Elizabeth Zaragoza is an Associate Designer for Active & Swim Active at Forever 21. She has three degrees from FIDM: Merchandise Product Development (2011), International Manufacturing and Product Development (2012), and Bachelor of Science in Business Management (2013).
Tell us a little about yourself: I’m a Gemini vegetarian, born and raised in Los Angeles. I love dogs, chocolate, and french fries, and I can shop for hours (makeup is currently my weakness). I hope one day to travel the world.
Where are you working now? I’m currently a designer at Forever 21, for the active department. I work alongside the senior designer to create collections, monthly. We start with trend and color, prints, sketches, and create initial tech packs. We work very closely with multiple departments such as graphic designers, production, buying, etc. to meet deadlines, know what’s selling, know what our customers want, and to make sure protos come in correctly and on time.
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? I gained so much from my four years at FIDM. Everything I learned applies to my everyday work life. I think especially now working for an active line I need to constanly be aware of performance textiles and technical details, yet also find a way to remain trendy, so looking at other categories, what’s currently trending and how it can be applied to activewear.
FIDM prepared me not only with all the hard skills needed for the industry, such as computer aided design, pattern making, sewing, specing, etc., but also with soft skills needed to be successful in the industry. I'm now much more comfortable speaking in front of large crowds and presenting my ideas. Working on so many projects also helps learning how to work with different kinds of people. This is something you will always encounter and you have to find ways to work as a team and get the job done. FIDM helped me build my confidence and helped me grow so much as a person.
How did you decide on your major? I initially looked into Fashion Design because it’s all I knew at that time. After meeting with my Admissions Advisor, she listened to what I was interested in and what I saw myself doing in the future. It was then I decided to go with Product Development. I loved the idea of learning a little bit of everything, then starting a career with established companies to learn as much as I could from their success and failures so that I eventually could own my own business.
IMPD was a goal from the start. I’d done my research before I started at FIDM, and knew I wanted to further my career. Bachelor's degree was also a personal goal from the get-go, so I had the opportunity to carry over units from IMPD and complete my Bachelor's degree in one year.
Looking back, which classes at FIDM were most valuable to you? Everything :) It’s so hard to pinpoint a few—I learned so much from all. But I have to say, Brand Portfolio Development was a first major one for me. This is where I had the chance to use all the skills I learned throughout the program and combine it in one final project. All the computer aided design classes were not only valuable but just fun overall. Textile classes were extremely valuable because understanding that alone helps you become a better designer just knowing what fabrics work together, what don’t and which properties they have to be able to complete a design.
Any advice for current FIDM Students? Network, network, network! Like I said, the soft skills I gained were one of my biggest accomplishments at FIDM. The people with whom I’ve met and kept in contact are people I can always come to for help and advice. Plus, this industry, as big as it is, is also a small world. You never know who you may come across later in your career who could open new doors and opportunities for you.
What is your biggest goal right now? I’d love to travel more. With IMPD, I had the opportunity to travel overseas and it really opened my eyes to new places and new people. But I also love my job and currently love what I do, so ideally I’d love to find a job that allows travel for work somewhere in Spain or London. Dream job is to work for Zara. :D
Anything else you’d like to share? Be open minded and be curious. The industry is big and there are so many career paths you could take, so don’t be afraid to try new things