Lingerie Designer Interviews: Erica Young of EricaM Hosiery
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Erica Young of EricaM, the bodywear line known for its intricate detailing, in her Brooklyn studio space. As she shared her designs, creative process, and inspiration, our conversation covered a host of other topics from our favorite podcasts and perceptions of the millennial generation to the glory days of shopping at Contempo Casuals and the influence of the Cosby Show on our generation! I strongly believe that stories and life experiences influence a designer's perspective, so I greatly enjoyed learning about Erica's journey to becoming a trendsetting designer.
Read below for our some of the highlights of our robust conversation.
Krista: Hi Erica. Thanks so much for hosting me. I look forward to sharing more about you and your designs with our readers. Can you start by introducing yourself to our readers?
Erica: My name is Erica Young. I am the Creative Director and Founder of Erica M.
Krista: Thanks. Can you tell us about journey into the industry? Did you take a traditional path and attend fashion school?
Erica: I was born and raised in Hollywood, California. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Fashion Design at the California College of the Arts. I continued my studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and applied my design skills to creating footwear for seven years for various brands. My travels for work took me to different countries in Asia where I developed a love for funky, avant-garde tights.
Krista: That’s cool! How did that love turn in to developing your brand, Erica M?
Erica: One day after I came back from traveling through Asia, I snagged my favorite pair of tights on a tree branch while getting out of a car on a mediocre date. Frustrated by not being able to purchase a replacement pair online, I began sketching what I believed was missing from the market in the US It was the genesis of Erica M., the brand, and it ultimately led to the creation of my first collection.
Krista: I love it! So in the end, even a mediocre date can have a silver lining. So what influences your designs?
Erica: Since then, I draw inspiration from personal experiences, my surroundings, my love for art and my constant search for discovering what’s new in the art world. I consider myself an industrial designer more than anything. I think about my designs more 3D than 2D. This is even represented by the machinery at the factory. Pieces are created on a cylindrical machine that allows for the creation of the designs. Most importantly though, I get a lot of inspiration from my friends. I name a lot of my styles after them for this reason.
Krista: What a great tribute! As you know, I’m a huge fan of your eye catching designs. I find them to be very cutting edge, modern, and intricate. How would you describe your aesthetic?
Erica: Sophisticated, fun, thoughtful, alluring, empowering.
Krista: One of my absolute favorite designs is one you featured at Curve. The one with the snake and bird design. I’m always interested in a good story. Does it have any meaning?
Erica: The inspiration for this collection titled ‘Menagerie' was depicting a bacchanal in an Art Nouveau style. The host is a mysteriously fabulous woman, think Maria Casati. She is having a garden party where she has exotic birds roaming free amongst gold fountains spouting champagne for her fabulous friends. Each bralette and panty set, including the Josephine bra you mentioned, depicts pieces from this bacchanal scene. In addition, I specifically looked at Gustav Klimt paintings and the set design of the movie ‘The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Klimt’ for graphic inspiration. I capture these images on a detailed inspiration board. I find the more detailed the story the more the style comes to life.
Krista: I knew there had to be something behind all of that! That’s intriguing. I’m so excited to see these on the women of Williamsburg! What else can you tell us about the production process?
Erica: It’s a collaborative effort between me and the factory. The technical dictates the designs. I need craftsmen to execute my vision. The factories really like my designs. They challenge them in their craft. They are often excited to see how some of the more complex designs come out.
Krista: It’s great to hear more about that collaboration. Changing gears a bit, you know at TLA we value diversity and want to ensure we are engaging our readers and a wider community in a dialogue. You were featured in one of Cora’s previous posts featuring black owned lingerie brands. We often comment about how few women of color, in particular black women, occupy this space. How do you think being a black woman in the industry has impacted your experience?
Erica: I get a kick out of people’s reactions when they realize I am Erica M. I think there are possibly a few characteristics about me that are a bit shocking at first. A lot of times I speak with people on the phone before I meet them in person. Yes, I am black, but I am also petite with a deep voice. Due to my voice, I believe people are expecting me to look differently. Like I should be larger in stature. Then afterwards it sinks in that I am a black woman. For the most part, I feel it is thrilling for people to discover I am black. But, of course, I have endured some racism. It is usually in the form of an awkward and offensive question. I take it in stride and keep it moving. Everyone’s objective is to make money. If a person in the industry believes they can make a steady profit with you, people for the most part can put their cultural beliefs aside.
Krista: Thanks for sharing that. Given some of the challenges you’ve endured or even seen, how do you think the industry could be more inclusive?
Erica: Times are changing and nowadays being talented and black can be a benefit to you and the people you work with. It all depends on how you look at it. Sure, I think that a lot of companies should be more open minded to hiring people of color, but from my point of view that is out of my control. What I can control is how I handle myself in business and over time, I feel the general perceptions of black people in the industry will shift more and more.
Krista: We’ve talked a lot about your journey to this point and how it took time and effort over many years. My assumption is that a lot of people see a glamorized version of the fashion industry. That things just magically happen. What do you wish people knew about the fashion industry? What do you think is the most common misconception?
Erica: The fashion industry is not only really hard but extremely fickle. What keeps you afloat is your talent and not just your popularity. Especially now that social media is such an important tool in fashion, popularity can be misconceived for success. That’s actually what’s so great about social media, however for people trying to enter the industry, it’s easy to feel that followers and likes equal profit. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Krista: Good to know. Especially to those aspiring for lasting careers in the industry. That said, what's been the best advice you've received?
Erica: Have a clear vision and follow through in the most thorough way possible. Your brand is your ‘world’ where everything in it should be considered.
Krista: Wise words indeed. A lot of that follow through involves getting feedback. How do you engage in that process?
Erica: I listen a lot. I love constructive criticism. It helps me see things from a different perspective. It’s an opportunity to consider change.
Krista: That makes a lot of sense. Last question.Thinking about your long term vision, where do you see yourself in five years?
Erica: Doing exactly what I am doing now, but with a larger development and travel budget and a larger office with an amazing view.
Krista: Sounds good to me. Thanks so much for having me, Erica! I know our readers look forward to seeing how your line continues to evolve.