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A Fashion Graduate from the Art Institute Tells Her Story

Read how one graduate of The Art Institute is starting her fashion career.

Natasha Sample

Fashion Graduate from the Art Institute
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The Aha! Moment

Natasha Sample, an Art Institute graduate and newly minted fashion designer, found her calling at an early age. "I'd always been artistic, but I'd never really known what to do with it," she says. Until, as a sixth-grader, she saw a movie about a girl who became a fashion designer. That's when everything clicked.

Although the name of the movie is long forgotten, the story made an impression. "The girl in the movie was drawing and editing pictures in fashion magazines, and I thought, 'I can do that. I do that, anyway.'" Natasha has come a long way—from the sixth grader sketching her fashion ideas in a book labeled "Keep Out!" to an up-and-coming designer with a collection set to debut at Seattle Fashion Week.

Preparing for a Fashion Career at The Art Institute

When it came time to choose a fashion school, Natasha knew she wanted to study outside her home state of Alaska but stay reasonably close to her family. Her school search soon narrowed to The Art Institute of Seattle, one of the top fashion schools in the Northwest.

"The first quarter was a whirlwind," she remembers. "They show you how to pattern and sew and draw—which was cool, but also stressful." Luckily, she felt she had a lot of support from her teachers at The Art Institute of Seattle.

"They really cared, and they helped you figure things out. They were good about not shooting down your ideas, even if they were bad. I had one teacher who would just ask, 'Are you sure you want to do that?'" Of course, the question was a clear signal that she should carefully evaluate her design decisions, but she appreciated that the instructors let her be herself and figure out who she was as a designer.

As for the most important thing she learned at The Art Institute, "It's the overall experience. They teach everything, so you figure out what you want. You find your niche." She originally thought she wanted to design street-wear, but after her experience, she discovered that she really wanted to design evening wear.

From School to Fashion Week

Getting started as a young fashion designer isn't easy, but for The Art Institute graduates, there is career placement assistance available. Natasha says she often gets emails about job leads, or the school's career advisors will recommend her to an employer in the industry.

For now, though, Natasha is working hard on her collection for Seattle Fashion Week. It's an amazing opportunity for any young designer, and one that she intends to make the most of.

Her first contact with Seattle Fashion Week came when she was a student. "I competed in the Student Designer Competition last year, and I was a finalist." After that, she stayed involved, helping with several fashion shows and events around the city. So when a spot opened up at this year's Seattle Fashion Week, the event organizers offered it to her.

Readying for the Runway

Peacocks are the inspiration for Natasha's current collection. "There are blues and greens and some maroons… and feathers throughout the line." Her collection is coming together, which is exciting, because seeing the finished product on the model is her favorite part of the design process. "You get to see what was in your mind, and then in your drawing, and then in your pattern, as a finished product." Seeing the ideas that worked is satisfying. And even seeing the ideas that didn't work so well is a learning process.

Advice for Aspiring Fashion Designers

When asked whether anything about her journey so far has surprised her, she says, "I get surprised about how many people pay attention and recognize me." Getting emails from people who admire her work or want to collaborate is flattering, but her favorite emails are from aspiring designers who want to be involved in fashion. "Those are my happiest emails," she says.

So what advice would Natasha give to people who want to start a fashion design career? "Starting a fashion career is not a fast-paced thing, but if you love it, stay with it." You should also stay true to your vision. While feedback from others may be helpful, Natasha recommends being yourself as a designer. "You have to like it in the end."

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