Amy Kuschel is a San Francisco based fashion designer best known for her collection of simple, elegant wedding gowns. After 20 years of dressing thousands of creative women for their best day ever, Amy and her team set out to create a ready to wear collection to dress her clients beyond the aisle.
While taking a closer look at our relationship with fashion, Amy found an industry in turmoil – a true fashion emergency! Overconsumption and an unhealthy addiction to cheap, disposable fashion was – and still is – killing our planet and creating chaos in our closets.
Amy’s new ready to wear collection is an antidote to the current fast fashion crisis. As a sustainable style advocate, she is inspired to engage authentically with her community and share a better story. Amy’s committed to helping us shop our values, bringing wellness into our wardrobes with style that’s useful – and made with the people and planet in mind. #welldressedandlessstressed
Be a part of the Amy Kuschel community and join the mailing list at http://www.AmyKuschel.com. And for more inspo, check out @AmyKuschel on Instagram.
1. How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I’ve been lucky to live a full life as a wife, mama, and business owner. Each role has unique challenges and rewards, but it’s the challenges that present the best opportunity for growth. The inner work I’ve done while working through complex situations has shaped me as an individual and as a leader. I’ve become wiser, more compassionate, and more intent on doing the right thing.
2. How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I’ve had my own business for 20 years, so it’s been a while since I’ve worked for someone else. After graduating from F.I.T., I learned the ropes in NYC in the ready-to-wear market. As a young graduate, I took on an assistant design position that was fast paced and demanding. Within 6 months I was promoted to designer, then head designer. I was too young to question whether I was ready for all the responsibility, so I just ran with it, taking the opportunity to wear a lot of hats and learn as much as I could. I’m grateful for the incredible amount of knowledge, experience, and confidence I gained along the way.
3. What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
Dressing thousands of beautiful women in designs made in the USA with fair wages is a definite highlight. The biggest challenge we’ve faced is disruption in our industry. It forced us to reevaluate our model and lead our business toward sustainability, which is something we’re really passionate about. I’ve learned to look for the silver lining, celebrate the wins, and view the losses as lessons.
4. What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Look for a position with a fashion company that addresses our climate breakdown. Work hard, learn as much as you can, and give 100% of your creative efforts to promoting style that doesn’t kill the planet.
5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
The importance of relationships and always striving to do the right thing. It builds trust, loyalty, and friendship, and it’s good for business, too.
6. How do you maintain a work/life balance?
At one point several years ago, I faced a health crisis that forced me to prioritize wellness in my world. In order to thrive, I had to slow down and make real changes. For a type A, NY trained designer, this didn’t come naturally. But little by little, I set aside time for self care, for morning yoga and meditation, for finding the right foods to nourish my body, and I tapped into something really powerful. A more authentic “me” emerged – one that was there all along. When I peeled off all the layers and expectations, I found a happier, healthier designer, wife, and mama.
7. What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I’m really fortunate that gender hasn’t limited my role as a designer or business owner. While the fashion industry is predominantly female, it has a history of exploiting women, especially the young women who make our clothes. It’s really important that we take the time to ask questions like, “who made my clothes” and support ethical brands that pay fair wages all along the supply chain. Instead of asking why something of quality is so expensive, ask yourself why fast fashion is so cheap.
8. How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
Anyone with a burning desire to start their own business shouldn’t need much encouragement. From where I sit, it’s an incredibly layered endeavor that takes real passion for being your own boss and making your own rules. There are definite rewards, but also endless sacrifices. If happiness can be found working for someone else, especially on a team that supports your creativity, encourages growth, and rewards your contributions, that’s a win, too. The end-all isn’t necessarily starting your own business.
9. How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My first design director in NY offered a lot of encouragement as well as responsibility. He gave me the tools to flourish as a designer. The most influential mentor in my life, though, has been my favorite monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. His insight, compassion, and wisdom have forever changed my lens on life. We’re lucky to live in a time where we can access inspired leaders and mentors through books, podcasts, and all kinds of media outlets.
10. Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many inspiring leaders, male and female, including my parents who were great examples of living a life of service. I have a lot of respect for women who use their influence for the greater good, like Emma Watson who advocates for sustainability and ethical treatment of workers in the world of fashion. I’m also excited to see Meghan Markle using her role to support ethics and diversity in the fashion industry. I really admire Livia Firth for her work championing environmental and social justice with her Green Carpet Challenge and 30 Wears campaign – she’s received several awards for her outstanding achievements in promoting sustainability. Safia Minney is another incredible pioneer on a mission to develop a more sustainable fashion industry and fair trade environment as an author, advocate, and designer.
11. What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Professionally, I’d be thrilled to move the needle on sustainable fashion as an advocate for more thoughtful consumption. My ultimate goal is to create the most stylish and sustainable collection, focusing on highly wearable pieces that benefit both people and the planet. On a personal note, I’m on a path to simplify and add balance, spending more time enjoying the simple pleasures of life with family and friends.
12. What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Be true to your purpose and listen to your instincts.
Be as kind and as generous as possible.
Think of the whole and how your gift can contribute to the greater good. How does your business support that?