Megan Phillips, Fashion Designer & CEO of Megan Phillips Collection
Megan Phillips is a fashion designer, CEO of fashion label Megan Phillips Collection and a self proclaimed eternal optimist living in New York City. Megan spent her childhood in the charming midwest town of Milwaukee, WI before embarking to Indiana and then Nashville, TN for college. Since moving to New York in 2015, Megan has worked for experienced designers including Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade. Her debut collection which launched in July of 2017 is a capsule that presents who she is, the message of her brand, and a glimpse into the signature style she plans to carry throughout her career as a designer.
When Megan isn’t designing, you’ll find her to be like most 20 somethings in the city. In her own words, “Audrey Hepburn is my patron saint, an old fashioned is my drink of choice, if The Killers were on repeat forever I wouldn’t protest, I love pasta so much I could marry it, fresh white linens are my personal heaven and the Lemonade visual album makes me cry every time. I love my life in New York. I love my friends and my family and I love designing beautiful clothing for women.”
What lead you into fashion?
Style has always been a driving element in my life. My Mom loves to tell stories of me as a child, forever playing dress up and needing to change for every outing - even if it was just to walk a few blocks to the ice cream shop. It really wasn’t until college that I figured out fashion was my calling. I moved to Nashville in 2010 to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. My goal was to one day design album artwork and promotional pieces for musicians. It quickly became evident that while I enjoyed this line of work, it wasn’t the be all end all that I hoped it would. During fall break I was expressing my concerns to a friend who responded with, “I always thought you’d go into fashion. It seems most like you.” The lightbulb went off and I never looked back. I’ll always have Sara Marquardt to thank for awakening my destiny.
Why did you want to start your own brand?
This is more of a loaded question for me. I have a very personal relationship with fashion and style. Most of my life, I struggled with weight and body image. But in my moments of insecurity, I found confidence in fashion. If I put on the right pair of pants or my favorite sundress, I forgot what the scale said and felt beautiful just as I was. This is why I love fashion. I always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit but it wasn’t until my love of style was partnered with exposure to the corporate view of fashion that my spirit turned into physical drive. I’ll never forget this one day I was gathered in a room with co-workers as an executive gave a speech about being in the business of “desire”. I know she didn’t mean for it to be attached with anything negative, but it made my stomach turn. All I could think of was myself as a little girl in my bedroom critiquing my figure and wanting so desperately to look like the women in my fashion magazines. Now I was in this room, staring the culprit of my insecurity in the face. Sometimes the fashion industry works to create desire – desire to be prettier, desire to be thinner, desire to be richer, to have a more glamorous life, to know the right people and to have all of those things you have to have the right outfit – this expensive outfit with this name on the tag. I started my own label because I want to be a positive voice against the noise of consumerism that promotes fashion to be fun, personal and screams “You are fabulous just as you are.”
Tell us about your adventure to New York City!
One of my collection t-shirt phrases is “I Met Me in New York City” and my God is that true. I was first introduced to New York on a trip with my dance team Junior year of High School. It was love at first sight. I’ll never forget watching Manhattan get smaller and smaller through the rear window of a cab as my Mom and I rode back to the airport. I told her I was going to live here one day - pretty crazy the dream I spoke out at 16 actually became reality. It wasn’t until four years later that I returned after accepting a summer internship with Vera Wang. I was only there for two months but every day I felt like Lauren Conrad in The Hills. It was my first time in the city alone so things I find simple now like taking a walk in Central Park were the most exciting, pinch worthy moments I’d ever experienced. That summer solidified it for me. I had the bug and there was no deterring me.
After finishing college in Nashville and seeing a business venture come to a close, I heard the voice of God say “Go” and knew in my heart it was time. In the summer of 2015 I moved to the city with two suitcases, no job and no apartment (my wonderful friends let me sleep on their couch for 3 months). I was scared to death but just knew it was right and God had a plan. Just four days after stepping foot in the city, I accepted a job at Vera Wang as a RTW Production Assistant. It’s honestly been a whirlwind since then. I’ve had several dream job scenarios, found the love of my life, made wonderful friends and was given all the tools to start my lifelong dream, Megan Phillips Collection.
What failures have you experienced on your journey to launch your own brand? What did you learn from them?
I don’t know if I would consider this a failure but more of a massive roadblock. This is going to sound insane but I made the decision to start my clothing line, without knowing how to actually make clothes. As I mentioned, my degree is in graphic design not fashion design so any knowledge I had about how to run a business or how even to make product came from my internships and employment in the industry. So with a dream in my heart and feeling like I had nothing to lose, I started my crash course in fashion construction and textile knowledge. It began with my wonderful boyfriend gifting me sewing lessons as an anniversary gift. From there I spent a lot of hours in fabric stores, feeling fabric, looking inside already constructed clothes to see what was in them and researching researching researching. I spent my “going out” money on things like fabric to play with, a dress form and various tools I found foreign at the time like curved rulers and chalk contact paper for darts. I learned how to make a pattern, what the heck a bias was and attempted to make the same skirt over and over until it was finally right. My current collection only has four garments but those four garments represent a year of hard work and finding the right teachers to help me achieve my vision.
