Photo by: Heather J. McClelland
Andrea has honed her practice via her clothing design practice, sewing in the film industry and private consulting positions, but her roots in maker communities keep her passionate about illuminating clothing and our relationship with it. Today she is the owner, designer and educator of Fair Fit Studio, a sewing studio in Baton Rouge that offers personalized instruction on how to sew and make your own clothing.
Andrea teaches sewing instruction for students at all levels of experience, from absolute beginner to seasoned sewers seeking more advanced methodologies. She holds a BFA in Visual Arts from the University of Iowa and an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has worked in various fashion creation, presentation and curation capacities in the making and business of clothing.
Through her teaching and advocacy, Andrea is raising awareness of the environmental and human implications of off-the-rack clothing while empowering people to understand the concepts, systems and mechanics behind clothes so they are inspired to engage their own creations.
We recently spoke with Andrea ahead of her March 23 TEDxLSU talk about her work, her life and how she’s teaming up with other businesses to help creative entrepreneurs in Baton Rouge. Check out the highlights of the conversation below.
Where in Iowa are you from?
I grew up in Madison County, on a farm near Winterset. This area is famous for the Bridges of Madison County, and it has always been a craft and quilt community, before crafting and quilting was the maker phenomenon that it is today.
What prompted you to start making your own clothes?
I fell in love with sewing when I was around 6 because I’d watch my mom make me things. I also was very much into clothing and fashion even though I was living in Iowa before the internet and the clothes I saw in magazines were not easy to find there.
If I had an idea for a garment I wanted to own and wear, I had to make it. I began fumbling my way through sewing patterns around age 11 or 12 and learned I had to customize them to make them look the way that I envisioned. I kept sewing my own clothes or customizing my thrift store finds into adulthood. If I had an idea for something I wanted to wear, I would make it. To me this was a life skill that came naturally and was a fun way to make my own personalized and unique wardrobe.
What is the most difficult type of garment to make?
I’ve sewn for over 20 years, so by now I take my knowledge a little bit for granted because I make everything, and am not scared to try something hard because even if I fail, I know I gain more mastery. Since I sew primarily for myself or to learn methods of construction to teach to my students, I don’t have the added pressure of someone else’s expectation of the garments final outcome — that’s what’s hard.
Sewing is a series of steps that if you do in the right order, you will get a great result. It is challenging to master the precision as to how you hold the cloth, how you mold a 2-dimensional piece of fabric into a 3D garment — and those are skills that with dedication, patience and regular practice, you will acquire over time.
What is your favorite aspect of your work?
To me the fun part is thinking through a garment’s purpose, by carefully considering why am I making it and how to make it more personalized. I love to think about an item of clothing’s story, and the character who would wear it, so when I am designing an item for either my wardrobe or my clothing line, I’m selecting the materials, sewing methods and design of the pattern to reflect that character and make sure that the garment serves me.
You can do this by thinking through the garment’s color, what red means instead of pink, or by thinking about the garment’s physiologies. A certain kind of collar is professional, while another one is more playful. The pattern of the cloth is important too- plaids and stripes mean different things than say birds and cat fabric. This is the playful part, mashing up all of these meanings into one item of clothing. It’s like you turn the life skill of sewing into a superpower when you learn your own customization methods and intentions.
What do you do to relax and unplug from your work?
I really love caring for my amazing and supportive husband and our two cats (I adore my cats, they help me unwind and force me to sit still.) I like to cook and read a lot. And I love my neighborhood pilates and yoga studio (I’m in Mid City). I try to go there 4-5 days a week because its my favorite way to decompress and let go of any stress or worry that I’m carrying from a day.
What’s the mission of the creative business group you founded?
I volunteer my time once a month in a private business group that I co-founded with another local business owner. It’s small — there are six businesses in the group and they are all in Baton Rouge and in the creative fields. They either make their own products or sell creative services.
My cofounder and I felt that they didn’t teach us enough business practices in art school and that we needed a place to run ideas past other risk takers. We share our collective knowledge and experience, and focus our meetings in business education and growth. Each month we try to choose topics we can all learn and apply in our businesses. I personally love every business in our group and want them all to succeed here in Baton Rouge.
To learn more about Andrea or about TEDxLSU 2019, follow TEDxLSU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reserve your seat now to experience her talk, as well as the talks of all of the other TEDxLSU 2019 speakers.