This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the fabulous and talented Andrea King Lacey. Andrea has the life that so many dream of; being an on-site tailor. Not only does she work with models, celebrities and big brands but she also gets to travel all over the world doing what she loves! You can understand my excitement when I was given the opportunity to learn more about her, her career and all of the details in between!
How long have you been an on-set tailor?
In February it will be 6 years since my first job.
What was your first job as an on set tailor?
The Ann Taylor RTW Runway show. On that job I met stylist Kate Young and had a total girl crush on her. After that I found my way onto a couple editorial shoots. And right after those, I got booked on the Victoria Secret runway show. I felt like I went from playing a recital for friends, to suddenly performing at Radio City. I was pretty excited.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love that it’s something different every day. I joke that my job is kind of like Arts and Crafts class because one day I’ll be hemming khakis and the next I’m gluing feathers on headpieces. The other great thing is meeting a new group of people each job. It’s like summer camp. Especially on travel jobs, you get thrown into a group of people and then you’re forced to spend a week with them on an island. Sometimes the relationships are immediate and you meet a new friend and other times they aren’t. But you’re all there to work and you have that common goal, and usually you can find comradery in that.
Did you always aspire to work in the fashion industry?
Not at all! I went to school to study Business, specifically Finance because that is what came naturally for me (I’m a math geek). And maybe there was some parental pressure to pursue a traditional career path. But I just couldn’t see myself as an investor, making money off of other people’s risk. To be honest I didn’t have much in terms of career goals, I just wanted a family and if I could work on the side and contribute financially I’d be happy with that.
What sparked your interest in fashion and clothing?
3 things come to mind: where I grew up (the South), my sisters, the 1990’s. I grew up in the land of smocked bubblesuits and monograms. If you don’t know, go ahead and google “smocked bubblesuit” and you can relive my nightmare. So in middle and high school I started using fashion as a way to express myself. I’d search thrift stores for anything I thought was different. I loved (and still do) old denim, and really lived in t-shirts. I was extremely lanky back then, so I had to sew things to get them to fit me. I didn’t have the appropriate vocabulary at the time, but thinking back that’s when I realized the importance of fit/tailoring and how much it could change an outfit. I was one of 5 girls, and I really looked up to my 3 older sisters. I remember one of them once telling my Mom that from that point on she would only be wearing Umbro shorts and New Kids on the Block t-shirts. I was in awe. Also, being a young teenager in the 90’s, TV shows and music videos were inspirational. I loved the way they used clothing to depict a character. I knew I wanted to be Kelly Taylor and definitely not Donna Martin.
Does your profession require a certain amount of schooling/education?
It could but it doesn’t have to. A lot of on set tailors have degrees in Fashion Design or Tailoring but it isn’t required. Our job is to provide a service. Sewing is a trade, and I sincerely think that with enough patience it’s something that you can learn on your own, especially with the internet. You can learn almost anything off of YouTube! I think formal education is practical, and if you are going to do something that requires certification, that it’s also necessary. But a career like mine, you just have to love what you do and work hard. So drop out of school and buy a sewing machine!! (kidding)
Where did you learn to sew?
Well I started sewing when I was around 6. My mom signed my friend and I up for a summer sewing class and I loved it. She had always sewn so it wasn’t as much of an art but more of a practical skill. I started taking apart clothing and putting it back together, just wanting to understand how it worked. Things got a bit more legitimate later on when I started buying patterns and constructing on my own. It was a lot of trial and error.
How did you get your foot in the door of the fashion industry?
It was through friends, and some luck. When I moved to NYC in 2007 I had several friends who worked in fashion photography. I was kind of finding my way and working for a designer (on the business side) and fit modeling. I did some tailoring for a photographer friend and he told me about “on set” tailoring. I tailored on a couple of shoots, and the ball started rolling. Like with any job, someone can help you get your foot in the door, but from there it’s all up to you to prove yourself.
Were there ever times you felt as though your dreams weren’t within reach? How did you overcome that doubt?
Absolutely and I still do. I work freelance, so I can work constantly for weeks, and than others, not at all. Also some clients book months in advance and others the week before. You just have to be flexible and ALWAYS ON TIME! Whenever I have a week off I’ll complain to my husband that I don’t even have a “real” job. I know I am being silly, but we all have insecurities! During those times it’s important to enjoy the downtime and I try to work on my personal projects. You have to enjoy the ebb and flow.
What are some companies/celebrities you have worked with?
Companies: Bebe, Chico’s, Express, Gap, Old Navy, Dockers, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Macy’s, Oil of Olay, VH1, Diesel
Celebrities: Naomi Watts, Emma Watson, Kate Upton, Emily Mortimer, Shania Twain, Rosie O’Donnell, oh yea.. And Oprah!
Models: Karolina Kurkova, Petra Nemcova, Chrisitie Brinkley, Candice Swanepoel, Alessandra Ambrosia, Rebecca Romijn
Do you work on-set with one specific company/brand or with a variety?
With working freelance, it really varies, but I do have a couple clients I have worked with consistently over the years. I’ve been with Express for the past 5 years and Chico’s almost 3 years. Those jobs are typically 3-10 days of each month.
How would you describe your personal style?
Practical and functional. I dress for the occasion. Which typically means jeans and t’s since I’m on the floor pinning. In my personal life we spend a lot of time outdoors, so swimsuits or down jackets depending on the weather. But always with denim, I almost always have something denim on.
How has your personal style changed/evolved since working in the fashion industry?
I’ve realized how important individuality is. It’s easy to look good in the most expensive designer clothing. That’s not really style, that’s just money. But don’t get me wrong, I do love all things Isabel Marant.
Does your job require you to travel often? If so, is there a particular place you traveled to that was your favorite?
It does. A lot of shoots will happen on location, and it’s brought me to some pretty distant locales. Marrakech, Morocco was one of my favorite and most memorable. Travel can change the way you look at many things. My other favorite is St Bart’s. The beaches are beautiful and the food is delicious, you really can’t ask for more.
What inspires you?
In fashion: Street Style, I like seeing what people actually wear. Especially NYC High School kids, they’re nuts!
In my career: Successful women that have found a balance between career and family.
Do you have any future goals within your career?
I do! And a lot of them. I’d love to find a way to take what I do and apply it to people outside of the fashion industry. Sewing seems to be a dying art, so I guess I’m looking to spearhead it’s revival. Not sure how that will manifest itself. Maybe teaching? Anyone want to come over for sewing lessons?
What advice would you give someone who is interested in getting into the fashion industry specifically with on-set tailoring?
Put aside your feelings of entitlement. Working hard is always the most important thing, more than even talent or connections. It gets noticed. Also if you aren’t sure what you want to do, that’s totally ok! Just start doing something. The time is going to pass no matter what and you might as well have something to show for it. You know the whole, “the journey is the destination” thing. It might sound silly, but it’s true! Lastly and most importantly, be kind. At the end of the day you’re working long hours in close quarters. Kindness goes a long way. Good luck!!
Thanks for reading!