Online Learning Grad is Footwear Designer at Seychelles
Stephanie Boda earned two degrees from FIDM—Fashion Design and Footwear Design—before she completed her Bachelor’s in Business Management degree online in 2013. She’s now a Senior Designer at Seychelles Footwear, a boutique footwear brand headquartered in Los Angeles. We caught up with her to find out what advice she has for FIDM Students experiencing online learning for the first time—and what it’s like to be a footwear designer right now.
Tell us a little about yourself: I am originally from Arizona but transferred to FIDM after I wasn't finding direction at ASU. I have lived in LA for 10 years with my dog-child Charlie and we love taking bike rides, reading books, and planning future vacations!
Tell us about your work: I work for a small footwear company based in El Segundo. Seychelles got its start with vintage-inspired silhouettes but ultimately kept and grew that fanbase because of our commitment to comfortable, cute shoes. I am the lead designer for Seychelles but I also work on private label brands, as well as following the design process through production.
My process starts with a mix of creativity and analysis, looking at the market to see what's working as well as looking at trend direction and choosing inspiration that we think will best connect with our customers. After sketching shoes and sending them to our sample rooms around the world, I tweak designs on photographs and physical prototypes. Special materials are sourced and the line starts to come together!
From here, a lot of editing happens, cutting things out and adding in things that are missing. A lot of opinions and sales information is traded to decide on the products we want to take to market. I think some of the best skills you can start with are a thick skin and a strong ability to communicate. Not only do I have to send directions to various countries and partners where English isn't necessarily their first language, I have to be able to communicate with the people in my company who aren't on the design team. I have to be able to sell my ideas to our sales team so that they can feel confident about what they're selling. And I may not always succeed, so it's helpful to be able to not get offended and move on to the next good idea.
Can you share with us some of the Seychelles styles you've worked on lately?
ONE OF A KIND platform slide: Versatile fashion is the key to the ultimate shoe for Summer 2020...and it's on SALE.
REJUVENATED leather sandal: Part of our SEY for Good campaign; a portion of the proceeds benefit victims of acid attacks in Agra, India where these sandals are made.
STAND OUT leather sneaker: Is it still considered a white sneaker if it has a rainbow stripe? Probably.
Why did you choose FIDM? I have always loved fashion! But that's a vague answer... Clothing was always so exciting to me. I loved reading magazines, I would devour every single word even if it didn't apply to me (like how to fight wrinkles in the winter, even though I was 10). I would cut out all the best pages of the magazines, the best dresses and shoes, and compile them into my own fashion magazine. I would make paper dolls and design clothes for them, and—the beginning of my shoe obsession—I would trace pictures of shoes and design new ones in my sketchbook.
My parents had a more practical approach to clothing, and my mom would take me clothes shopping before the school year started, and again in the spring when it got hot. The catch was, I had to put together a report on how much money I expected it would cost and how many items the budget would cover. It was stressful! But I imagine it was great preparation for the business I am in now.
There weren't any fashion programs in my state when I was in college, and after switching my major at ASU about 342 times, I realized that homework would be the death of me unless...it involved reading magazines.
After that, I put all my effort into applying to FIDM, and then working through the programs. I don't think I read any magazines for homework, but I can say the projects were a LOT more rewarding for me.
How do you feel FIDM prepared you for what you are doing now? I think FIDM is a great school because of all the resources they have jam-packed into this amazing hub of fashion, talent, and knowledge! I went to public school and learned that school is what you make of it. If you take advantage of the resources FIDM offers, there is no way you won't succeed. There is no one "right" path you need to take to the top, but if you can figure out a plan, FIDM will help you follow that. There are courses on communication, courses on technology, courses on creating fashion WITH technology. It really gave me a broad knowledge on a lot of topics, and also gave me the opportunities to dive deeper into these topics. There were a lot of projects that were very challenging, but if it's not a challenge, then you won't be trying hard. FIDM also inspired a harder work ethic. If you really enjoy something, you will want to do it well.
What went into your decision to enroll in FIDM's eLearning program: A couple things, the first is commuting. I never lived that far away from campus, but parking and carrying my supplies around a lot was a motivation to create my own productive space at home. Another is, I enjoy reading more than listening to someone speak. I'd rather have a project assigned, and then figure out how I am going to learn and work though it. It also was faster for me. I didn't think I needed to sit in a classroom for hours and then go home and do the work, I thought I could multitask! And I did! I will say, group projects will ALWAYS be a challenge, whether it's online or in-person.
Tell us about your online learning experience at FIDM. What was the best part? The flexibility! At the end of my business program, I was taking all of my classes online and it allowed me to get a job in the footwear industry working full time, while also going to school full time. It made it a lot more manageable when my schooling was on my time.
Any advice for current FIDM Students who are experiencing online classes for the first time? Invest in a printer. Sometimes it's hard for me to keep organized if all my files exist in the computer, I like to print out the syllabus and coursework and take my own notes to refer back to without necessarily having to crack open my computer or have internet access.
What is your biggest goal right now? Right now the fashion industry is going through a huge change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fashion calendars, line sizes, product quality and sourcing, all of that is changing. Our retailers and customers are changing, and because I work for a small, family owned business, there is a chance we might not be here next year. But I think there is a bigger chance we will be, and our business will be more focused and stronger. My biggest goal right now is to see our brand through this storm! And it is exciting to be in a position to drive some fresh changes in fashion and footwear.
Anything else you’d like to share? It can be disheartening not to have the option to learn face-to-face with your peers and gain those personal connections you normally would have, but there are so many positive skills to be learned from communicating online! So much business has moved online in the past decade, so this is a great learning environment to find out what sorts of things do and don't work on the screen. Being able to create content that grabs viewers attention, and then holds it for more than 3 seconds, is a SKILL. Creating product that customers don't scroll past with a mere glance is a SKILL. Getting prompt and helpful replies from your teammates in a SKILL. Being digitally organized is a SKILL. These are all skills that are just going to become more important over time, and school is the perfect place to hone those. Good luck everyone!
Keep up with Seychelles on Instagram @seychellesshoes and with Stephanie Boda @stephboda.