When we first discovered the Scottish Fold cat Shrampton on Instagram, we couldn’t get enough of him and his twin sister, Bunni. It’s hard not to fall in love after seeing just one photo. After a few months of seeing Shrampton pop up in our Instagram feeds, we decided to reach out to the woman behind the photos, Leilani Shimoda. Leilani is not only mama to the cutest cats on Instagram, but she is also the head of the swim and intimates department at Wildfox, a vintage inspired clothing line.
As a swimwear designer, Leilani is in charge of many responsibilities. Not only is she researching, designing, and managing production, to name a few, but she also styles photo shoots and casts models. Despite hearing ‘no’ and being told to quit, Leliani worked hard and was persistent, and it paid off. As Leilani wisely noted regarding being in a tough industry such as fashion, “It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.” Read on to learn more about how Leilani views leadership, how she stays organized, and how Shrampton has changed people’s lives.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”
Leilani Shimoda: Sometimes when you’re young you get caught up in socializing and fail to realize all the resources at your disposal. In high school and college there are so many opportunities to get advice and skills from teachers and professionals. Use them. The party will always be there. Free computer programming tutorials and yoga classes won’t.
CJ: You majored in Fashion Design at Otis College of Art and Design. How did you determine what to study?
LS: I grew up with a lot of art influences drawing, jewelry making, and piano. I knew I wanted to do something artistic. Fashion was a place where I could do something creative but it also served a function. I liked that combination.
CJ: You are the head of the swim and intimates department at Wildfox where you manage a team that designs swimwear, coverups, pajamas, intimates, bags, and accessories. We are huge Wildfox fans! What does your role as Swim and Intimates Designer entail?
LS: Thank you! I work within the overall story or theme for each season to develop pieces that will fit and help tell that story. Whether it’s cozy pajamas or sea shell bikinis, I research, sketch, design, create tech packs, source fabrics/trims, manage production, conduct fittings, cast models, style photo shoots, organize fashion shows… it’s pretty extensive.
CJ: What does your creative process look like when working on a new line?
LS: As Wildfox is very vintage-inspired I do a lot of shopping at flea markets, vintage stores, and on Ebay and Etsy. Paying attention to past trends and paying homage to styles that were influential is as important as creating looks from scratch. Once I know the story (Wildfox is very story-driven) I work with the team to fit my lines into the overall vision.
CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?
LS: Typically I meet with my team and review all pending tasks. Then I meet with the Creative Director and other Senior Designers to have a creative meeting. We’ll break for lunch and then meet with our entire team in one room and discuss everything we’re working on. A lot of important decisions are made at the meetings and then I have a bunch of emails to get back to and give approvals and relay comments to the factories.
CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in being a fashion designer?
LS: Work hard and be persistent. I was told time and time again that this isn’t a good field. It’s extremely competitive, the hours are relentless, trends come and go quickly, there’s no entrance exam (so you get a lot of unprofessional people in power positions). Despite all that, if you can take the punches and keep designing great fitting garments that girls covet, you will succeed. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.
CJ: Leadership plays an important role in your job. How have you learned to lead, and what does being a good leader mean to you?
LS: The best way to lead is to be a student. For years I had a range of different bosses, creative directors and leaders guiding me. I’ve had things thrown at me and I’ve been told to quit. I read Diane von Furstenberg and Kelly Cutrone’s books. I’ve taken all the good and the bad and built my own method for leadership. Being a good leader means not letting the constant stresses impact the way you treat your team. It is never effective to belittle someone else. It’s contrary to the greater goal of building the brand and doesn’t maintain forward momentum. Working as hard as your team, the same grueling late nights, getting your hands dirty. Those all inspire confidence and help keep the work environment productive. I also love teaching my team in a fun way by taking them shopping and having us all try things on and take photos of details we like.
CJ: You are also mama to the adorable cats, Shrampton and Bunni. Shrampton’s Instagram currently has 46,000 followers. How has Shrampton and Bunni’s growing online presence changed your life?
LS: It makes me so happy when Shrampton’s followers say things like “I was having a hard day, but Shrampton’s photo made it better.” That’s what I strive to do with my designs. Making people happy is the most rewarding part.
CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?
LS: Being part of Fashion Week in Miami is always a highlight. I like the combination of working toward a very visible goal and also meeting the other designers in a place where everyone can finally show the work they spent so much time designing/producing. The energy and temperatures are high. It’s very stressful and thrilling at the same time.
CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?
LS: I’m a list maker. Putting all the small and large tasks in one place, then checking each thing off is not only helpful but satisfying. I believe in colorcoding and postits.
CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?
LS: I’m constantly pulled in so many directions between work, exercise, friends, family, Shrampton. Getting to a calm, grounded place is what I’ve been focused on lately – meditation, yoga, reading, me time.
CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?
LS: I usually satisfy whatever food craving I’m having but I try to balance that with exercise, which also helps.
CJ: What is your favorite book?
LS: Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
LS: I would give myself a peptalk and let myself know that I’m a good designer and belonged at fashion school. That I should be confident and believe in myself because I’m great. To be patient and surround myself with what I loved and learn everything I can.
I didn’t get this kind of encouragement during my college years. That’s why I enjoy mentoring and spreading a positive message to young designers and women that wear my designs.
Images by Leilani Shimoda