Welcome to a new series where we feature our amazing clients! For over a decade we have been able to build up a community of clients who continually amaze us with their creativity and drive to create thoughtful garments. For this series, our intention is to share their design story, how they started their clothing labels or personal journey into a custom wardrobe, and inspire you to be creative.
This month I sat down with Javia Leung, who has been a client in our studio since May of 2017. In the four years, I have assisted Javia through a variety of pattern drafting, draping, fitting and garment construction techniques. Providing Javia with the necessary skills to create designs such as a pleated dress, denim jacket, pleather pants, pleather skirt, dolman top, bow dress, gathered linen skirts, silk bow top, block drafting, and a variety of wool coats- to name a few.
Photo Credit: Miguel Paulo Campos
Javia attended the Fashion Design program at LaSalle College. Graduating in 2020. In 2019, Javia spent the summer with our studio to complete a Digital Marketing work term in association with LaSalle College. She worked directly with Natasha, our Digital Media Assistant in creating digital marketing content for our blog and socials. She even pitched the idea for our Bubble Tea Tote: Sew-a-Long.
In 2021, our focus with Javia has been more on developing new designs for her clothing label and gaining a better understanding of digital pattern drafting with Accumark software.
Chatting with Javia
Read on to learn more about Javia’s thoughtful clothing label and a Q & A that will hopefully inspire you to thread up your sewing machine.
Q: How did you get started sewing?
A: I was always interested in fashion but was never good at sewing, so instead I went to a fashion design camp when I was 18 years old where we were taught more on the design development process of fashion. I attended a similar program when I was 21 years old and the instructor there told me that a good designer needs to understand how garment construction works. Once I finished my undergrad degree, the first thing I did was sign up for private sewing lessons (with Sheila), and my love for sewing started there.
Q: What is your favorite design you have created?
A: I don’t have a single favorite design but my current favorite designs are the pieces for my upcoming collection. The theme of my collection discusses self-growth and discovery from grief and loss, so I took classic silhouettes and added twists to them to symbolize transformation.
Photographer: Ignatius Tam
Q: What part of the design process do you find the most rewarding?
A: Seeing the finished garment come to life is the most rewarding part and always feels surreal to me.
Q: Machine or hand sewing. Which one is your preference and why?
A: Both! I like to include a mixture of both machine and hand sewing in my designs— machine sewing for its clean lines, and hand sewing for a personal touch.
Q: What are your favorite fabric stores?
A: For local fabric shopping, I love Atex Designer Fabrics. For online shopping, I like browsing Mood Fabrics and Swatch On. If you ever get a chance to visit Tokyo, Nagato and Momo Fabrics are my favorite fabric stores in Nippori Textile Town for high-quality fabrics. Nagato also does overseas shipping and can assist you in English.
Q: Working for yourself has many challenges. Have you ever found time(s) when you have lost motivation? What do you do to gain motivation?
A: Yes, definitely— working for yourself is so different in many ways. Being a very visual person, I often get inspired by looking at my surroundings and the people around me. Sometimes I would see a cool design detail and try to sketch it down or sneak a photo of it. I also feel the most inspired during my travels. However, all of that was impossible due to the pandemic. Luckily, I do have a habit of keeping inspirational images categorized by theme on my phone, as well as having a physical scrapbook of images I collect. Going through them helps me feel inspired and excited to create.
Staying connected with my peers from fashion design school has also been very helpful for keeping me motivated. We spent endless nights working together and experienced the same hardships while designing, so we know and understand each other well. We’re always rooting for each other and happy for each other’s successes. Coming to the design studio and working with Sheila also inspires me a lot— she is honestly one of the most nonjudgmental instructors/mentors I’ve met and pushes me to challenge myself. Overall, I think that having a strong support system is so important.
Q: You recently started your clothing label. Do you currently have a full or part-time job in addition to your label? If you do, how will you decide to go full-time with your clothing label? If you do not, please share why.
A: To be perfectly honest, running a label is expensive, and I believe that it would be easier to have a full or part-time job to help fund business expenses and to have more capital to expand the label.
Attending the fashion design program was very physically and mentally intensive. By the time I finished the program, I experienced burnout. The pandemic also started in March 2020, which was when I finished school, so in the end, I took some time to rest. I focused on what I really wanted to design mindfully and slowly, something that wasn’t possible for school projects due to tight deadlines.
I am happy to say that my health is in a much better state now. Going forward, I want to look for technical and design-related jobs that will help me to gain more knowledge and skills in this industry. However, I also want to keep working on my label because it keeps me passionate, curious, and inspired.
Q: What skills do you wish you already possessed or been stronger before starting your own business?
A: I wish that I had better budgeting skills because there are so many hidden costs of running a business.
I’m generally a free-spirited person and not too business-oriented, and that has proven to be difficult for creating strategic and consistent social media content. The whole idea of planning what to post ahead of time and thinking of captions etc. sometimes feels exhausting, but marketing is an area that I would like to improve on. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a common concern for other designers I know, so many of them have hired someone else to manage the marketing side of the label.
At school, I was very grateful to have learnt how to use Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. However, I do want to learn more about the design aspect of graphic design— I do all the packaging design for the label, which is one of my favourite parts of making a brand. I really wanted to go into packaging design when I was younger so getting to design my own labels fulfills this dream.
Q: If you could give advice to your past self before you started your label, what would it be?
A: Advice that I would give my past self, or anyone who is considering becoming a fashion designer: You don’t have to start big—take small steps and celebrate the small accomplishments. Your first collection doesn’t have to be your best collection (and probably won’t be) so don’t be afraid to get started— I believe in you!
Javia Leung is a womenswear label that focuses on timeless, minimalist, and sculptural designs. Our brand was born out of the desire to create high-quality and functional garments that are meant to be collected, cherished, & worn for a long time. We hope that our clothing helps to accompany others on their journeys of self-exploration.
Photographer: Grace Liu
We hope you have enjoyed this new Client Feature series. We will continue to showcase more of our talented clients. Please let us know if you have any questions you want us to ask in our next interview.
Starting a clothing label in 2021 looks a lot different than 10, or even 5 years ago. It is not good enough to just create sellable designs and produce thousands of garments each season. Well, it might be good enough for some, but here in the studio, we have found many new designers struggle with this ethical dilemma. Consumers want to be more informed about the businesses they are purchasing from, sometimes even part of the process. Designers need to be more mindful of their potential environmental impact. Some are finding the balance of how many units sold is enough to live but not harm our planet. There is no absolute solution to this balance, but finding what you think as a designer is right and what you can stand by is a start.
Sheila Wong Studios.