creations.  I have several friends who cosplay as characters from anime, as well.

Kidzworld: What do you like about making and wearing these creations? How does it make you feel?

  • Kate: The best part about making these suits is seeing everything come together in the end after working on them for months.  I like getting to see the characters I create “come to life.”  Also, with every suit I improve, so it’s super exciting to see the progression of my skills.  

Kate's furry creations make people smileKate's furry creations make people smileCourtesy of Kate

Shayley, 18

Shayley is attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, a four-year college located in downtown Los Angeles. She is majoring in Fashion Design. 

Shayley's 2017 collection, "Wonderstruck", was featured in her school fasion show. Shayley is 2nd from left. Shayley's 2017 collection, "Wonderstruck", was featured in her school fasion show. Shayley is 2nd from left. Courtesy of Shayley

 “My ultimate career goal is to become a big designer like Christian Dior or Michael Kors.”

Kidzworld: How long have you been interested in fashion?

  • Shayley: Ever since I was little, I would look through magazines and cut out shirts and match them with bottoms, or even draw my own designs! I’ve been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember.

Kidzworld: How did you learn how to sew and create clothing?

  • Shayley: I learned how to sew originally through my mom. She would make quilts and sew little things here and there, but as I grew up, I eventually taught myself how to create clothing. I bought multiple books and looked on Youtube, actually, as well!

Kidzworld: What was the first thing you designed and created?

  • Shayley: The first thing I can remember designing is a layered skirt for my American Girl Doll at the time. I was probably eight or nine years old, and I hot glued two pieces of fabric together, one shorter than the other to make it more three dimensional. 

Kidzworld: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever made?

  • Shayley: The coolest thing I’ve ever made is probably the huge light up dress I sewed for my high school’s fashion show. I was in my junior year of high school, and my entire collection for the show was light-up, engineered with lights I had worked with in my robotics class. My finale piece featured rainbow lights on a big layered white dress!

Kidzworld: Do you wear your own creations? 

  • Shayley: Every now and then I wear my own creations. I once made my own dress for a school dance, and since I go to a fashion school, I will occasionally wear a shirt or jacket I made. 

Kidzworld: What did you do in high school that helped fuel your passion and helped advance your educational and career goals? 

  • Shayley: When I was in high school, I was in my school’s FIDM Fashion Club. Their club really helped fuel my passion and helped advance my educational and career goals since I was able to get more information about the school and learn more about all the possible majors there are for art students. 

Kidzworld: What advice would you give teens who are interested in pursuing a career in fashion and design?

  • Shayley: I would say to teens who are interested in pursuing a career in fashion and design that although it is a very competitive industry, you can pursue your goal as long as you are passionate about what you are doing. 
  • To teens who want to learn how to make clothes that they can wear or sell, I would say that you should take the time and do the research. All the hard work you put into your clothes and your business is something that really shows, especially to others. 
  • Anything is possible as long as you are passionate and focused. 

While in college, Shayley works for a magazine, styling fashion shoots like this one.While in college, Shayley works for a magazine, styling fashion shoots like this one.Courtesy of R7 Media

Chloe, 17

Chloe is a high school senior who likes to upcycle old clothing for everyday wear and creates costume pieces as well. While she has a passion for fashion, her interest in creating her own clothing is primarily driven by specific personal requirements as well as an eco-conscious effort to reduce her personal carbon footprint and raise awareness of earth-friendly alternatives to wasteful common practices in the fashion industry.

“Sustainability and human rights have always been my biggest inspirations.”

Kidzworld: Tell us about your creations. What do you make?

  • Chloe: I upcycle old clothing and I create costume pieces. I have a rather eccentric sense of style, and creating costumes allows me to display that and to step into fantasy worlds. I also have pretty strict requirements for 'acceptable' clothes (I'm pretty sensitive to temperature and I have a tic disorder that causes me to compulsively pick my skin, so I need to have clothes that cover my shoulders, upper arms, back, and chest [the areas I usually pick], while still being cool/warm enough), which makes it hard for me to find clothes I really love. I try to alter shirts I don't wear because they don't meet that criteria, but so far most of those efforts have been failures, usually because I'm too scared to start cutting into a shirt I'm still planning to wear, or because I couldn't think of a good fix.

Kidzworld: What inspired you to make your own clothes?

  • Chloe: Sustainability and human rights have always been my biggest inspirations. Most mainstream fashion companies use the 'fast fashion' business model, which tries to put huge volumes of cheap clothes on the shelves as quickly as possible. Often, this means using environmentally destructive and polluting practices, sweatshops, failing to pay their producers living wages, and an enormous lack of transparency in the supply chain. It also means that consumers are encouraged to buy clothes on a whim, wear them a couple of times, and then when they inevitably start to fall apart from being so poorly made, throw them away, creating a huge waste problem.
  • I didn't want my money propping up systems that abuse workers and the Earth, so I swore to buy only from ethical fashion companies. Turns out, ethical clothing tends to be super boring! Their market is so small, they produce mostly basic t-shirts and leggings to appeal to as many people as possible, not teens exploring their identity and having fun with their appearance, so I couldn't find anything that appealed to me. I buy secondhand now, and I upcycle or create my own clothes when I can. Making things yourself requires a lot of effort, so it reduces throwaway culture associated with fast fashion. In terms of artistic inspiration, I'm inspired by science fiction, fantasy, Victorian fashion, and punk/goth/alternative countercultures.

Kidzworld: What materials do you use and where do you get them?

  • Chloe: I buy fabrics and materials from major craft stores, which admittedly does not fit in with my ideals, but ethical consumption has its limits; all we can do is try to keep improving. As much as possible, I try to use old clothes I've grown out of or stopped wearing.

Kidzworld: What’s your favorite creation and why? 

  • Chloe: The most challenging but most satisfying thing to make was the medieval plague doctor mask I made for my Halloween costume this year. I made it out of vinyl from Joann's upholstery section, and sewed it together by hand. Stitching just the main body – not including making the pattern, cutting, or sewing details – took two horror movies and two episodes of Breaking Bad, for a total of five hours. It really hurt my thumb, but I was pretty proud of myself. I wish I had cut the pattern differently, but I'm happy with my handiwork. It's my favorite because it combines my love for history with my love of spooky stuff. 

A Medieval plague doctor mask handmade by Chloe for Halloween 2019A Medieval plague doctor mask handmade by Chloe for Halloween 2019Courtesy of ClarityDesignWorks

Kidzworld: What advice would you give to someone who is inspired to follow in your footsteps — how can they get started?

  • Chloe: Keep working, don't give up, and don't get discouraged if it doesn't come out perfectly at first. But you don't have to limit your first sewing projects to just pincushions; I would have found that incredibly boring and definitely would have quit. Make things you care about. And as for ethical consumption: make commitments and stick to them, but don't beat yourself up for not being perfect, either. 
Have Your Say

Do you create your own clothing or did these teens inspire you to start? What are your thoughts on cosplay or upcycling old clothes? Does carbon footprint ever enter into your mind when you’re shopping for clothes or other items? Share your thoughts in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.