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How She Got There: Hannah Payne, Designer & Owner of Luba


Name: Hannah Payne
Age: 28
Job Title and Description: Designer and Owner
College Name/Major: The University of San Diego/Communications major, Business minor, and Parsons School of Design, Fashion Design Associate’s Degree
Twitter Handle:@shopluba
Instagram Handle:@shopluba

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

My current job entails designing, and the most interesting thing about designing is I don’t think a lot of people realize what goes into just designing one garment. I pick out the fabrics and the trims, and then I do all the drawing of the entire collection. From there, I make flats – which are computer drawings as if the clothes were laying flat – and what they would look like with detailed information for the pattern maker. Then I do all the fitting of the samples when they’re in the raw copies and go over everything with the pattern maker. From there, I oversee all the samples being made and make sure that those details that happen in the sewing actually happen.

The samples then go into production, which includes multiple sizes, so I oversee all the marking and grading, and make sure all the fabrics and trims are ordered for that. Then, I just make sure that we’re all on time with all of the production, so that’s my main job. But I also do all of our Instagram posts and social media, which is a new thing for me. It’s very different having a business social media versus a personal, so kind of exploring that and thinking of some things to share with people on what they would want to see a fashion designer and company doing on the day-to-day.

There is really no such thing as a typical day, especially in the fashion industry. I feel like things change all the time and I try and create an agenda for myself every day of things I need to get done, but it always seems like there are these little fires that happen. All of our fabrics are from Italy and France and Korea as well, and so I’ll get an email from a French fabric mill that says our fabrics are two weeks delayed, which is a huge problem because then it delays everything else – so kind of trying to put out that small fire. Or, I’ll have my factory call me and they need zippers immediately, so it’s always interesting finding the things that take the most priority and then putting those up there, and then it’s definitely nice having those days where there are no fires and I can focus on designing a new collection, and have my sole energy focused on one thing at a time.

What is the best part of your job?

Ever since I was little, I could always envision clothes and I would dream about clothes – and so dreaming about a dress, then finding the perfect fabric, buttons and zippers, really watching this idea really become a reality. I love the way that my clothes make people feel. This last collection we were doing a fitting in New York at the factory, and we had this coat made just in a raw cotton material. The fit model put it on and we all gasped because it just turned out so perfectly. And the pattern maker had this huge grin on her face and she said, “I love making your patterns because it makes me so happy.” That was such a great moment, because I also love when I have a customer put on a dress or a coat and they feel so beautiful in it. That is truly the best part of my job and I love making people feel really good and happy. I think that sometimes a killer outfit can do that, it just makes you feel better.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

My first entry-level job in my field was actually a fashion internship at Vogue. I had the opportunity to apply when I was studying abroad in Italy and I, of course, jumped on it. I flew out there for an interview, I had my interview and then I just continued to follow up, and I finally heard that I got the internship, which was so exciting.

It was an amazing experience, but it’s definitely a tough environment because everybody works so hard. I also think that’s what makes it amazing, because it teaches you the crazy work ethic that now I’m so thankful I have.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

Before I got the internship at Vogue, I had a meeting with Virginia Smith (Vogue’s fashion market/accessories director) during my interview. She gave me the best piece of advice that I’ll ever receive from someone in the fashion industry. She said that I should always work really hard and be nice to everybody no matter how big I get, and I love that because she has such a big job at Vogue. Now, in my work life, I am hiring for factories, people who are sewing my clothes, and I will bring them cookies when they work really hard. I’ll always bring them a treat, and it’s really showing them that you’re a human, and you really appreciate them as a human. I’m just showing that more human side of things, that it’s not all tough business all the time and to really be nice because you never know where you’re going to end up or where they’re going to end up. You always want to have that impression of, “That person was so nice and she worked real hard.”

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

When you start a new company there are lots of little mistakes you make along the way. I think especially for an emerging designer in a smaller company, a lot of opportunities are presented to the young designer to kind of help them break in. They’re not always good opportunities, and that’s a thing that I continue to be aware of.

I think a big mistake that happened to me occured when I did an event with a fellow emerging designer, and their company was hosting the event. We all took a pretty big chunk of participating, and when the event actually happened, the brand had really promoted just itself and had not promoted the other brand. It just felt like a scheme, and I think the biggest thing I learned from that was to do a lot of homework – and this kind of sounds opposite to the advice I just gave – but, to not be so trusting and to realize that not everyone has that motto of working really hard and being nice. I would say that’s the biggest thing I've learned: Don’t believe that everybody has the same motto that you have.

It’s hard, because especially as an emerging designer, I feel like I want to help other emerging designers any way I can and vice versa. So it’s always interesting when it doesn’t happen like that. Then you realize, OK, this is life. I just need to be more careful, and I need to do my research more, and I need to be a little bit more cautious.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

HP: One of the most surreal moments happened last July 4 weekend. I was at a small parade, and I saw this woman wearing an outfit of mine—I had no idea who she was. I was so excited because people kept on coming up to her and commenting on her cool shorts that she was wearing, and I could tell that she felt so good. It was just such a cool moment to see one of my pieces of clothing in the real world just having its own moment. A really close second is one of our dresses was in Vogue Italia, and that was so exciting.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

HP: I look for someone that has a lot of passion and that believes in the brand and appreciates it as much as I do. I feel like Luba is my baby, and I want the same excitement that I have for it to be shared with the people that I’m working with.

A fun story: I was leaving the office [one day] and my sales person squealed and said, “We just got an order from a store in Poland!” which was super cool because it’s one of our first international stores. And I loved how excited she was about it because I felt that same reaction. It was cool to share that moment and have her love the brand as much as I do. When I have passionate people working with me it makes me feel uplifted, and it’s hard to work with someone who is not necessarily on the same page with it.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

HP: I think the best advice that I can give to someone is to keep an open mind and take advantage of doors that open for you. After I graduated from Parsons, my fiancé got into law school in Colorado, and that was obviously a very tough decision because there’s not a lot of fashion in Colorado. I was basically leaving the Mecca of fashion to a smaller town, and would not really have a job opportunity. But what’s amazing is if I had stayed in New York, I never would have created Luba. I would have worked for another company and I would never have pursued this dream of mine of starting my own company. I think that living in Colorado has opened so many doors because I have the opportunity to create exactly what I want. I would never have been able to do that elsewhere.

My second piece of advice would be to jump in (and obviously, you need to do your homework and be prepared), but don’t think about it too much because if you just keep waiting for everything to be perfect, you’re never going to do it. And looking back, if I had known how hard it was going to be to start a line, I would never have done it because it’s very hard. I just jumped in and learned a lot on the way, but I wouldn’t take anything back.

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

HP: I love seeing when someone has an internship or job in a large city within the field that they’re applying for, because working in New York, there’s a huge sense of urgency placed on everything all the time. It makes you work really hard. I love hiring someone that has even a six-week internship because they understand that they need to work really hard. They understand things that maybe they wouldn’t understand if they hadn’t worked in that environment before. 

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