In hindsight, I think I was absolutely nuts to run at this obstacle full throttle, no questions asked. But I love this part of my story because it shows me and hopefully someone who has a dream that seems unachievable that most things are possible with determination, hard work and the willingness to learn.
What about your biggest win?
Winning in this business to me, is my relationship with customers. I don’t design for myself, I design for them. Nothing replaces the feeling of seeing a woman pick up something I made, put it on and smile at what she sees in the mirror. Watching someone outwardly express delight and joy and excitement from my clothing is the drug that will fuel my love of fashion forever. I’ve already started to mentally prep myself if I ever see someone on the street in my collection - I would probably cry and hug them and ask them to coffee.
What’s your go-to outfit?
I’m a workaholic and therefore spending all hours sewing in my studio or designing on my laptop in a coffee shop - so If I’m being honest it’s cropped black leggings, a rocker tee and some sort of black sweatshirt and sneakers. But when I’m not in work mode and in front of people, I’m pretty much always found in a black turtleneck or v-neck tank tucked into black cigarette pants and paired with a strappy block heel. Like most New Yorkers, I live in black. It’s the easiest way to look chic with minimal effort.
How has taking a leap, having faith, and risking it all played a factor in getting to where you are today?
Absolutely everything. At the core of my story about moving to New York, about deciding to work in fashion and starting my own collection is faith. I think the biggest gift we can ever give ourselves is saying “yes” to our dreams and going for it with the attitude of “If I never try, then I’ll never know”. Worse case scenario - it doesn’t work out. Life will move on and I will learn more about myself and this world and the power bigger than me that I call a friend.
Who is the Megan Phillips Collection for?
I created Megan Phillips Collection for Chloe in the cubicle next to me, for Holly my best friend of the past 15 years, for the woman I buy coffee from every morning and the girl on the treadmill next to me at the gym. My clothes are designed for every kind of woman because that’s who I am. I’m not a celebrity, I didn’t come from money, I’m not the most gorgeous girl you’ll ever see or the thinnest. I’m just myself. I see my customers where they are at, who they dream to be and how they want to feel in an outfit to help them best accomplish their day.
What your favorite piece in your collection?
I’m particularly fond of the little white number FREE LIKE MARIE. When I put it on I want to lay in the grass under the sun, drink chilled rosé by the water and basically just pretend I’m Marie Antoinette. It’s made with a gorgeous white linen that lays and breathes like a dream and is cut in a way that flatters my figure while keeping me comfortable. Also the way it looks when you twirl is to die for - it is twirl approved.
What advice do you have for women who want to start their own fashion brands?
Passion is what will fuel you through it all. The details, the setbacks, the learning curves and the financial strains are enough to make most people throw in the towel. It’s passion and the love of what you create that will help you push past the hard times and focus on your vision. Keep a journal and write all of the exciting visions that come to mind. It can be anything - sketches of clothes, commercial ideas, a description of the type of girl you want to wear your clothes, photography ideas...whatever fuels your fire! This will serve you well in the hard times when you’re focused on the details of the business and have lost sight of your vision. At the core of your business is you and an idea.
What are you looking forward to most in the life of your business?
Maybe it’s too simple but I’m really just excited about the idea of growth and new experiences. I hope my collection enables me to go to trade shows and meet other creatives and retailers, dress women I admire, employ talented people, rent an office space and maybe even show at New York fashion week. The possibilities are endless!
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Legacy seems too big to grasp at this moment in my life and career. I can only hope that my experience on this earth both personal and professional helps those around me to feel loved and empowered to do whatever it is they dream to do.
What’s your favorite quote? And, what’s your favorite business book(s)?
It’s not exactly a quote, but it’s something I find myself going back to often. Every time I am questioning my decisions, feeling insecure or have lost perspective, my dear friend Erin tells me, “22 year old you is dying right now.” She was my random roommate during my summer internship in 2013. Aside from sharing a dirty little dorm in Union Square that summer, we dreamed together, made mistakes together, experienced independence in Manhattan for the first time and ultimately met new versions of ourselves. Erin and I have seen each other through every phase of each other’s professional journey thus far so she is someone I can always look to for perspective. I think It’s important for all of us to take a moment to see how we’ve grown and the things a younger version of ourselves would have been dying to do. Perspective is a helpful tool to re-ignite confidence and empower us to keep moving forward towards our goals.
I’m really more of a podcast girl - my business favorites being Girlboss Radio, How I Built This, The Successful Fashion Designer, The Business of Fashion Podcast and Spirit of 608 Podcast