By the time she reached her final semester in the Cañada fashion department, Elizabeth Jonas felt she didn’t need to take Introduction to the Fashion Industry. After all, she’d already completed a dozen or so courses, covering the gamut of the fashion industry, in order to earn her Technical and Fashion Merchandising degrees. What did she need “an intro class” for? As it turned out, the course she was trying to avoid lead to a full-time job. “Ronda always knows best,” Elizabeth reflects.
“I had heard of Dark Garden, but I hadn’t been there. When we went there [on one of the Introduction to the Fashion Industry field trips], I thought, ‘I could see myself working here.’ I wrote Autumn [Adamme, the owner] a letter.” Elizabeth started working for the corsetry company a few days a week last summer and, after three months, she was offered a full-time position there. “Yes, please!” was her emphatic response.
She has a range of responsibilities including stitching, cutting, pattern work, modifications for fit, grommeting, lacing and embroidery, among others. “I really enjoy doing a variety of tasks,” she explains. “It’s like cross-training for athletes.”
And what does she like about corsets? “Just about any evening gown you see that has any sort of volume is going to have a corset under it.” Does it ever get boring, working on just one type of garment? “It’s so specific, but we do a lot of couture work that’s not just corsets—for people who go to Comic Con, Burning Man, [Carnival in] Venice. A lot of accessories, a lot of leather work. We also have a milliner in-house, so I spend a lot of time doing other things as well…This is a good place to continue my education and see exactly what it takes.”
Earlier in her career, Elizabeth worked for major luxury brand Louis Vuitton. Comparing this experience to her current one at Dark Garden, Elizabeth notes, “If you’re more interested in marketing and some of those things, you get a lot of good experience with a bigger company. You get a lot of perspective. But if you want to make fashion, a small business is the way to go.”
When asked what knowledge or skills she still uses from her days at Cañada, Elizabeth is adamant: “Everything! There are so many [times when] Ronda’s voice pops into my head. The problem-solving, technique, those first-hand experiences you get in class. I refer to those homework assignments frequently…When something comes up [in my job], I know I did it successfully before.”
As far as advice for current students, Elizabeth has this to say: “Study, practice, always do a sample first!!” She adds, “[A career in the fashion industry] is not going to be handed you because there are a lot of people who love it. You have to train yourself to be good at it.”
Finally: “Don’t be rigid. Learn everything. If someone is teaching you to do something—even if you think you know how to do it better—it’s worth taking all those opportunities…You never know what’s going to be useful when you get out there.”