Designer Meagan OllariSanta was designer Meagan Ollari’s first best friend. Why? Because, at the tender age of 7, he brought her a sewing machine. Meagan has since applied that same determination to her brand and process – making monthly international travel the beginning of her design process. Based in the NY Metro area and originally from New Jersey, the designer already had a full passport when she made her official debut at NYFW in 2014. Meagan has designed for junior contemporary brands such as Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Guess, and American Rag, among others…but her true self and brand is much more adventurous. We got the opportunity to learn about Meagan’s unique combination of skill sets and her jet set lifestyle when we sat down to talk about her new collection, Bollywood Baby Doll.

How and why did you start designing?

Designing has always been a HUGE part of who I was growing up. At a very young age, I was sketching mini fashion figures and took up sewing lessons to quench my young creative juices. In the 4th grade, I sewed my very first skirt, which was such a big deal for me. I felt like I had conquered the world. The feeling I had that day still runs through me every time I design a new collection. It’s simply indescribable.

Design is a way for me to express myself creatively and anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to express myself. Having a strong passion with a creative outlet for me growing up made such an impact on the woman I am today. Designing is part of my DNA: not just a career or a hobby, it is my identity and has been since I was a little girl.

What is your fashion philosophy?

Be seen, be heard, chase whatever fulfills you creatively and personally. LIVE.

That’s quite a philosophy! Does it translate to your brand?

Definitely. Ollari celebrates beautiful, confident and daring women with a unique sense of style. The Ollari woman appreciates effortless innovation and powerful details. Only the bold survive in our world.

My brand philosophy is reflected in the ability to relate to the woman I design for… because I am her. I am that fierce, passionate, and bold soul that walks into a room and says “I am here” without even speaking. It comes naturally; I know what the most powerful women want to wear.

How has your design changed over time?

I wouldn’t say it has changed per say, more like it has become significantly refined. I have designed for the junior contemporary market for 8 years now with private label design houses: everyone from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 to American Rag, Guess, and MANGO. During those years I had to adhere to a particular brand and customer demographic, I was constricted creatively. Deep down I always knew my design aesthetic exceeded basic mass-market fit and flare dresses or printed blouses. I had more in me than that. I wanted to incorporate a mash-up of unique yet practical fashions; now, with Ollari I can do that. I am creatively free, which allows me to be more daring with my work. I have the freedom to play around with fresh silhouettes, color palettes, embellishments, and novelty details.

What inspired your latest collection?

My trip to India. Bollywood Baby Doll is an eclectic mash-up of the rich ethnic culture and bold color palettes of this beautiful country with a hint of sass and femininity.  India’s everyday taxis, saris, and street markets hold some of the richest color palettes I have ever seen – it literally took my breath away. The fact that these people live in such colorful environments on a daily basis is so interesting to me!

What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?

Staying afloat. I’ve come to realize that it’s so easy to take that initial dive, but staying afloat in such a saturated industry is the real challenge but I am up to it.

What do you think about fashion today?

I think designers should keep pushing themselves by thinking outside of the box. Things are changing, some of our favorite retailers are shutting down, people aren’t buying the way they used to, bloggers and stylists are calling themselves designers, customer shopping patterns are changing etc. It’s scary how saturated the industry is but surely it is a challenge I am up to facing. I think we as designers are doing a great job of keeping our audiences interested and challenged by the constant movement of eclectic innovation season by season.

Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

Any and everywhere. I constantly travel internationally (at least once a month) for inspiration; it sparks the most valuable ideas, silhouettes, color palettes, cultural differences, motifs and novelty details. My next collection, SS 17’ was initially inspired by  my recent trip to Tulum Mexico and its breathtaking ruins. I get so much out of each trip creatively and personally, which keeps my collections and myself as a designer fresh, innovative, rich and unique.

What is your design process like?

Intricate but fun! I start off with a theme for my collection (usually derived from a trip abroad) and build a visual mood board filled with images, cut-outs, soft sketches, color palettes, motifs, fabric swatches, trims etc. – anything that I am visually drawn to. I then choose a muse and determine who is this woman and how extreme can I go aesthetically? From there I finalize a color story (8-10 colors), review print options, and start sketching. Typically I sketch around 50-100 rough sketches then edit down to around 20-30 final looks that best represent cohesion, the inspiration, and my muse. If I wouldn’t wear it, I don’t add it to the final collection – that’s my rule! After all hand sketches are finalized, I line them up on my board and make any last final tweaks before transferring the sketches to flat CADS on the computer. From there I do all the specs, embellishment layouts, measurements, and detailed descriptions of each front, back, and zoom sketch. Lastly, I do a line review to finalize all details; when approved, they are ready to be sampled. It’s a very long process, but my favorite part!

Any tips and tricks of the trade?

Be you, work hard, stay humble and determined, live your passion. This industry is not for everyone who “likes” fashion. It’s a tough industry and if it doesn’t run through your veins then it’s definitely not for you. There is a ladder to success, one with consistency, passion and determination will get to the top but it takes time. I think people have the misconception that if you like to shop or can throw an outfit together you’re automatically a designer. Not everyone is cut out for this, and the ones who are pay their dues and sacrifice so much along the way. If it’s not embedded in your heart, it most likely won’t work.

Pack your suitcases for a stroll on the streets of Mumbai with the latest from Meagan Ollari.