LaToia Fitzgerald Walks down the runway with her son after the Lionne Fall/Winter Fashion Show in L.A
It is no secret that Black women have had to navigate a lucrative fashion industry while trying to make an ongoing name for themselves throughout the process. LaToia Fitzgerald, owner, and CEO of Lionne Clothing, is one of the many Black women pioneers that have undergone the long yet humbling journey that comes with success and what it means to have a true support system as a Black woman in the challenging world of fashion.
The Philadelphia native was introduced to the fashion industry at a young age. At the age of 10, she garnered her passion for fashion design through sewing, which she’d attributed from her mother’s many talents as a seamstress. Ever since, Fitzgerald has invested endless time, hours, and money into her craft which has led to her being one of the most sought after L.A designers of today.
After fully establishing her brand back in 2018, Fitzgerald saw an opportunity for Lionne during a time where fashion is needed now more than ever before, and where the effects of an ongoing pandemic have given fashion designers a challenging yet exciting new feat- developing a futuristic outlook that highlights fashion evolution and contemporary design.
“I’m just super passionate about this industry, there really aren't words to describe it. I feel like I was put on this earth to do this.”
And without further ado, here’s the one and only LaToia Fitzgerald that has forever changed the industry of fashion for Black women and WOC on a global scale.
21Ninety: Your Fall/Winter 2021 line was to die for. Who or what would you say inspired the garments? Can you tell me about the theme behind the show?
LaToia Fitzgerald: I wanted to create a show that was based on nature. A show that focused on a garden theme. For the clothing, I wanted to picture the DNA of the brand, because this was my first runway show I wanted to be very clear on what Lionne was, and when thinking of the designs, I really wanted to really stick to the Lionne woman and what the brand represents.
21N: Can you tell me about your background and at what age did you decide to make fashion design your career?
LF: I grew up in a household with a mother that taught herself how to sew. She was always creating things. She made all the drapes and reupholstered furniture for people in the neighborhood. She designed clothes, and did everyone’s prom dresses, so our basement pretty much looked like a fabric store. We had tons and tons of fabric in the basement. When I was in the 8th grade she taught me how to repattern pieces and how to make a pair of pants. I literally made that exact styled pant in every color and pattern every day after school. So I just grew up in a very creative household, we had art parties all of the time!
I started designing clothing for the girls in my high school which was my side hustle and that's how I started to make money. I went to the Art Institute for a year and then was pregnant with my son, Dillon, so I decided to take a break for a minute and I invested my time into other things. My family would always say to me, ‘What are you doing? Aren't you supposed to be making clothes?!’ which was always a funny circle moment for me, so I decided to tap back into my craft in 2011/12 and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m just super passionate about it and I feel like I was put on this earth to do this.
21N: In understanding this industry fully as a Black woman how do you combat limiting beliefs such as imposter syndrome and the other negative beliefs of others around you who may doubt your abilities within this industry?
LF: I feel like there are people that just have that one thing that others may not have. It’s something others have believed in me and something I’ve always believed about myself. That self-assurance has always made me super confident in what I’m doing where the opinions of naysayers out there haven't really affected me and my ability to create. I’m a very humble person and I stay in my bubble a lot and do my own thing. I just try to block out the noise of others, because that’s all it is- noise. I know that it's a hard industry for Black women to tap into and once I started to talk to others within this field, they've always told me the same thing which was to always tap to the beat of my own drum. People have tried to convince me to not show in August and to show for NYFW instead, but I wanted to create this show for the here and now, and as a result, I received a great turnout.
21N: I think it’s safe to say that the Instagram collective was touched to see you walking with your son down the runway. How would you say family/friends have impacted your story as a designer?
LF: 100%. My mother has been with me through everything and my sister has always been with me as well. My son has inspired me to create something and to leave a lasting legacy for him. I had a kids line called Dillonger, and my son is always asking me about the relaunch. With the demand of Lionne, It’s important that I secure everything there first. But I’m so grateful to have the support team that I have, they’ve really helped me to navigate through this business because it can definitely be challenging at times.
21N: What advice would you give to young Black professionals who want to make their mark within fashion?
LF: I always say this, but the business side is just as important as designing. When I started out I had no idea about the business, and I wish I had people then who could help me out with that. I'm more creative and I'm not necessarily much into the business side of things, so I’d definitely have to say it’s important to arm yourself with a good understanding of how the business goes. I had to teach myself these things. It’s scary to fail, especially when you're young. I think they also need to get into the habit of understanding that it's okay to fail, I still fail at things, and that’s perfectly okay.
21N; What would you say are the necessary skills needed for becoming a successful designer?
LF: I had to teach myself to look at things from a business perspective and I used to take a lot of things personally. I think it’s important to have a strong backbone within this industry and to not take the criticism of others personally. You have to have discipline to keep things going. I’ve had plenty of times where I wanted to quit. It can be a lot sometimes, but you really just have to stick to it and see things out.
21N: If there was any form of advice you would give to your younger self, what would it be?
LF: To take more risks. I feel like as a child I was scared to take risks because I was afraid of judgemental people.I felt like that stemmed a lot from me being a perfectionist. I would just tell myself to be more of a risk-taker and I am in ways, but I hold back a lot and I don't like to talk on social media. I’m trying to break myself out of habits of not opening myself up to the world so I would challenge myself to just try things that you normally wouldn't consider yourself doing.