Creativity inspires Dallas College student and small business owner Alaysia Richardson. She is a 2020 Myers-LeCroy Scholarship winners who is studying fashion design while owning a sewing and embroidery business on the side. Richardson sat down with The Et Cetera contributor Lizet Velasquez to discuss her future career plans and her growing business.
Q. What was your inspiration for your current major?
A. I’ve sewn since I was 7, and I got my first sewing machine at 8. I took fashion design throughout high school. I have a sewing and embroidery business, and it’s my career goal to grow it. I know how much the high school courses helped me grow in fashion design, so I can only imagine what college will do. I plan to transfer this fall to Texas Tech and do fashion design there.
Q. Texas Tech is your dream school?
A. My parents didn’t go to college, so I didn’t really have a preference. But sophomore year, I took a quiz, and it was (asking) what you want in a college, like how diverse it is and how big the class sizes are and stuff like that. Texas Tech was the only school that came up 100% as a match. Also, I found out that their fashion design program is really good. It’s one of the top (programs) in the state.
Q. Did being a Myers-LeCroy scholar impact your choice to go to Dallas College and not a four-year university?
A. It impacted it a lot. I have two older siblings, and only (one) sister went to college. But she’s four years older than me so I saw her whole experience right before mine. She is in so much debt. She just completely jumped into it and didn’t think twice about it. I don’t want to be in debt like that, so I always had the idea that I would go to community (college) first.
Q. Is this your first year at Dallas College?
A. Technically, yes. I’m a freshman. But I’ve been taking dual credit classes since my sophomore high school year.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges of your choice in career?
A. Honestly, it’s just kind of the uncertainty about it. When you tell people that you want to grow up and be a fashion designer, they’re all like, “Mmm, OK sure.” But since I’ve grown my business, especially within the past year, it’s given me more hope that I don’t have to be an assistant to somebody and start at the lowest level. I can be my own independent thing. So that’s helped me through.
Q. You mentioned your business. Could you elaborate more on that and how it has kept you going with your future career?
A. I have a sewing and embroidery business called A. Danae Designs. I have everything set up (in my bedroom) and I can sew and embroider all day long. I started fall of 2018, which was my junior year of high school, selling things like knitted headbands. I learned how to do it in fashion design, and I thought it was pretty cool. And then the more I saw people supporting me, the more I wanted to do it, and I grew as I went. It wasn’t until senior year that I got serious and gave myself a name and laid out a foundation. Then, once the coronavirus hit, I couldn’t use the school supplies (and equipment) anymore. I was depending on the school for a lot of things. I would use their embroidery machine. But last summer of 2020 is where it took off. I learned how to do a bunch of new things, and now I offer accessories, apparel, a bunch of things.
Q. You mentioned COVID. How has that impacted you with school as well as your business?
A. For me, the only thing that’s really affected is school being online. It’s harder for me to find motivation to want to do it. It’s almost like a part-time job now instead of a full-time job. But for my business, (COVID is) what helped it take off because I was doing masks, and everybody wanted a mask back then. Now, that’s not even my main item.
Q. In terms of fashion, how would you describe your personal style?
A. I don’t really have a big fashion style. I know that probably sounds so strange, but I wear T-shirts and pajamas all day long. I’m a homebody, and I don’t really go anywhere. But I’m trying to build my aesthetic as I go. Right now, a lot of things I make are just embroidered on.
Q. Do you stay up to date with latest trends?
A. In the embroidery world? I would say so. But fashion wise, no. A lot of the stuff that I see that’s considered high fashion, like on runways and stuff, I don’t really agree with it. I’m like, “No, that just looks like you slapped something together.”
Q. Do you create things just from scratch?
A. It’s more so just embroidering on things. I have these sweatshirts. One is a moon with a girl sitting on it. And this one says Black Lives Matter with the fist. I’ve made reading pillows from scratch. I make my masks from scratch. Usually, the things that are made from scratch take a lot more time than I’m willing to put in for every single customer. They could take hours, and usually people don’t want to pay the price that would be required for that much time. So I don’t do a lot (of items I sell) from scratch, but I do them as gifts, like the stuffed animal I made from scratch for my pregnant best friend.
Q. Besides fashion, do you have other interests or hobbies?
A. I like anything that allows you to be creative, like writing, drawing, painting. I’ve always been into those kinds of things. I’ve been into music too. I loom knit, but that’s also for the business.
Q. How would you describe your current Spotify or your Apple Music playlist? Is it like specific artists or a specific genre of music?
A. When I play the same music over and over again, it induces headaches. I like to find new music all the time. I have different playlists for different types of moods, different types of days, and then I have one big main playlist I like to listen to.
Q. How do you handle stress with school and work?
A. I’m always pretty much stressed out. Usually what helps is just writing things down in my notes app. I literally type every single thing up that I can. I set reminders on my phone. Taking personal self-care days every now and then is not a bad thing, either.
Q. Do you have inspirations for your designs, or has anyone impacted you?
A. No, a lot of the inspiration I get is from Facebook groups. There’s thousands of members in these Facebook groups that help each other out. There are big embroiderers or people that sell their own outfits from scratch. I really like them and their content. But then sometimes their personality gets in the way and pulls me from that. So, there’s not just one specific person that I really romanticize or look up to in that area.
Q. What are some quotes or words of encouragement that inspire you to continue and to pursue your dreams?
A. Let me think of how it goes. It’s something like, “Don’t make permanent choices off of temporary feelings.” I heard that in seventh grade, and it always stuck with me. Another rule of thumb is, “I don’t need everybody’s validation.” That’s really hard with having your own business and needing people to buy your stuff. But I have to realize that I don’t have to have their validation. There’s an audience out there, whether it’s local or people in Australia or whatever. I just have to find it.