(MA Fashion Entrepreneurship, London College of Fashion, 2010)
After 13 years working in the luxury fashion business in the United States and Europe, Indonesian-American Stacy Stube left her life in London and job in fashion management to head to the resort island of Bali to fulfil her dreams of building a socially focused fashion company that gave back to the local community. After learning about Balinese textile artistry and craftsmanship from local women, Stacy established her fashion brand Elsa Fitzgerald, blending 1920’s glamour with traditional Balinese bridal wear using locally produced lace.
With the threat of traditional Balinese handcraft lace techniques becoming lost as more and more local women opt for employment within the Island’s growing tourism industry, Stacy has grown passionate about ensuring the beautiful art is kept alive. Therefore, she established AVEH (Art Village Educational Hub), a non-profit organisation which promotes traditional handmade fashion, education and women’s empowerment. Not only has Stacy somehow found the time to continue designing, teaching English, studying and volunteering at a local orphanage… she has also recently launched her first book, Bali Fashion Dream, with the second on its way.
What inspired you to come and study in London?
There is something so romantic yet electric about the city. I would look at an image I borrowed from my mother’s travel agency of a lamp lit road with Big Ben against midnight sky. I imagined myself twirling on the post like in the musical Singing In The Rain. There was something so magical about the city as if anything were possible if I just believed.
What was the greatest thing you learnt from your time at LCF?
Your networks are worth more than your bank account. As a fashion designer you will find that being resourceful is the key to making or breaking a career in the industry. The brand LCF opened many doors. Realising this advantage left me pounding the pavement selling myself and meeting with professionals that have continued to support my career over the years.
What advice would you give students wanting to move to London from the US?
I caution that you may fall in love with London and want to stay, but due to tough immigration laws prepare mentally to go back after your program. My advice would be to line up your internships back-to-back so you can get the most experience to pump up your CV/Resume. I’ve had two colleagues get sponsored, but this is not always easy. Also look into engaging with university collaborations with industry, LCF has a lot of exciting opportunities that you can apply for. Don’t be afraid to utilise your American tenacity to shine. As politely as possible don’t take no for answer, competition is tight so rock your qualities.
What was the best thing about living in London?
All my life I never felt that I belonged. Growing up in the inner city of Baltimore, I was this little nerdy girl in a floral jumpsuit with lace trim shorts. As I got older I can remember getting made fun of and questioned ‘why are you so dressed up?’ Then I moved to London. I can remember wearing a black knee length Audrey Hepburn dress with a ribbon sash to my first day of work at the Burberry Flagship store. Slightly nervous to be ‘so dressed up’ on a Sunday afternoon, when entering the building I turned to my colleague from Switzerland. He gasped, ‘darling you look fabulous’. That was when I finally felt that I had found a place where I belonged. I appreciate London’s acceptance and encouragement of the arts as a society. It is deeply ingrained in the essence of people both young and old, from near and far. It is this common language we speak in the city. Everyone has a right to his or her own style.
What have you been doing since graduation?
After leaving LCF, I worked at Heidi Klein as Senior Retail Manager in charge of strategy and retail development. After 7 years of study and work in London, armed with two suitcases I set-up a fashion company on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia. It has been about 2 years since. In addition, to creating the Bali Fashion Group, which houses the fashion label Elsa Fitzgerald, and media Bali Fashion Dream, I have set-up a non-profit organisation called AVEH. The Art Village Education Hub empowers Indonesian Women and Girls through the Arts. We currently have a school of 25 girls receiving free English lessons in the Education Hub that is funded by the Art Village where the mothers make Balinese Lace products. We recently launched the Bali Fashion Dream book and I am working on the second book, while completing a second Masters in Non-profit Management & Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Baltimore.
What would be the top tip you would give any of our graduating students who share your entrepreneurial spirit?
Find a way to make money while building your dream. It takes time commitment and patience. If you can’t fund it, it cannot grow. There is no quick fix to success you must learn from your mistakes and just keep moving. Don’t follow the cattle because you cannot compete with the flock. You must recreate the industry through your own eyes. Be uniquely you in every sense of the word. Follow your dream to the realm of innovation and this usually happens when you face barriers. Trust your instincts always and when you are in doubt take a step back do something else you love then return to the dream. The quote that remains with me is to ‘stay faithful to your dreams’. When everything is not working out and all you want to do is give up, know that fighting for a dream is far more rewarding than settling for mainstream. Also a friend told me something so true, ‘it will cost twice as much and take twice as long for half of what you thought you would make’.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Writing a book in 4 days. I presold over 50 copies on a kickstarter campaign that funded my second season fashion collection. It was way overdue and I kept rewriting it, but in the end I accepted that it is not going to be perfect. It just needs to get done. I started from scratch on a Tuesday and sent it to my editor on that Friday. In the book Bali Fashion Dream, I documented the painfully exciting emotions I experienced when leaving my life in London and setting up a fashion company in Bali, Indonesia.
What inspires you?
Life inspires me. Those moments that take your breath away and stirthe imagination of emotion. When a lightening bug sparkles through the summer night air, as the wind catches your hair in whispers. These are the spaces of inspiration where one can connect with nature. The world is so noisy that it is easy to forget simplistic beauty. From a design point of view old film, jazz singers and fairy tales captivate me. Also the beauty of women from the Balinese woman in lace dress preparing offerings to the Parisian woman drinking red wine in an outdoor cafe.
What’s next for you Stacy?
Well there are two phases that extend from the work set-up in Bali. Phase one: Build a workshop in my home town of Baltimore. In particular the West Baltimore area to create jobs by bringing together a group of underserved women making beautiful fashion that empowers their community. This space will act as a training facility as well as providing coaching and support for job creation and mentorship. Phase two: Build an ‘off the grid’ workshop in York, Pennsylvania for some of the Elsa Fitzgerald fashion collection focusing on a Made in USA commitment. ‘Off the grid’ meaning that we work primarily by hand using Haute Couture techniques of making and limited machine use that is solar and wind powered. I am researching how the Amish communities exist and how some of their way of life can be integrated into the model.