Fashion design can be a hard industry to make your mark in. Many strive to become the next Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, or Coco Chanel. Ann Dishinger has worked with hundreds of talented individuals across the industry as a freelance fashion designer. From when she was young, she loved styling her own clothes and others. Ann Dishinger began sewing at age six and quickly progressed to make her own clothes by junior high, and started on costume design in high school. By the time Ann reached university, she had grown passionate about fashion and the ability to express herself through her clothes. It’s something that Ann continues to love today as she does freelance fashion design, works as a personal stylist, and helps others wanting to work their way into the industry.
As a fashion designer, one of the most critical steps Ann Dishinger took was attending a university and getting a BFA in Fashion Design. It is hard work, and many universities only have small programs, making it extra competitive. However, having this background gave Ann a jump start on her career. She could not have created her career today without the mentors she met in college and the network she built. That’s why Ann Dishinger strives to help others get into the industry, whether it’s fashion design, styling, or working on the business side of things; each job is competitive, and having a great mentor can make all the difference.
How did you get started in this business?
I got started in the fashion industry as a freelance fashion designer. My work started to get noticed, and it gave me the confidence to know that I could really make my mark. I feel most inspired by self-expression; clothes give us all the ability to tell others about ourselves without ever having to speak.
How do you make money?
I make money through freelance fashion design and personal styling.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Almost immediately. Freelance work can be difficult to grasp at first, but by the first few months, I was profitable.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I had to have a lot of confidence in myself in the beginning, but it was hard not to doubt. I think everyone doubts at some point.
How did you get your first customer?
I used my network of relationships to start freelance work for a small boutique business in California.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Network, network, network.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
I had to end a long-term relationship with a styling friend.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think I have a lot of grit and determination.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I love the business that I am in and have many satisfying moments. It sounds cliche, but I feel most satisfied by helping a client feel and become their best selves. Helping them find clothes they love and feel confident in is the best part of my business.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Every day excites me! I have returning clients and new clients that I get to work with, and now that I have developed more of my career, others are seeking me out to help them design costumes for movies, and it is so exciting to see my work on the big screen.
What business books have inspired you?
This is a memoir I recently read and loved; not a business book, but a great read. Diana Vreeland: The Modern Woman
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would advise the younger me not to worry so much about what other people think; instead, stick to my gut.