Staci Rutherford, creator Handbag Report and FIDM Alum

6:01 PM

Time is drawing closer to the start of the Fall Quarter at FIDM in LA and I am excited and nervous. One of my greatest fears after acceptance was not just paying for school but also being one of the few students who is not straight out of high school. I have a BA and am not so fresh out of college either so with this experience under my belt I wondered how exactly does this Professional Designation program work and how did someone who has been where I am headed handle this situation

Well through the previously mentioned Fashion Industry Network I was connected with Staci Rutherford of The Handbag Report. Staci has built an amazing business and website by using amazing Connectors and trusting her internal Road Map. She was willing to share her story and FIDM/LA experience with us and I hope this helps and inspires other Prof Des students the way it has helped and inspired me. And if you are a reader of this blog and are considering FIDM I definitely recommend contacting the school and getting a counselor to help you along, but it's great to hear it from someone who has actually been there. So for this edition of Road know the drill:

1.) What have been your Road Maps to get you to the point you have now reached in your career?

My Road Map has been a roller coaster rather than a straight path to the finish line. From Hampton,VA to Washington, DC to Columbia, SC to Los Angeles, CA to Philadelphia, PA and back to Columbia, SC, you would begin to wonder if my life had any direction. My interest in fashion began at a young age. At that time, I was unaware of the many areas of fashion and careers associated with it. Eventually I abandoned my plans to attend law school, gave into the passion that burned inside me and went to fashion school. As my vision became more clear, my Road Map was constantly changing.

2.) What is your advice to your reader who wants to get into what is being called a "niche" market such as handbags, shoes, etc?

My advice to anyone wanting to break into a "niche" market would be to become an expert and determine your role in that field. I absolutely love handbags! I began to devote my time to researching the many designers, labels, trends, styles, retailers, manufacturers, websites, and blogs. Determine your place in that field - set short term and long term goals of where you want to see yourself. Having a vision gives a sense of purpose.

3.) Any Travel Music? Any songs or videos that helped push you along your journey?

Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, and Outkast have pushed me along my journey.

Staci allowed me to ask her a few more questions that I think are necessary for FIDM students and her answers were very thorough. Grab a pen and paper, you might want to write this stuff down.
  1. You were a part of the Proff. Desg program at FIDM. What made you decide to go back to school in general and then why FIDM?
  2. Did you face any challenges with relocation?
  3. How did you balance work, school, building your business?
  4. Did you always know that you would end up in VA? Basically how did you decide to not stay in LA?

1) I was headed in the direction of law school. As I began writing my personal statement as part of the application, all I could think about was having a second chance to study fashion. I did not want to invest time in something I was not passionate about. I looked at various programs at the top fashion schools and decided on the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in LA because their Apparel Manufacturing Management program encompassed the design, technical and business aspects of the apparel industry.

2) The challenges I faced with relocating were finding a place to live and figuring out how to support myself while going to school. I was confident that everything in between would fall into place. I knew one person in LA who became instrumental in my transition. I was fortunate enough to secure a loan that covered tuition and living expenses for a few months. That allowed me time to become familiar with the city, get an idea of my workload and find a job that would work with my schedule.

3) Balancing work and school was difficult at times. The Professional Designation program was intense. I took every class seriously and gave 110%. I was smart about scheduling classes so I could handle a low stress job that was flexible. I stumbled into an accounting position at Lions Gate Entertainment that paid very well. It was important that I get experience in the fashion industry, so I worked a few part-time internships and jobs on the side. It was a juggling act but I was motivated to do it all. I did not begin building my business until well after I completed FIDM.

4) There were many great opportunities in LA, but few that paid enough for me to support myself (and my financial obligations). Without experience, I only qualified for entry level positions. My support system was on the east coast so shortly after I finished school, I moved to Philadelphia to work for an apparel company. At the end of the day, I was unfulfilled. With the help of my parents, I started an online handbag store,, and later a handbag blog, Handbag Report. I hope to launch a handbag line in the near future.
**FIDM has an excellent program and very supportive faculty. There are many resources to take advantage of. Having the degree in apparel manufacturing was not necessary for what I am currently doing but it gives me a better understanding of everything related to production, fabric, etc. As I work with aspiring designers, and begin developing my own handbag line, everything I learned will be invaluable.

Images are courtesy of Staci's blog Handbag Report

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