Simone Sullivan
Photo: Jide Alakija

Beyond The Thread: Designer Simone Sullivan

Simone Sullivan is a fashion designer based in NYC. She designs with a mindset towards celebrating the body you are in. 

By fulfilling a need she saw missing for herself and many others, Simone Sullivan has attracted an organic following of people who understand her work and see the beauty and art within her designs. 

Here, you will gain a deeper glimpse into what inspires her and her goals for her fashion business- all while changing lives through unique design. 

Simone Sullivan | Dani Odom and Juju Lejoi photographed by Rashida Zagon
Models: Absynnia and Iman. Photograph: Devena

At what point did you realize you wanted to be a designer?

In 7th grade, I did an art report on Versace. I loved the way he combined fine art and fashion. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a designer.

What motivates you to create? What are your sources of inspiration?

I want to change the world through art. I want to give back to my community in Miami. I want to give back to my parents. They were young when they had my brother and me and managed to provide us with a pretty decent life full of love. I can’t wait to buy my mom and dad everything they want. Christmas would be every day! 

My inspiration is drawn from everyday life and my experiences growing up. I am greatly inspired by the experience of black people in America.

Simone Sullivan | Ceara Monique and Elijah Timmons photographed by Isaac Campbell
Models: Ceara Monique and Elijah Timmons. Photograph: Isaac Campbell

You saw a need for yourself and created a space for those needing the same issue addressed. What lesson did you see in this, and how do you apply it to other aspects of your design process?

I always struggle to find pants long enough for myself. So I regularly make pants that fit my shape. I’m a bit curvy in the hip but also slim and tall. The main issue I have is the length; I noticed other women have the same problem. When I go to a store with longer lengths available, it tends to be a special order or out of stock. I will always make pants at a 36 inseam and then have an average length available as well. I also may potentially sell all pants long and have the option of in-store adjustments. These are all just ideas at the moment.

I think it is crucial to think of the people regularly left out from the average consumer. I don’t have the capacity to do it now, but I definitely see myself doing a collection accessible for people with various disabilities, and all bodies should be celebrated.

Simone Sullivan | Dani Odom and Juju Lejoi photographed by Rashida Zagon
Models: Dani Odom and Juju Lejoi. Photograph: Rashida Zagon

While many fashion business models focus on producing multiple pieces, you emphasize one-of-a-kind pieces throughout your collections. What are the ways in which this has provided a sense of balance in how you run your business?

For me, I genuinely think that what we wear is a way of expressing ourselves. Therefore I choose to create pieces that people will enjoy wearing forever. Not just trendy pieces. 

Not only does this help with the flow of products and not over-saturating, but it allows me to invest the time necessary into each and every design I create. I also get to experiment with more techniques this way.

At several different points, you may take the lead as Stylist one moment and then own the role of Creative Director another- at times doing both simultaneously. How did you enter the space of taking on these roles? How has this fueled you creatively, and what is the common message are you sending to those viewing your art?

I went to a pop up called monochrome by CJ Hendry, an Australian artist. For some reason, I had the desire to match the different colors in each space. The response I received from the final photo was way more positive than the others I posted. 

I continued to experiment with the idea of matching spaces to clothing, and one day someone asked me to style a shoot. I used my apparel and the designs of other black designers and created some looks that pushed me in the direction of styling and creative direction. 

I really enjoy it, and it helps me create designs with my end result editorially in mind. I hope when people view my styling, creative direction, and designs, they get the feeling of art in fashion. Large shapes and bold colors are my go-to!

New 2018 Spring Color Collection! Shop Now at NARS!

What have you learned about yourself as a designer throughout your career? How has this shifted over the past year during the pandemic?

I learned that I am not comfortable conforming to society’s standards just for higher sales. I want my designs always to speak back to true art and craftsmanship. 

During the pandemic, I saw how people shifted to desiring pieces with a story, which I have always done anyway.

What is the moment you are most proud of?

I stood up for what I believed in at a huge company. Many people say that the way I went about it was wrong, but I also had many who told me I gave them hope for change and encouraged them to also speak up about changes they wanted in their workplace. 

This is a moment I am most proud of because I did not allow money to dictate my decision. I did not let others’ opinions sway me; I did what my heart felt was right. 

Simone Sullivan: Parsons Thesis | Shyloh Wilkinson photographed by Elizabeth Sanchez
Parsons Thesis featuring Shyloh Wilkinson. Photograph: Elizabeth Sanchez

What do you see coming next for you and your brand?

I plan to launch fully this year. I want to collaborate with larger brands and start pouring back into my community however I can.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be in the creative field based on your own experience?

Do not give up; this is hard. It takes patience. 

I am still working on getting my name out. I am also still learning. Always look for the learning opportunity in every situation, good or bad. 

Get mentors and have someone you can get real advice from. Avoid “yes men.” Take accountability for your actions. You won’t always be right. Remove fake friends, No matter how long the friendship was. 

Get a tight circle and always, ALWAYS stay true to who you are. Change for no one! (unless the change will genuinely make you a better person, like holding a door more often or something. LOL!)

Stay Social With Simone Sullivan

Instagram  @simone.sullivan

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