Sauntering down the hallway in black, with a later-to-be discussed vintage black jacket decorated with gold sequins and beads, Jessica Bley, CSUN apparel design and merchandising major, stood with confidence and a smile that never disappeared.
Ever since she was a little girl, fashion was her top interest and although she didn’t know it at the time, it also ran through her blood.
“One day I saw my mom watching a runway show on TV and I just said, ‘That’s pretty,’” Bley said. “From then on, she taught me how to sew and it wasn’t until later in life that she told me she went to school for fashion design and chose not to follow that dream when she had kids.”
Bley grew up in an artistic environment and learned to express her own creativity through clothing and fashion, Bley said. At the age of five, she made her first pair of shorts.
Fashion was not her only passion, she is also a skilled swimmer who was awarded a sports scholarship to CSUN. Two years after she joined the CSUN swim team, the program was cut from the sports curriculum, which allowed her to fully invest her time in fashion design.
“Because I only swam freshmen and sophomore year, my workload wasn’t as heavy as it is now,” she said. “It was actually after I stopped swimming that I became overwhelmed because I was taking 18 or 19 units, but I learned how to stay on top of my stuff.”
Once it came time to concentrate on fashion design, Bley was able to move past merely sketching and making clothes from patterns, which she doesn’t see as creative, to creating whole pieces from scratch.
“I made something really funky,” Bley said of her first real design. “It was like acid wash with cheetah print and forest green sheer with golds and I incorporated some old earrings. They were huge rocks that I turned into cuffs.”
Her designs and inspiration only flourished from there. She soon became involved in the Green Festival where she was given the opportunity to create a mini-collection of sustainable dresses made from recycled fabric and hemp.
“Making a collection is what every designer strives for and it was so inspiring,” Bley said. “Making that perfect collection and making it cohesive was so fun. My first piece was all recycled fabric and I wasn’t sure how to make it all work, but it did and it was so fun.”
Bley’s inspiration not only comes from fashion magazines, but also from street wear and nature.
“My boyfriend is an environmental bio major so that’s why I’m so fueled to recycle and create an eco-friendly line,” she said.
From internships, Bley has learned that industry experience is essential to see how everything comes together.
“There are a lot of deadlines and a lot of little things to worry about,” she said. “For my internships, I was basically a design assistant and I would sew labels and buttons on or take samples somewhere.”
Thinking about the work she had done at various internships, Bley said knowing she would be doing work that was not at all creative made her sad.
“Maybe I should launch something online while I’m working to keep my creative juices flowing,” she thought aloud.
With her industry experience, Bley said she has learned about the wastefulness of the textile industry and the importance of creating more green clothing products.
“I’ve learned that fashion is so unethical; the textile industry is so full of water wastage and cotton is the worst fabric to wear but everyone wears it,” she said. “It has all inspired me to start promoting eco-friendly clothing among my peers and through my designs.”
Bley also shops at vintage and second-hand stores as her way to stay green.
During the interview, Bley wore a vintage jacket that she said she had bought from Goodwill for $14.
“Vintage shopping is another way to go green and I always find my best pieces at Goodwill,” she said. “It’s always good to throw a vintage piece in there.”
Bley said she has also noticed her friends and a decent-sized portion of the world fear taking a risk with their own fashion style. She sees fashion as the ultimate expression that everyone should take advantage of.
“Don’t be afraid to wear what you want to wear,” she said. “I wear what I want and don’t care what people think. So many people I know are like ‘I can’t pull it off but I love it.’ Well then wear it! Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”