Tuesday, May 20, 2008
UC Davis alumna at Stewart + Brown
Carol Shu (Design ’07) studied fashion and textiles at UC Davis with an emphasis in sustainability. She now works for Stewart +Brown, one of the leading companies in the movement towards ethical and environmentally friendly fashion.
Susan: How do you like working at Stewart + Brown?
Carol: It’s great! I’m learning endless amounts of information about the ever-growing sustainable fashion world and the clothing industry. I get to see new developments in natural fibers and fabrics and then test them out when we’re developing a new collection.
Susan: What are your typical job responsibilities?
Carol: Cutting out patterns for prototypes and samples, checking in with vendors and sewing factories, preparing garments for fittings, sewing, and tracking the progress of our samples. Staying organized is a big responsibility.
Susan: Describe the working environment.
Carol: Our office used to be an old lawn mower repair shop but with the help of Ikea and a few sewing machines, it now houses the Stewart+Brown team. We’re a five-minute walk from the beach so sometimes during lunch a few of us will walk down to the ocean and weather permitting, take a quick swim. The office atmosphere is great- we have bins of fabric to play with, music on in the background, and even a little garden out in the back.
As for the actual work part, we’re a small company so it’s essential to be flexible and take on other tasks. We each do a lot beyond our assigned job descriptions, which I like because it gives me a broader scope of the industry.
Carol: Developing a new collection, because it’s fun to see the new designs and help pick out trims, such as buttons and lace. We start work on collections a year in advance and one of the best things is seeing how customers react to our designs months later when they’re on the racks in stores.
Susan: How has the transition been from student to industry?
Carol: Moving from home to Ventura was hard because I didn’t know anyone or anything in the area. When I started I also wasn’t even sure what my job title meant. Luckily I think the Design Program and my senior collection research provided me with all the skills and basic experience that I needed to work at Stewart+Brown. The hardest part was learning how the industry worked, from the various kinds of vendors we used to the different types of treatments our garments got when being dyed.
Carol: With sustainable companies, it’s very important to know your stuff. Since I work in development, I have to know the various fiber properties and advantages of each of our sustainable fabrics because we have customers who want to know exactly what they’re buying. I’m very glad that I could use a lot of my senior research for reference.
It’s also nice to work for a smaller company where your job role isn’t as strictly defined. Since my responsibilities aren’t limited to product development, I get to learn about all aspects of the company and the industry as well.
And any experience is good experience when you’re just starting out! I was hesitant to move all the way to Ventura for this job, but I’m so glad I did. Ultimately I want to design clothing, but you really need to know what’s realistic for the industry first, and I’m learning that right now.