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Courtesy of Megan Renee/Illustrated by Kyra Jay

Fashion Designer Megan Smith Is Designing The Life She’s Always Dreamed Of

Hard work pays off for those that hustle.

BOSS UP

Truth is, you can’t run from an idea that visits you every day and as we settle into another new year there's no better time to quit putting off that daydream and make it a reality, even if only part-time. When launching a business, taking it from an idea to reality isn't easy, however, I’m a strong believer that hard work and determination pay off for those that hustle. For fashion designer Megan Smith of Megan Renee, launching her namesake womenswear label was always the plan but it didn't happen overnight.


In 2016, after years of being unfulfilled in designing for retailers such as Macy's and Nordstrom, Megan realized it was time to push herself to dive deeper than ever before. “Moving to LA, I knew that working for larger companies I could get a lot of experience, network, and meet a lot of people.” Megan continues, “Fashion as a designer is a lot of work and long hours so I knew that if I didn’t at least attempt to do it on my own I would never know unless I tried.” Receiving amazing praise from clients, she knew she could do it for herself.

Dedicating nights and weekends to create her first collection, Megan Renee debuted at LA Fashion Week with a slew of new customers. “So many people were asking how and where they could buy, and since it was my first collection, I had no idea what to do,” Megan recalls. Shortly after her success at LA Fashion Week and the launch of her online store, sales started pouring in immediately. While slowly building her brand, Megan knew it would take savvy strategy and resources to get her label to the next level. “I applied for grants and every opportunity for young and emerging designers that would help me get funding. I applied about 5 or 6 times to Project Runway and kept getting rejected."

After connecting with a former casting producer, she suggested trying out for a new show, Making the Cut. Appearing on Amazon Prime’s reality fashion design competition show and receiving applause from celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, the brand’s popularity grew overnight. After an upsetting loss for Megan and those who grew to love her over the season, she knew it was only up from there.

Since departing from her Amazon show, Megan decided to take a break and pursue her clothing line full-time. As of today her designs have been featured in major publications and worn by celebrities such as Issa Rae, Becky G, and Dominique Fishback and her absolute favorite of them all, Kelly Rowland.

It wasn't easy getting onto the likes of the most iconic celebrities of our generation but Megan is the epitome of doing what it takes to design one's own life. “Making money is part of owning a brand but that's at the bottom for me. What really makes me happy is when I see people in my clothes and they love it while looking good. I’m grateful to be able to do that and have that reach.”

Courtesy of Megan Smith

What’s your advice for women who want to take that leap of faith but are hesitant to pursue their dream of starting a fashion business?

Megan Smith: The biggest thing is to just start. It doesn't [matter] where or how you start, the amount of money you have, or even the number of resources you have. Even if you’re designing one thing per week, or one piece every few months, just start. The problem is so many of us think about the bigger picture and when thinking of it as a whole it's overwhelming. Breaking it down into steps, one thing after another is how you build momentum. You have to realize it's a process; it doesn’t happen overnight but you have to start somewhere. Don’t wait to start. Just start with bits and pieces, you don’t have to do everything at once.

"So many of us think about the bigger picture and when thinking of it as a whole it's overwhelming. Breaking it down into steps, one thing after another is how you build momentum. You have to realize it's a process; it doesn’t happen overnight but you have to start somewhere. Don’t wait to start."

Courtesy of Megan Smith

What are your thoughts when it comes to doubting one's own ability of if they can succeed in what it is they set out to do?

Once you start and build that momentum, you’ll slowly gain the resources you need, they’ll come to you. That’s what it means to walk in your purpose. Once you start, blessings will come.

It takes money to start a quality clothing brand. What have been the strategies you’ve found helpful when funding your business? 

As a young designer, I didn’t make much money so there was a lot of sacrificing. Starting out, I built relationships with fabric stores that had close-out fabrics which are fabrics on sale from companies going out of business or canceled orders. So I would get fabrics super cheap and the return from my sales gave me the boost I needed. I’d use all that money and put it right back into the line. All of my disposable income went into my clothing line.

Starting out, I kept my day job and today I still design for other people. I don’t encourage anyone to just quit their day job on a whim. If you can do both until you’re at a place with a steady income to support your lifestyle and the brand, then I would suggest that. Instagram makes things look glamorous like, “I quit my job!” That's not reality.

Courtesy of Megan Smith

Designers have to be resourceful when executing the vision. What are a few things you had to take on personally that were a challenge? 

I already knew how to make patterns but I sucked it up when I started making my own lines. I taught myself how to sew my first samples, I would do it all. If you don’t know how to do that there [are] so many people here that will help you. My first seamstress and pattern maker, I found on Craigslist. I taught myself how to do a lot rather than outsourcing which saved a lot of money as well.

For more of Megan, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Megan Smith; illustration by Kyra Jay

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

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