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Our Community & Partners ~ Meet Wanda, intimate apparel designer and A


We are very happy to start a new series which introduces you to the people involved in the creation of Araks coins. To kick off the series, meet Wanda, our model maker. Wanda has the key role of bringing our sketches to life each season.

How would you describe what you do?

I have spent over thirty years in the intimate clothing industry. I do a lot of pattern making now, but technically I’m an intimate clothing designer. I have corporate clients and clients like Araks where I have more of a technical design role. Then I have my little clients for whom I design products, directly from their ideas.

My last corporate job was Maidenform, where I was the design director. I have also worked as a designer for Lilyette, Vanity Fair and Playtex. I started freelancing about 7 years ago. If you need bosses, I make bosses. If you need designs, I design.

I started in the clothing industry as a sample maker when I was a young girl. I sewed and worked my way up from sewing to making patterns to designing. Now I am using all of these skills to get the job done and survive.

How did you get interested in fashion?

I got into fashion because the women on my mother’s side, my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, were all sewers. When I was little, I also wanted to sew, so I learned. Then I went to a vocational high school that was doing the FIT program and made sewing my priority, much to my father’s chagrin. There I met a designer who had designed in Lena Horne’s time, for singers and artists. I apprenticed with her for a while before making the bold bet to go and find a job in New York.

Bra pattern tools on table

I was thinking about the last bra you made for us, the Willow. It has been a huge success, customers love it. It was still a very hard style. It took about a year to develop and several times we almost gave it up. Can you tell us about the challenges of working on this style?

This bra was hard for three specific reasons. One is a wireless frame. It is quite difficult to make a bra even with a metal frame, but much more difficult to do without wire to control what the fabric is doing. Second, the bra is made of silk and cotton. Silk alone is enough to make you want to cut your head off. When you add silk to the wireless frame it’s like wow, now how do you make it work? Third, you should always add branding. The Araks brand is sort of almost minimalist in its construction details. Styles take a lot of work, but they don’t look like it.

Bra on table with ruler

The Willow Twilight Bra

You also work on swimwear. Is it a new category for you?

No, our motto has always been if you could make lingerie, you could make swimsuits. Araks styles seem to dispute this. They are very unique and look minimal, but there is a lot of work in them. The tricky things are styles with crisscross straps, asymmetrical silhouettes, and cutouts. These things are fantastic in the end, but are a model building nightmare. I can imagine they are very difficult to sew too.

“A lot, a lot of thought and work goes into it and the result is what you see, something that feels effortless on the body.”

What do you think is the most rewarding part of your job?

What I love most is when individual women come to me because they can’t find a bra that suits them. The look and the joy on their face when they get a bra that fits them is simply the best. I can experience this a bit when we have events in stores where you work with individual women. It’s very satisfying when they tell you “it’s wonderful, I’ve never had anything that looks so good on me”. I can’t have this all the time, but it’s the best part.

Woman standing at table making bra patterns I also found it very rewarding to train the junior designers from my previous jobs. The woman who took me under her wing when I started told me that I had to teach others. She said the more you teach, the better you are at what you do. There is room in this industry for all of us. The generation above me was very protective of their skills, they would never teach. You got along as best you could. Lots of people shared with me along the way, and now I’m sharing as I go.

What do you like outside of this job?

My other love is music. I studied music very early on in high school. I played the clarinet and couldn’t wait to be in high school and play in the marching band. When I went to vocational school, they didn’t have music, so I had to choose, and I chose fashion and tailoring. I continued to play music at my local high school on the weekends, but never got to walk in the band.

Five years ago I took piano lessons and now I have a grand baby in my living room and I sit there and play. Someday I’ll be retired and play the piano and it will sound beautiful. And it just has to sound beautiful to me.

I also knit and crochet while watching TV. I do a lot of different crafts. I embroider and I made jewelry. I was a bit of an introvert when I was a young girl so whatever I could do inside the house and be safe I did. I was told that I was not outgoing enough to be in the fashion industry and I was not accepted to FIT the first time I applied because I was really too shy to talk to people during interviews. I had to force myself to speak and hold myself as if I wasn’t afraid.

We have learned so much from you and we feel incredibly lucky to have found someone who is such an expert. What will the next generation do?

I don’t know – I’m trying to find someone to pass the buck to. I don’t have a single member of the family who is interested in learning this trade.

We want everyone we partner with to enjoy the process because we believe it shines through in the product. So thanks!

Yes.

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