Co-op Diaries: Natalie Wells at Zandra Rhodes

IMG_1533By Shanique Williams
Photos: Natalie Wells

Name: Natalie Wells
Hometown: San Diego, California
Major: Communications
Minor: Business
Year: Middler

Company Worked At: Zandra Rhodes
Co-op Position: Assistant
Co-op Cycle: Fall 2012 Semester (July–December)
Pay: Unpaid
Previous Internships/Co-ops: None, but previously worked with Zandra Rhodes

Zandra is very free spirited and she doesn’t care about rules. She would make a dress, a four thousand dollar dress, and give me a shoebox and tell me to wrap it in tissue paper, then wrap the box in tape and put a label on it. She would say, “well I don’t want to go and buy a new box and this is fine, don’t worry about it.”

Read on for the full interview with Natalie Wells about Zandra Rhodes, the designer with “pink hair and blue eye shadow everyday!”

Haute Fashion: Which location did you work at for Zandra Rhodes?

Natalie: She is London-based but she has a Solana Beach studio, which is twenty minutes north of San Diego where I am from. So I worked with her there.

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HF: How did you find this position?

N: In high school; her boyfriend’s brother works with one of my friend’s mom and my friend is really into music. One day he said to her mom, would your daughter be interested in an internship, she said no, my daughter is really into music, but I have a friend who might be interested, so she referred me to Zandra. Zandra loves interns, so I started working there. When I went on co-op, I knew I wanted to go home so I contacted them again and meet with them briefly.

HF: Walk me through an average day?

N: In the beginning, it was hard because there were a lot of summer interns. I would do silly things like reorganize books or fold things. When the summer interns left, Zandra realized that I could actually sew, so a lot of days I would be sewing, making patterns, or helping her with designs. She is very open about her designs and she loves people’s input. I did a lot of cutting out fabric to make scarves and actually created my own pattern for a headband, which she sold the 150 that I made.

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HF: Besides sewing was there anything interesting you did on co-op?

N: We were actually here setting up for an exhibit at MassArt and I got to help with that. It was a lot of fun because it was a lot of her archive pieces, like a dress that she made for Dianna Ross and Dianna Ross wore. I got to touch the dress, which was very cool for me. We went to a Neiman Marcus fashion show. She did a trunk show at a museum and a lot of the pieces were pieces that I made. I took my mom there and told her look at all the things I made. Getting to work with her was really cool because a lot designers don’t like interns close to them and it was just her and I, one-on-one, on a daily basis.

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HF: Did you do any other backstage events besides the Mass art exhibit?

N: Yes, she does a charity fashion show every year that I actually did when I was in high school, I was a dresser because they don’t really do runners, so I dressed a model. I actually did the layout for the runway show. I cut out all the pictures and laid them out on a chart. I was also there for all the fitting and I actually did a lot of the alternations for the fittings. I went to a photo shoot after the fashion show the next day of all the pieces. She called me on a Saturday and told me to come to a photo shoot. She said there will be lots of food, music it’s lot of fun. It was really fun to see. You would be amazed the amount of makeup they put on a girl’s leg.

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HF: What was the biggest responsibility you ever had?

N: She would leave me in the studio by myself and tell me to answer the phone and say she wasn’t there. I would go to her house occasionally to drop stuff off or pick something up if she forgot it.

HF: What made you decide to work with a personal designer rather than a magazine?

N: I really wanted to go home and I knew that Zandra always accepted interns. I looked at magazines but I’m not particularly a good writer and I like working hands-on with fashion, with sewing, and people who need little things done.

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HF: What would you recommend for someone who wanted to work or Zandra or get into sewing?

N: I would definitely recommend a lot of research and learning a lot about the designers themselves. Picking out a designer whose style you like, or something that is relatable. It’s definitely hard to work for someone you don’t like their stuff or don’t like the work they produce. It can be very boring.

HF: Has the experience changed your perception on the fashion industry?

N: Yes, definitely! Especially with someone like Zandra who is a do-it-yourself kind of person. I was expecting things to be a little bit more formal. She would tell me to iron something and I would find out later that it was going to a customer. I don’t even know how to iron, what if I burned a hole in this!

HF: Would you work with another designer or something bigger?

N: Since I have a business minor, I would like to do something a little bit more formal. In fashion, but not hands-on like I did.

What do you think of Natalie’s co-op? Leave your opinions in the comments below!

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