StylePortfolios: Connie Bourgeois
What is your employment status?
CB: Owner of Conjetta Designs, freelance design firm
What is your official job title?
CB: Creative Director
Please summarize your professional career in 1 to 3 sentences; what should everyone know about you?
CB: After over a decade designing and developing for brands big and small, I launched my own design and consulting firm, Conjetta Designs. I have thorough experience designing and developing women’s lifestyle apparel and accessories.
Describe what you do?
CB: I work with brands to define their design aesthetic, create their range plan, design their line, and facilitate sampling and production directly with factories. I also pitch and sell the line directly to buyers in some cases!
Why did you choose to be a designer?
CB: I have always appreciated the process of getting dressed; deciding who you want to be that day and dressing the part. The fact that apparel and accessory choices tell a story about the person wearing them has always fascinated me. I wanted to create pieces that people are drawn to because my designs tell their story.
What steps did you take to become a designer?
CB: Getting dressed and creating a certain image for myself was important to me even as a small child. My mother noticed this and taught me to sew around 10 years old. It was then I realized that there was such a thing as a fashion designer. I then went on to get a BFA in Fashion Design and PD and then interned for a few designers while in school. After college I worked for various companies in design and PD for ten years until I launched my design firm earlier this year!
What is the best/most challenging part of your job?
CB: The best part of my job is being able to see the transition of an idea into a tactile reality. Seeing a project I worked on become an avenue for the end user to tell their personal story, to show the world who they are that day, is the best part of being a fashion designer! The most challenging part of my job is delegating the different duties of product development to other designers. Sometimes it’s hard to let go and let someone else take the reins on developing your vision, but being a business owner has forced me to get comfortable with that pretty quickly!
How did you get started in design?
CB: After my mother taught me to sew I began cutting up my clothes and making them into something new. Then, I started drawing fashion looks, reading every fashion magazine I could get my hands on. I created a “swipe book” at 13, pulling magazine images as inspo and then organizing them by theme. I had no idea this was called “trend research”, and is hugely important in a designer’s process.
What do you like about what you do?
CB: I like being a resource for the brands I work with to realize their dreams. Most of the time, I work directly with owners of fashion companies. These people love the fashion industry and want to make it better. They want to solve problems for their customers, they want to delight their customers with clothing and accessories they love. I like that my work supports their dream of having a fashion brand, and allows them to deliver beautiful products to their customers while making a good living for their employees and themselves.
What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?
CB: They think I am frolicking in fabric samples and going to runway shows every weekend! Really, I am in front of my computer all the time! They also always think that I am judging what they have on. When people first meet me and hear what I do, they get really self conscious. But, what they don’t understand is that I’m not judging what they are wearing, not everyone cares about trends, and that’s a good thing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CB: I see myself managing a larger team of creatives at Conjetta Designs. I’d like to continue connecting with new brands and clients to help them achieve their goals! I’d also like to launch my own sustainable lounge line. I’m in the research phase there, but hope to launch that in a few years.
What sparked your interest in design?
CB: Performers! I loved that Madonna could don an outfit that told a story about her. I loved that people like her could get on stage with the confidence to perform in front of thousands of people, and I always credited their amazing costumes for giving them the confidence they needed to do it. I wanted to create that for regular people. It’s funny that someone as outrageous as Madonna inspired me because I mostly design for commercial brands that are nowhere near as avant garde as Madonna!
How has your work evolved since you began your career?
CB: When I first decided to become a designer I was drawn to the glamorous facade that our industry has clung to for far too long. I wanted to design for the stars and performers that inspired me. But after a few years in the industry, it’s regular women who inspire me the most now. I design for women that may not need stadium level confidence, but might need the confidence to support their team at a stadium game! Or the woman whose traveling and wants to feel strong and confident on the beach and that might come in the form of a gorgeous sustainably made beach cover up she picked up at Whole Foods! Now I design for women who look to the fashion industry to give them what they need to get through the day and feel their best while they power through working from home while taking care of their kids. It’s not nearly as glamorous, but it’s even more inspiring to me now.
Are there any types of clothing/footwear/accessories that you avoid wearing?
CB: I avoid wearing clothing that doesn’t bring me joy. I avoid wearing clothing that is out of context. Or inappropriate for the environment. I wouldn’t wear yoga pants to a client meeting unless I designed them and the client wants me to create an activewear line. Which I actually love activewear, I just don’t wear it when I’m not being active. I’m all about dressing for the occasion!
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
CB: I’m fascinated by the change in consumer buying habits in regards to sustainability. I’m fascinated by the changes our industry is being forced to make to combat unethical manufacturing practices. It’s not ok to source at factories that pollute and abuse workers. People are beginning to wonder how a t-shirt is $5.00. There is a steep cost to cheap fashion and people are starting to see that. I’m helping my clients overcome these obstacles and create more sustainable businesses by leading the development of vertical manufacturing, introducing them to ethical supply chains, implementing 3D technology like CLO or Browzwear to reduce sampling wastage, fabric usage, and PD time. Marrying an ethical approach to a profitable business model has been a fascinating and challenging task that I have really enjoyed.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your career?
CB: An on time deliverable is better than a perfect but late deliverable!
What advice would you give to young designers?
CB: If you can’t find a job in the industry, keep designing on your own time. Even if it’s just sketching and hand-making clothes for friends, that work is invaluable and you will probably never get another opportunity to design as freely as you will in that limbo between college graduation and getting your first job!
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
CB: I’m currently working on a line of up-scale fan apparel for the St. Louis Blues, an NHL team that is from my home city and won the Stanley Cup last year! I would love to see the Fall 21 line buttoned up and get a nice order for the client I am working on this with! It’s been so fun designing this line, as it’s not your typical promotional fan gear. It’s targeted to more fashionable fans, the line includes cashmere sweaters knitted locally at a high tech knitting facility, it includes some women’s activewear, and athleisure pieces.
Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?
CB: Don’t burn bridges. No matter how much you want to ‘be honest’ with someone, this is a small industry and that momentary satisfaction you may feel in the moment could cost you an opportunity later.
What’s your motto?
CB: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. (Or dress as the person you’d like to become)
Other (feel free to tell the readers anything about you that we didn’t ask)
CB: Women’s Resort and Activewear are two of my favorite categories to design for. I’m a former competitive bodybuilder, so I’ve spent a LOT of time in activewear and have a lot of opinions about fit, fabric and aesthetic. I also love to travel, so resort and casual outerwear are my next two favorite things to design!
Fashion designer with 12+ years of experience leading teams in the design, development and growth of products and brands with a laser sharp eye for technical specifications, on-trend styling and profitability.
Designs seen at Forbes.com, Seventeen Magazine (print version), Us Weekly (print version), Causebox, Whole Foods, Michael Stars, Keds, Perry Ellis, Rawlings, St. Louis Blues, Arch Apparel, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Revolve, Evereve.
Honored Fashion Critic for the Senior Fashion Design Class of 2017, Fashion Mentor to students in Senior Fashion Design Class of 2019 at Stephens College.