The incredibly talented and hardworking Blakely Dickey takes us into the fashion world and the triumphs and hardships that come with it. Her every day is fast paced but is the life most people dream of. Dickey gets to watch the garments she works so hard on walk down runways and red carpets. We were pleased that she took the time to give us the inside scoop while in the midst of working on Golden Globe gowns. Read on to see what it’s like to walk in her shoes.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I am the Couture Assistant Designer for Marchesa. I work closely with the head designer and co-founders to create textures, drapes, and the production of our Runway, Sales, and Bridal shows, photoshoots, and presentations.
How did you get into fashion?
It started unknowingly when I was little. I use to make paperdoll clothes and draw princesses in crystal covered gowns. I loved to draw and make stories. My Bema and Grandma would always play with us by teaching my sisters and I how to cross stitch and hand sew. We were given the freedom and encouragement to create and imagine. When I was 14, my parents bought me my first sewing machine. It took a lot of convincing from my fiancé, however, for me to change my focus on painting and illustration to fashion. The idea of failing at fashion and not being able to catch onto “proper” sewing techniques was very frightening for me. I was frustrated with fine art though. I couldn’t paint what I saw in my head and after taking a leap, I soon found out that sewing and draping came naturally. With help from my professors, I could make exactly what I saw in my head. I knew I was where I needed to be and the fashion building soon became home.
I can recognize your touch and style on the garments you have worked on, how did you find your style/fashion voice?
It’s just a complicated mess that flows out of me. A lot of my work ends up being influenced from my fine art training. I approach the body as a canvas and think about the use of color, rhythm, repetition, balance, and composition but I wouldn’t say it is a conscious effort. My work is based off of what mood I am in or what type of girl I channel. One minute I design for the girly girl, something soft, beautiful and whimsical. The next moment I draw strength from the independent, sexy, and confident girl. Overall I want the dresses to empower women that wear them no matter what their style is.
How much time is spent working on your own and how much is a team process?
It’s constantly a team process of bouncing ideas off of each other. Marchesa gives me an inspiration image, swatch, or description to concept from. I start playing with different fabrics, beadings, and embroideries and develop dye swatches for color. After gathering materials and fabric manipulations/techniques, I start directing a wonderful team of design interns to help make ornate swatches that will be draped with. I drape hundreds of different ideas and take a lot of photos. I then show the head designer and co-founders to get their feedback. They may add in an embroidery, different lace/metallic linings, or mix/match tops and bottoms of drapes and take it to another level that I didn’t originally think of. It’s really quite magical watching a design evolve.
How do you know when a garment is complete and you are satisfied with the end result?
In my opinion, it is never finished! It is at a state of completion when it walks down the runway but even after, when someone wears it, we will redesign it to better suit the consumer or event that it will be worn to. That’s what I love about fashion: It is in a constant state of evolution. Being an artist, I’m never satisfied unfortunately. My dissatisfaction is my driving motivation. It’s just who I am and is what adds complexity into my style.
What is the biggest reward of your job?
The biggest reward of my job is making my family and hometown proud. The attention makes me feel awkward at times, but it’s so rewarding that the people who know me best are proud of my accomplishments.
Your designs start as just ideas and end up being tangible moving objects worn for people to see all over the world, what does that feel like?
The feeling is surreal. At times it doesn’t seem real because I don’t feel anything or feel how I expected I would. I’m just like “okay what is due tomorrow?” I think the thing that ends up affecting me the most is when someone draws one of my dresses or when someone posts a video of a model/customer playing in the dress. Inspiring other people to be free in creating and playing is when my heart gets warm.
Can you give us a run through of what a day in the life of Blakely Dickey is?
Wake up by second alarm. Watch Netflix while taking a bath. Do the brows. Get on Subway. Take a hike. In the office: come in, check in on the interns to make sure they have everything they need to get started on their projects. Check my email grudgingly while knocking back some coffee. As the morning rituals end, I’ll start juggling concepting drapes and swatches for the next season while working on the final samples for the current season. I’ll take a late lunch outside – fresh air is necessary for sanity. I’ll finish up the workday checking in with bosses and getting their feedback on the things I am producing and what they would like to have finished for the next day. Take a night stroll. Pick up groceries for dinner. Cook, eat, chat and cuddle with my fiancé and dog. Eventually nod off to sleep.
What is the hardest part about deadlines? Do you ever think that the garment won’t be finished in time?
Not finishing is not an option for me. I do whatever it takes to get a dress completed even if it means working 48 hours straight. The hardest thing about deadlines is how I don’t accept not making them even when it’s humanly impossible. I don’t let myself give up. Sometimes I will be thinking about it so much that I forget normal things like eating and brushing my teeth!
How do you cope with stress?
It depends. In times of backstage stress, it fuels me. My adrenaline starts pumping and ten arms grow out of my sides. At times when it feels overwhelming, I try to step outside and look towards space. I remind myself of the people I love and everything going on around the world. It makes the stress seem really minuet and brings me back down to earth. When all else fails, I seek advice from the head designer and the people closest to me.
How do you celebrate seeing the miraculous dresses on celebrities?
In the beginning, I would grab drinks with co-workers after work and pinch myself a couple of times. Since it has become more regular now, it’s a bit low key. I’ll celebrate by contacting my family and posting on social media. Sometimes I’ll spend the next couple of days seeing who is reposting it and what they are saying about it.
How do you and the Marchesa team decide what will be future trends so far ahead of time?
I think we are all in the zeitgeist of what is going on and end up feeding off of each other’s creativity. For me, it’s a free flowing stream of consciousness and bouncing ideas off with the other designers. It’s nice collaborating because they help me think outside of what I normally go to. I also think heavily about what women are going through today and what their daughters may face. I study what is going on socially, economically, and politically and how that affects women in the past to now. It helps me predict the evolution of where things are going and what she will face in the future. Each fashion movement is connected with revolution and I’m hoping the next one will come soon.
What advice can you give to women who have dreams of the success you’ve achieved?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You can do anything that you want. If you work hard, you can do it. I worked in retail for a year saving up to move to New York. As soon as I was able to, I came to the city, without a job or an apartment, living off of cold pizza and continental breakfast. Many said I was foolish, but I knew if I didn’t sacrifice and take risks, I wouldn’t ever get an opportunity to achieve my dreams. You have to take everything negative that would normally hold you back and use it as fuel to prove them wrong. You can do it. You have to work harder than everyone else, remain passionate, keep focus on you, play nice, and remain thankful. You can do anything you set your mind to. I truly believe it. Don’t lose hope in yourself.