Stephanie Lavaggi | Jr. Art Director at Free People
I never know how to begin these type of things. A quote? A question? Those seem a bit inauthentic. I guess I will start with a quick background of who I am and where I came from. My name is Stephanie Lavaggi and I was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles. (Fun fact - An uber driver once told me that people born in LA who still live there are called "unicorns" since everyone moves from somewhere else to live the LA dream - which I'll gladly accept.) I lived in Austin Texas for two brief years, then moved right back to LA to study Product Development at FIDM.
While I was at FIDM, I landed a job at Wildfox where I worked my way up from showroom assistant to art director in four years. It was truly a dream job and I was surrounded by incredibly inspiring people that I still love and respect deeply. I grew up at Wildfox and learned so much about the industry, others, and myself. After four years, I knew it was time for a change.
"A good friend of mine once told me that we are supposed to experience life changes every four years in order to keep growing. I took her advice."
Fast forward to me buying a one way ticket to Philadelphia after accepting a job offer as Jr. Art Director at Free People. I guess you could say 2016 is a year of change for me, and a lot of people for that matter. I left my best friends, boyfriend, and beautiful beach to live on my own on the east coast for the first time in my life. I'm now two and a half months in and am already learning so much. For example, sandwiches are called "hogies" here, and Angelinos have very strong accents (who knew?).
It's very interesting seeing West Coast vs East Coast fashion as well. In LA, yoga pants and oversized t-shirts are completely acceptable, just add a green juice and you'll blend right in. On the East Coast, the ever-changing seasons give you more of a reason to shop and present yourself in a fashionable way. I purchased a coat and umbrella for the first time in my life which was a big step. I'm very intrigued with how different the culture is on this side of America...especially New York. People pay attention to labels, editorials, and runway shows. It's actually very invigorating to adapt to. The fashion industry here has a life of its own. It inspires people to keep growing and changing the way they present themselves to the world. An heir of confidences comes over you when you slip into those new shoes you saved up for, or walk down the street wearing that bandana a new way inspired by a Vogue editorial.
"I've always been an advocate of having something in life to look forward to. Fashion is exactly that."
I have also learned so much about the business of fashion going from Wildfox to Free People. At Wildfox, we had a very small team and all wore many hats. There, I managed the social media, produced, art directed, and styled the Campaign and Ecom shoots, designed the capsule groups, and designed the web content and email blasts. It was incredible to have so much creative control covering all platforms of the brand. Free People, as I'm sure you'd guess, is much larger and corporate. I have always been eager to experience different company structures, and I'm definitely doing that. There is less room to wear many hats and things are done a very certain way at FP. It's a well-organized huge machine of people producing new content on a daily basis.
Change is scary. I'm still adjusting to it and don't think I'll fully feel adjusted for quite some time. But change is necessary (both in fashion and life in general). We grow from change, become stronger people, and go on to accomplish things we never would have imagined ourselves doing.