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Career Conversations

Expert Advice from Jasmin Shokrian (BFA 1998)

Artist and Fashion Designer

Nexus Career Conversations, a new initiative from SAIC’s Career and Professional Experience (CAPX) funded by the Novy Family Foundation, invites alumni and professionals from creative fields to discuss their work with students. Last fall’s speakers were: Emma Webb, Principal at Golden Arm; Yasmil Raymond, Curator at MoMA; and Jasmin Shokrian (BFA 1998), founder and creative director of her Los Angeles-based eponymous clothing brand. Shokrian, whose designs have been worn by notable women such as Jennifer Beals, Flashdance star; Michelle Obama; Tilda Swinton; and Miranda July, spoke about the importance of exploring relationships between media and maintaining the creative process. Here is an excerpt from our conversation with Shokrian.

What was your student experience at SAIC?

Initially I came here for painting, but I discovered that filmmaking was something I needed to examine, and that led me to other media. I began to make pieces for people to wear for my films. The most important thing I learned at SAIC was how to think about things.

You studied, film, painting, sculpture, and fiber. How did you transition to design?

After I was out of school, I spent a lot of time learning about different cultures through objects and textiles. I started to make objects that were sculptural and soft. I began making these objects with another SAIC student, Shane Gabier, who is now one of the founders of the brand Creatures of the Wind. We began by dying all of our own fabrics and eventually making pillows and other soft interior objects. We found like-minded stores and began selling to them. That was my first experience with design and having it be commercially viable.

How have you seen the industry of fashion design change?

It used to be that you produce two collections a year, which grew to four or five times a year. It has become very difficult for designers to keep up with that pace. The system has forced itself to change...it’s demanding in a way that isn’t healthy, and it’s difficult to be creative under such pressure. All of this affects the way we create. I tend to make things under my label that are not trendy, that are going to last, and that you will hopefully be able to wear in 20 years. I feel like I can do things at my own pace, and that’s what I’m interested in: slowing things down and focusing on my creative process. My feeling is that the focus in the fashion industry is circling back to integrity, and I hope that sticks around for a while.

What advice do you give to today’s students?

When students come into an internship, they should be ready to roll up their sleeves; work hard; be open to trying different areas of the business; learn more about the materiality, and not just the design aspect; and to grow their own understanding of the fashion business. It’s important that they realize an internship might be preparation for a completely different career path, just as I made films and paintings and ended up with a fashion brand.

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