it chose me
Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Shannon grew up in a relatively small community yet soon wanted to explore what else was out there. She moved to NYC at the age of 19 to go to Parsons but got so homesick she only stayed a semester. She ended up following her family on a move to Texas and graduated from the University of Texas in Austin. Immediately upon graduating, she had to get back to NYC and try it again. She landed a job at MTV in Times Square working on website design and development. She eventually landed back in Austin continuing in website design, but after 9/11 she had a life reboot and sought a change. Her lifelong love of fashion and vintage accessories brought her to FOSSIL in Dallas, TX. She traveled the world at Fossil – trend shopping and manufacture visits took her to Italy, France, England, China, Hong Kong, India and of course LA and NYC. She was smitten with the industry and stayed with FOSSIL for 13 years. Just recently, she returned to her home state of Arkansas to raise her family and now works out of her home in Fayetteville as a freelance designer and consultant.
What should everyone know about you?
SC: I am a dedicated accessory designer with over 15 years of experience designing and developing bags, belts and slgs. Most of my experience has been working at FOSSIL in the women’s division. I am experienced in leather, fabrics and synthetics and can take product through the entire process from concept to production. I am also a strong advocate of the importance of R+D to a brand and the need to always be progressing a line.
How would you describe what you do?
SC: I currently work out of my home and have recently created my own product design company – FINT + CO – offering both design and consulting services in the accessories industry. www.fintandco.com. I really am just a freelancer but I wanted to legitimize myself and create a company name with some branding.
Why did you choose to be a designer?
SC: I like to say that I didn’t choose it – it chose me. I collected Vogue magazines under my bed when I was a young teenager. I would paint my bedroom furniture and rearrange my bedroom layout constantly as a teen. It’s just a part of how I think – I can’t imagine a world without it.
What steps did you take to become a designer?
SC: I actually took a course about HTML in my English department at the University of Texas in Austin – this was in the mid 90’s. This opened my eyes to a whole new world that was at the time very undiscovered and exciting – the “World Wide Web” as it was called then. I could write code that would alter the visual design – fun problem solving. I was very intrigued and finished college looking for work in the internet industry and landed in NYC at MTV within their online division. I continued in web design for a few years before making a career change to product design after 9/11.
Best/Most Challenging part of your job?
SC: Hands down its problem solving from every angle – designing within pricepoint, construction issues, as well as figuring out the needs of the client or company you are working for. And second to problem solving is seeing your designs being used and worn on people throughout the world.
If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
SC: A “thoughtful” house flipper – which still integrates design – so I guess I can’t imagine a lifestyle without some aspect of design. (I hate the term “flipper” as its connotations have come to mean quick buck which would not be my approach).
How did you get started in design?
SC: My degree is a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas in Austin. I transferred to a few different colleges throughout (Parsons included), and declared a few different majors as I didn’t fully know what I wanted to do. I knew I was creative but I also was good at analytical things. I always had this right brain, left brain conflict. Very few colleges taught about accessories and to be honest I am not sure I would have gone in that direction anyways because I, like many, assumed it to be pattern making and sewing which I did not enjoy. As mentioned earlier, after graduating I started my career in web design however after 9/11 I was ready for a change and felt I wanted something more tactile and dimensional. Lucky Magazine had just come about and they always featured new up and coming designers and would provide their direct contact info. There was a new luxury brand that I naively emailed and asked about the industry and they mentioned I should look at Fossil. I only knew Fossil to be a watch and men’s wallet line – but immediately looked online and emailed them my resume. When I went to interview the Senior VP of Leathers went to school with that designer that had emailed me. I moved to Dallas and started work a month later – I guess you could say it was meant to be. The right time and place does help!
What do you like about what you do?
SC: I knew I had a great career fit when the first sample I ever designed arrived. I love concepting an idea and bringing it to life. I am an immediate gratification type person so I also loved the sample turn time which could be as short as 2 weeks. Boom – the connection of left brain and right brain had been solved! I was smitten and so grateful to have finally connected my strengths and my interest in something that I got paid for!
What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?
SC: That I know how to create patterns and sew. Far from it and honestly part of the reason I did not investigate this career earlier. I have learned a lot more about sewing and pattern making and that knowledge can certainly expedite problem solving at times but it is not what I do.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
SC: Owning my own accessory brand and renovating homes on the side! 🙂
What sparked your interest in design?
SC: As mentioned before, it was more an innate thing but I did have a first obsession with a brand that wasn’t just a typical young girl loving clothes. I was truly obsessed with Esprit De Corp – everything about it – the catalog print design, packaging, and of course the clothes. I would even read up about the founders. I collected the catalogs and would not let anyone touch them! When I reflect back, I see that obsession as the start of my journey.
How has your work evolved since you began your career?
SC: I definitely have developed my own style – which is typically a more simple yet functional look but my skill set and maturity as a designer allows me to also design to the clients needs. I equally love to work on novelty and even sporty or utilitarian looks. Adaptation comes with experience.
Are there any types of clothing/footwear/accessories that you avoid wearing?
SC: There are two rather specific things I will not wear – shoes with seams down the center unless its clearly part of the design rather than for cost reduction. And being a designer, I can tell the difference. Secondly, I can’t wear shoes with PVC used in the interior – your feet can’t breathe! I also am not a dress wearing kind of girl – they make special appearances about 2x a year.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
SC: I moved to a college town in the mountains two years ago – very outdoor conscious with State Parks around. I find myself in outdoor gear stores more and am deeply intrigued by what is happening in that market and how fashion is being integrated into it as that industry grows.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your career?
SC: Remain open minded throughout the design process and keep your eyes and ears open to new ideas. There are times when the whole process of concepting to production is easy and fast and the product is a huge success. Those projects feel awesome- but, they are rare – I think I can count mine on one hand. Be open to “happy accidents” from your manufacturer or someone you least expect it offering up an idea – LISTEN as they can lead to even better results than your original idea. Not always but many times.
What advice would you give to young designers?
SC: When you are working for a company, do not take the design process personally. Almost every young designer I have ever worked with goes through it and for some it truly becomes their downfall. Those first few years of creating product are kind of like your babies. You have it set in your head how you want it to look, and totally forget that its not for you – its for the needs of the company. One idea may evolve into something completely different than you had originally thought, and sometimes that’s OK. As you mature as a designer, you learn when to appropriately fight for an idea and when to let it go.
What’s your motto?
SC: Work hard and remain kind throughout.
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