by Erin Schmidt, Fashion Publishing
One would never guess that Professor Wevly Wilson was anti-fashion as a child. “I was a tomboy. I wore sneakers. Nike. I did not wear dress shoes. I was super not into shoes, so for me to be a shoe designer is kind of weird. I was really not into fashion at all.” This antifashionista boasts the top fashion schools on her resume: Parsons, Central Saint Martin’s, and Cordwainers (where Jimmy Choo studied). Ms. Wilson also had an esteemed professional career in pharmaceuticals before transitioning into fashion. She teaches Accessory Concepts at Parsons, is a Footwear and Accessories Designer at Joe Fresh, and in 2013 she launched her own accessory collection, “Wevly Wilson.” Add another accolade to her resume – philanthropist! Ms. Wilson donates 10% of her business profits to Tennessee State University to help fund tuition for financially challenged students. Her story is an inspiration not just for the speed and path of her success, but also for her generosity and commitment to others. Ms. Wilson shows genuine interest in her student’s backgrounds, interests, and career pursuits. She is a role model and inspiration for entrepreneurs, fashion designers, and mentors.
With your busy schedule, what motivated you to come back to teach?
When I started my first assistant design job, I said to myself, I want to teach because I am going to share what I do everyday. I think people have a different idea of what fashion design is and what it might actually be in reality, so I wanted to bridge the gap. I wanted to help facilitate people starting their own business, particularly with accessory design because it is something you can make by hand and you can start with very low overhead.
Can you describe how you started your business?
I always wanted to have my own business. Jewelry was something that I could create myself or locally. I came up with an idea to use exotic skins with metal, and did a Henri Bendel’s Open Call. It wasn’t enough for me to have a trunk show at Bendel’s, but it was enough for me to have an aesthetic established and have pieces. It still took a couple of years to get the pieces to a point where I would sell them. Tory Burch had this women’s foundation that specialized in supporting women entrepreneurs and I actually applied for business funding through an organization that her foundation suggested.
What would you like Parsons students to know about having their own line?
There is a lot to learn. You’re not going to know everything until you do it. I got a lot of help, which is why I like to offer help when I can.
What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards of having your own line?
The biggest challenge is cash flow because you have to have money to produce products. The most rewarding thing is literally seeing my name embossed on my product and my logo on the box.
What advice do you have for Parsons students?
My biggest advice is to research whatever you want to do. If you want to start you own brand, whatever you want – someone has done something similar before. Find information and let those stories encourage and keep you inspired to continue. That was key for me.
What do you attribute your success?
I had a vision even when I was a kid of wanting to do fashion. I sketched prom dresses and had them on my door at Tennessee State. I had this vision for such a long time, and I have not been afraid to go after it and just keep going. If I had stayed comfortable where I was at my previous career, then that is where I would still be.