One aspect of the blogsphere that I didn’t anticipate when I started my blog was all of the new and wonderful people I would meet. Bloggers, pr reps, entrepreneurs, make-up artists, the list is getting longer by the day. I first crossed paths with Stella Carakasi last May when I was invited to a trunk show hosted by Adrienne Shubin of The Rich Life on a Budget. The evening included a happy hour and fashion show held at Stella’s swanky studio in Berkeley. Promptly at 6:00pm the models lined up, waiting with bated breath to showcase Stella’s Spring ’15 Collection. Fun prints, edgy tunics, and cropped jackets floated by on the runway one after another. Flattering silhouettes with unexpected design features were showcased one-by-one. White, black, gray, and chartreuse were the colors of choice for a collection named “Tuscan meets California.” Simple elegance, affordable luxury, and intelligent design are accurate words to describe Stella’s knockout collection. Needless to say, I was intrigued with the fresh designs presented that evening, and I was even more thrilled to meet the designer behind the collection later on in the evening . I knew at once that I had to feature this talented woman who is both a creative force and smart entrepreneur. Ladies, I am happy to introduce Stella Carakasi today. Are you ready to dive in and see what makes this amazing, beautiful, and talented woman tick? So am I.
Stella, are you over or under the age of 40?
Who inspires you the most in fashion? Anyone who stands out?
The real everyday woman inspires me and all of her bodily concerns. If my clothing manages to make her feel transformed by bringing out her natural beauty, so that she feels empowered, I have accomplished what I set out to do.
I don’t follow a fashion icon or any particular trend despite the fact that I stay informed. I usually filter a lot of the up to date information and translate it into my own vision that applies to my customer.
I appreciate great quality, excellent workmanship and attention to detail. My conscious efforts evolve around working with a lot of natural and environmentally friendly fabrics and always keeping the realistic female form in mind with all its shapes. The constant aim is to flatter many body types. Feeling comfortable and unique without overriding one’s personality is so important to me. My work is subtle in that sense, despite the fact that some items are rather bold in their statement. A lot of my styles usually transform on the body and the magic occurs in the synergy between the wearer and the garment.
Style is what looks great on you and what makes you feel fabulous, just the way you are. That energetic shift is so powerful and allows you to show up in a very positive way which is the most important result.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Inspiration is so hard to pinpoint because it can come from so many different sources. If you keep your eyes open and your mind curious, you will be amazed at the wonders around you on a daily basis. As a designer and as an extremely visual person, I tend to challenge myself to look at things from a different angle more often than not. There is a huge amount of discovery approaching things this way.
How do you balance creativity with commerce?
Great question. Creativity is certainly at the heart of my job at the beginning of each collection. I get myself into the right space where I can tap into that creative source and download what comes to mind. I organize the ideas, I try them out, I scrutinize, I perfect. It is a very personal and internal process for sure. Once the collection is created in concept the real work begins, by materializing the vision.
At this point, technical knowledge and a firm understanding of fabrics and their characteristics are important. Working with fitting specification, pattern making which is soft engineering and garment construction are the most important aspects of my job. Creativity is maybe 20 % of my job, the rest is technical execution and a lot of coordination to bring the multitude of aspects together that allows a collection to come alive and bringing it to market on time.
Fashion is a commercial product at the end and unless you have a customer that loves what you do, creativity alone won’t help you much in succeeding. Creativity in the field of fashion must be commercially viable and a thorough understanding of your customer base is very important. Fashion evolves constantly as does your customer, so it matters staying connected and reinventing yourself season after season in an understandable but fresh new way.
What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?
The insanity of it all. The job itself is so complex and so fast paced that it is impossible to ever get bored. I love the challenge of each collection, I love being able to work with my amazing team but also to be able to work independently. I love the travelling I get to do, domestically and overseas, I love connecting with my customers and being able to challenge myself all the time. The most rewarding part of my job is in knowing that my clothing transforms women in feeling beautiful and unique. It is such effortless style that is dressed up and dressed down and that can be owned by women herself.
Ocean, lake or pool?
No question, OCEAN for sure!
What advice would you give your 20something self if you could?
Follow your dream, as I have. Stay authentic and don’t be so externally oriented and influenced. True beauty and everything that matters in life comes from an internal source. Try to figure out a way to tap into that infinite internal source that connects all and figure out a way to express it externally, with your speech and actions and self acceptance. Have fun with who you are.
Follow your dreams!
There is a famous quote by Joseph Campbell that I love: “The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek.”
Following one’s dream is not always easy, it takes courage but it is the only way.
What do you think of first impressions?
We all judge, we all do it. Bringing awareness to this universal phenomenon within ourselves and remaining open minded is important. We all know that first impressions are not always accurate.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Stop apologizing. Women tend to do this a lot and I am trying to work on it.
Everyone has to start somewhere. What was your first job?
Sewing martial arts uniforms as a teenager while attending high school.
How did you develop your interest in fashion design? Any formal training?
My mother was a classically trained tailor and I watched her sew all my life despite the fact that I needed to go to college to earn a “real degree”. After doing so, I decided to go back to design school and pursue my dream. Yes I had formal training as a designer.
How do you describe your personal style?
Being comfortable and wearing practical clothing is very important to me since I spend the majority of my time at work and at home I am chasing after a seven-year old girl. I wear a lot of black which is my color. It is a blank canvas for me. I like clean shapes, I love architectural details, I love the understandable and wearable unusual. Depending on my mood and occasion, I can be very dressed down or very dressed up. I love statement pieces for special occasions but no matter what I wear, it does not wear me.
What is it like running your own business?
It is extremely challenging and also very rewarding. It is a huge responsibility and the never-ending quest. Running this business for the past 22 years has also been my spiritual journey since I have grown as a person so much and the dialogue continues.
Failure only exists when you give up and like many other business owners I have looked failure in the eye a few times over the years. This business has shown me my tenacity and the deep conviction that I have for what I do and offer. Doors have opened where only walls existed and what I have learned is the fact that the belief in yourself and in what you do, is what gives you the energy to proceed even in extremely uncertain times. If you believe in your vision, you automatically carve the path to your success.
What advice do you have for other aspiring fashion designers?
Don’t be fooled in thinking that this is a glamourous business because it is not. It is an exciting business for sure and you will only succeed if you have the ability to multitask. Don’t think that it is about you, because fashion is a commercial business and your designs have to sell for you to succeed. It is about the customer that you design for and within that parameter you can unleash your creative genius. Get the technical training, so that you know how to execute your creative ideas. Creativity alone won’t get you very far in this business; learn how to materialize your ideas.
What three words describe your current life?
Busy, Transforming, Curious
Thank you, Stella, for taking the time from your busy schedule to share a bit more about your life behind-the-scenes. Ladies, please take the time to click on Stella’s website Stella Carakasi. It’s open 24/7. If you live in the bay area swing by Stella’s Studio located in The Gilman District: 1370 10th Street Berkeley, CA 94710. Please take a moment to view her amazing collection, you won’t be disappointed. Isn’t it wonderful that in this day and age we have to opportunity to support women entrepreneurs from the comfort of our home? Use discount code Style15 to receive 15% off of your purchase that Stella has graciously extended from July 1 through July 15. Who needs a new outfit for the 4th of July?