Jelisa is a very good friend of mine, actually my best friend and I've known her since 2008. I met her while we both we were working as student fashion designers in the Gallery 37 Program. Jelisa is an amazing designer (trust me, I'm not biased because she's my friend!) and has made fabulous pieces throughout the years. Check out her interview and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a one of a kind ensemble!
1. Introduce Yourself (Age, Birthplace, Education, etc)
My name is Jelisa Brown. I am 23 years old, born and raised on the southside of Chicago. I have a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My major was fashion design. I am a Chicago based fashion designer the name of my line is AsiL NworB I make clothing for all shapes and sizes all ages etc.
2. How long have you been active in fashion designing?
I've been designing since I was 10 years old, so 13 years or so. I would draw clothing without bodies. My aunt would call them floating designs. I would draw them on line paper which,my mother hated because she felt that that wasn't the proper paper to draw on and often scolded me for doing so. She also put me in sewing classes at John Hancock Fabrics and classes at the Museum of Contemporary Arts.
3. When did you know you were destined to become a fashion designer?
I didn't know and I don't know (laughter). I hated sewing. It was often frustrating and painful. I cried, I shouted, I HATED IT. But as I grew older and took more classes and things of that nature, I started to master it. Some of the things I make are not perfect which is something I think that makes my designs unique. The fact that I actually started loving what I do made me believe that I am destined for fashion. The fact that as soon as I got out of school I had my line which was sponsored by Curve Culture Boutique as well as showcased last year was when I knew because all of my peers went straight to interning for little to nothing. I had already showcased my first plus size line ever which is huge. I got excellent feedback and people were loving it. Eating it up. That's how I knew. that this was for me.
4. What's the best thing about being a fashion designer? What's a challenge you had to overcome?
The best thing about being a designer is the fact that I have the freedom to bring my vision and my customers' visions to life. Everything that I do is like a mini collaboration between the customer and myself Some of the challenges would be not being able to deliver something that I know I could do, but because my heart wasn't into that particular project I couldn't push myself to bring it alive I was intimidated by formal wear because I was so use to doing casual and or hipster-esque (if that's a word) designs. For example: A customer came to me and asked me If I could make her a formal dress for an Mary Kay event. I started it and wasted tons of fabric and it just wasn't right. It was ill fitting and I hated it completely. I wasted like 100 dollars worth of material and a lot of my time. It was horrible and she was disappointed. Then I had to quickly come up with something else that we were both happy with and I did. Thank God my mother gave me the money to pay for more material and re-do the dress. But that's an obstacle I had to overcome and make the best out of the situation.
5. What's the story behind the name of your fashion line? Why did you choose it to represent your fashion?
So AsiL NworB is basically my name backwards without the J and the E. My friend Teddy Jackson and sister Kyciana Brown aka AJ Peace came up with the name when we were in an elementary school called the Choir Academy. We were sitting around after school just hanging out and the helped me come up with the name. I chose it because it exudes me. It is me. It's who I am its unique, creative, and different. No one is going to be able to pronounce it but, I'm okay with that.
6. You create fashions for all shapes and sizes, but your specialize and put a lot of focus on plus size fashions. Tell us about the importance of representation for plus size women in today's fashion industry?
I am plus size. Plus size fashion is important for me to represent because I am plus size. I was never a size 0. I have been plus size all my life and probably will be plus size for the remainder of my life. It's important to represent who you are and not change unless you want to change. Just because I'm fat doesn't mean I cant be sexy. Just because I'm fat doesn't mean I cant wear different things and be different. Being plus size is trending right now I promise you, search #plussize #plussizefashion and you will see what I'm talking about.
7. How do you want to use your fashion designing to impact society?
I want to impact society by showing people that no matter what you are going through if you have the gift and or drive to do what you want do it.Take initiative and use the issues that you encounter to make your work better. Don't give up. I have a hell of a story. The earlier work that I've done in school helped me to spread awareness on a lot of the trials and tribulations that I've went through along with helping me get through. Others may have even been through some of the same situations that I've come across.
8. What makes your fashion line different from other lines?
What makes my line different is that I can go from making street wear to wedding dress at any minute. My line is UNPREDICTABLE. I am unpredictable. I make statements. I make art.
9. What's your favorite piece or collection you've made so far? (a picture of that would be good)
I don't have a favorite collection. All of my collections show growth, from where I started to who I am now as a designer. I'm not gonna lie. I'm all over the place. I'm not as established as I think I should be at this point but I feel that I am on the right path. I still have room to grow and I still have some barriers that I need to cross in general. I am still finding myself and still working toward achieving more and more goals and obstacles that I am grappling with personally and artistically.
10. Where do you want to take ASIL NWORB in the future and what advice would you give to aspiring designers?
I want to take ASIL NWORB internationally. I want boutiques all around the world to sell my custom hand made pieces made by me. I know for a FACT that I want boutique in Chicago. I want to travel and be someone's personal designer. I want my items displayed all around the world. I want people to know who I am and where I come from, while staying true to myself and my city. Even if I never go international I want to say I've tried. I want to share my story with everyone .But right now I'm making custom pieces for anyone that needs something for special events or anything else. I'm stacking my money doing alterations, sketching, looking for manufacturing companies and getting ready to launch my website before the year is over. I want and need that to go to the next level. Some advice I want to give to other designers is boss up. What I mean by that is be humble but don't let anyone, and I mean anyone, stop your shine. Be you and don't apologize for it. Ask God for it and stay focused. don't let anyone or anything as far as your personal situations slow you down or bring you down.
Thanks for your time, Jelisa