StylePortfolios: Allyson Dohan
What is your employment status?
AD: Freelance/self employed
What is your official job title?
Please summarize your professional career in 1 to 3 sentences; what should everyone know about you?
AD: I am an accessories designer located in NYC, specializing in knits and wovens. With over 15 years of industry experience, I have worked for various companies from mass market to luxury.
Describe what you do?
AD: Working as an independent contractor, I play many roles. Not only do I design soft accessories, but I also merchandise for various clients. I also have one client that needs me to build their customer base so that’s been a different role for me. It’s been interesting to see how different parts of the industry work together from concept to completion by working in each of these roles.
Why did you choose to be a designer?
AD: I remember being a kid and touching all of the fabrics when I went clothes shopping with my mom as well as making clothes for my Barbies. I also love figuring out how things are made. Where do products you buy come from? How are they made? I would ask these questions a lot growing up (and I still do!). Hand feel and construction have always been interesting to me and seeing where I am today, it makes a lot of sense how I ended up as a designer in fashion.
What steps did you take to become a designer?
AD: I originally went to school for graphic design, receiving a BFA at Savannah College of Art and Design. Upon graduation, I interned at a branding company. There I learned how to collaborate with a team to create promotional items and Powerpoint presentations for beverage companies. I later worked in the art department at a local screen printing and embroidery facility. It was easy for me to transition from print to fashion design since I know the major computer programs and studied package design in school, which has similar design aspects. What I loved most about the fashion side of design was seeing my ideas come to life in a more tactile way.
What is the best/most challenging part of your job?
AD: I would have to say the most challenging part of my job at this time is increasing business and maintaining a steady stream of work. Being an independent contractor definitely has its advantages (working from home, ability to choose your own schedule/take time off) but has its downsides like inconsistent work flow, payment delays and having to pay my own health insurance. Overall, I do love working for myself, even if it is more challenging than working directly for a company with steady work and income.
How did you get started in design?
AD: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved art. From playing with blocks and Legos as a child, to learning various mediums in high school. Design was a different approach to fine arts that I didn’t know much about until my junior year of high school. I had attended a graphic design show at a local university and loved how the designers were able to enhance their creativity using computers. This was during the time where graphic design as a profession was just starting to become mainstream. I wanted to understand this side of design more and found a college that had a great graphic design department. From there I was able to learn and sharpen my design skills to be able to find jobs after graduation. It’s a slow process but you need to be patient as a designer to grow and develop your skills further.
What do you like about what you do?
AD: I like the flexibility my job gives me. Every day can be different when you work for yourself. I have the ability to design a line of Fair Isle patterns for socks one day and go to a sales meeting with a client the next day. Next week can be completely different than the last. I need to always be on my toes and adapt!
What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?
AD: Most people hear I’m an accessories designer and they think that I design shoes or jewelry. I think people tend to forget that hats, scarves, gloves, belts are all accessories and someone needs to design them.
What sparked your interest in design?
AD: Growing up, my mom would sew various items like Halloween costumes for my siblings and me or curtains for the living room. My dad was an electrical designer before he retired. I guess I get the creative gene from both parents which helped lead me to becoming a designer. My mom had more abstract creativity and my dad, more logical creativity. I find both aspects are needed in fashion to create original yet salable items.
How has your work evolved since you began your career?
AD: When I first started working in this industry, I didn’t know anything about knits or woven accessories. I learned everything on the job or by taking additional classes at FIT. It was a slow process but working at different companies and traveling overseas to factories has helped me increase my knowledge of these categories.
Are there any types of clothing/footwear/accessories that you avoid wearing?
AD: Anything polyester! I’ve always felt uncomfortable wearing polyester. It’s not breathable and can feel itchy on my skin. Additionally, using a lot of polyester qualities isn’t great for the environment. I’m happy more people are starting to wake up to the implications of overusing this quality and discovering more sustainable materials.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
AD: Global movements and how they reflect fashion has been compelling recently. We are currently dealing with strong political, economic and sociological issues today and I think it’s fascinating to see how these events play out in the fashion world. How we adapt to these situations is definitely expressed in our clothing. For example, as more people work from home, the loungewear look has gained momentum in popularity.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your career?
AD: No matter your background, it’s never too late to learn something new. If something interests you, go out and discover more, pay attention to trends, learn from others.
What advice would you give to young designers?
AD: Ask questions, learn as much as you can, as early as possible. Listen to all ideas. Network. Be nice to everyone. You never know when you’ll need someone later on in your career or they may need you. Positivity goes a long way (at work and in life)!
Other (feel free to tell the readers anything about you that we didn’t ask)
AD: I love running in the park, cooking delicious vegan meals, hand knitting and traveling the world!
Allyson Dohan is a fashion designer, specializing in soft accessories based in New York City. She designs a diverse range of products from high end luxury to mas market clients.
Feel free to contact her through her portfolio website.