IMG_7245-624x835from my stufdent croquis book, 1995, Laura Volpintesta

“Don’t go changing, to try to please me…. you never let me down before….”-Billy Joel

My kids are 4, 12, and 13 right now. The older ones, they tell me I have a song for everything, and every situation. They’re right! How could I not? I’m a singer by birth, and I see my whole world through songs most of the time.

2013-09-20 14.53.21Laura Volpintesta Fashion Design Portfolio 1995 2013-09-20 14.52.52

My youngest one, she doesn’t notice my singing much but the other day she told me “mommy, let’s stop talking… it makes me feel bored”.

She knows what SHE wants and she’s not afraid to say it!
So I’ll keep this post really short in her honor! ( I can go on and on).

The sketch you see above here, it brings up a lot of memories for me. It’s from an old croquis book.  I came to Parsons School of Design 18 years old, with one year of Liberal Arts studies under my belt, arrived in NYC to study my Foundation/Fine Arts year before studying Fashion Design and the school of my DREAMS.

One year later I was living my Sophomore year in Paris, where I was blown away by the African fashion and prints in a way I can’t really describe.  Something really clicked for me in that world. The layers of patterns of different scales and rhythms. The baby carrying.  The head wraps were sculptures too.  The vibrations of color combinations that I had never seen before in my life delighted my eyes along with the motifs and styles. The crisp, airy purity of cotton reminded me of paper. The stacks of hundreds of different prints for sale in little boutiques, which I couldn’t afford and could only ogle for hours, at least as much as I did at the couture houses and Japanese avant-garde boutiques.

Before and during Parsons, I had been obsessed with Issey Miyake and Japanese design. After Paris it was Zap Mama (music) and African design.  It tied right into the music I was listening to, the polyphony and polyrhythmic layers that lifted my spirits with ebullient joy and unbridled expression!  The bodies that looked beautiful in this fashion were of every size and shape. Noone was excluded from looking beautiful :0). It was steeped in tradition and culture, and challenged the restrictions on color and sound in the small Northeastern USA town I grew up in.  It expanded my world, my colors, shapes, and consciousness.  I had found a treasure.

But my teachers told me it was too much as I enthusiastically designed with “bold” patterns, shapes and colors.
I was “too much”.

“Tone it down” I heard.  The sketch I’ve included here was  a collection I designed using solid fabrics because my teachers told me I should.(What was less obviously spoken but very apparent in the illustrations is the extremely thin models that were the norm for us at school, too)

I was lost and confused designing with these knit solids. Not only weren’t they crisp, block printed cottons that reminded me of my beloved Origami papers, they were SOLID and they were JERSEY. But they WERE “acceptable”. That’s all they were!

Looking back at that sketch page, I like the it now, I guess. But i’ll never forget that there I was, putting myself in massive educational loan debt, and being told to design for someone I “wasn’t”. Maybe they were afraid I wouldn’t get a job at Calvin Klein (I didn’t) to pay back those student loans? Maybe they were afraid I wouldn’t get any job if I wasn’t tamed enough in my aesthetic?  Their fears echoed my own, but I had a deeper knowing that was so vital and true, that I hid inside at that time.

(Fortunately, those same teachers hired me a few years later, into this career that I love, so that worked out in the end!!) This career also gives me a chance to make a change.


Don’t get me wrong, that was the only solid colored group I did!
Even today, as a mother, I find prints the best; they don’t show spots from cooking, cleaning, rolling in the dirt, painting,  and I feel that every print is like a painting or work of art in itself that says so much.

Laura Volpintesta, Fashion Illustration Tribe, 1995, croquis book sketches

You can always come up with a project for your portfolio targeted for  particular client or employer to show your versatility to them, but when you are in school or building your portfolio, GIVE IT ALL OF THE LOVE YOU’VE GOT, be yourself.

We get so scared sometimes I see it a lot, students trying to please EVERYBODY so the work can become really washed out and faceless.

Deep inside, you know what you love and you have something to say. I KNOW THIS.  If the voice feels just like a whisper to you at first, that voice will feel stronger the more you put it out on paper.  And sometimes it just comes so naturally to you, you don’t realize how unique and nuanced it really is because it just flows out of you that way. That’s when it is so powerful to have teachers and peers to give you feedback about your work so that you can see it with fresh eyes. Being challenged by teachers and peers can also be important to your development, but I am very protective of my students– it is a lot easier to stand up to a challenge after you have your “language” skills and confidence up.  In the beginning, you need to “learn to walk” without getting knocked over each time you take a step.

I will always be the one to say BRING IT OUT and do everything I can to help you do so.  That is the ONLY REASON I want to do what I do. The joy comes from helping the artist to realize what is already alive inside them, but in the outside world.

Who you are is always evolving at any time, but so much comes across through your portfolio of work at any time: your attention to detail, your organization and way of seeing things through, your sense of color and composition, your aesthetics and follow through, your message and passion, proportion, harmony, quality, your joy.

Please don’t change!!! When your work is authentic, it fuels you to do things you could never do if your heart wasn’t in it.

Heart is the one thing missing in most of our mass produced fashion…. in the production, the distribution, the colors, the shapes.

I’m not ashamed to talk like that here. Heart is the core, it has to be.

Keep your heart in your art. It is needed so much more than you probably remember.

I look forward to seeing you around these parts! Subscribe to get your welcome bundle and start your journey! share, tweet, pin, browse around the blog.

My intensive online course is for a few people who want to take the four month journey to heart, with lots of nurturing along the way whenever  you need it, to bring your drawings an style to life. It’s great for pre-college or career changing adults or artists who just want to come into their own with their fashion art and design by gaining a lot of experience, techniques, and knowledge about the industry. I love to share this gift!!!! Browse my courses, some are free or a nominal fee, others are deep dives! All are designed for your growth and transformation with guidance.

I’m so glad you’re here.



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