More than 100 people attended the Francesca Skwark lecture, where she shared her experiences in the fashion industry and her tips on being a successful entrepreneur.
Skwark is a 2009 ISU alumna and the fashion designer behind the brand FBF by Checka, as well as the judge for Iowa State's 2013 Fashion Show.
“I think because Francesca is such a recent graduate, and she’s been able to come this far in a relatively short time, that gives the students inspiration,” said Ann Thye, apparel, merchandising and design academic adviser, about the up-and-coming designer. “They can see themselves in her shoes.”
The lecture was Friday, March 28, 2013, in MacKay Hall.
“It’s so rewarding and so satisfying,” admitted Skwark during the lecture. “But you work your butt off.”
Skwark has bachelor’s degrees in apparel, merchandising, and design and business marketing. She moved to Los Angeles after graduation to pursue her dream to be a fashion designer.
“Francesca has so much energy,” Thye said. “I think the positive energy that she has always been one of her greatest assets.”
Working multiple internships and landing a job as a hostess at a well-known sushi bar on Sunset Boulevard provided Skwark with opportunities to start her own company.
“So that’s where my brand, image and label began,” Skwark said. “It took about three months to figure out where to start, how to start a company and a business.”
During the lecture, Skwark detailed the journey of starting up her own clothing brand, which began as a T-shirt line.
“I started selling them online, got my friends to wear them, and it was a great way to start,” Skwark said. “I learned very quickly that fashion is a business.”
Gaining connections with various industry insiders allowed Skwark to further develop FBF by Checka.
“You have to take advantage of every situation you are in because you have no idea who you are talking to,” Skwark said and admitted she met her fabric manufacturer at the restaurant she works at.
Skwark told attendees that discovering, networking and utilizing resources have played a huge part in the launch of her fashion brand.
“You have to always be thinking about the big picture — especially when you are talking to the manufacturers or patternmakers — because they don’t want to invest in you if they don’t get something out of it,” Skwark said. “So it’s a win-win situation, hopefully, for everyone.”
The designer also advised students to always follow up with their contacts regarding internships or careers.
“Always follow through,” Skwark explained to her audience. “I have a rule with emails; seven to 10 days. If I don’t hear anything back, then I follow up, and then maybe I wait another three or four days, and then I follow up again.”
While she admitted that she may be a pest, she said she earns the respect of a yes-or-no answer.
“If you don’t want it bad enough, someone else does,” Skwark said. “Network, network, network, and never let anyone tell you no.”