We recently had a chance to catch up with FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Graphic Design Alumna Bana Bongolan who has not only worked for leading urban lifestyle brands Crooks & Castles, LRG, Young & Reckless and now Diamond Supply Co, but also manages her own streetwear label IN//BEINHABITED. Since we last spoke with Bongolan in 2012, her design career in the apparel industry continues to grow and we wanted to know what advice she has for aspiring graphic designers after being in the industry for three years.
(FIDM Digital Arts) What are your responsibilities at Diamond Supply Co? What’s a typical day for you?
(Bongolan): “My typical day… there hasn’t really been a typical day since I got here. Heading the women’s division by myself… every day is different. One day it’s designing things; either from graphics to cut and sew; buying samples, looking up trends, fit meetings, meetings, meetings, … approving things.
My responsibilities consist of designing the women’s inline collection which is basically designing the more expensive/exclusive stuff you can’t get at a Pacsun or Zumiez– merchandise available at the flagship stores, specialty boutiques and things like that. I’m also responsible for the designs that do go to Pacsun and Zumiez which are mass retailers. But with all three lines I have to design, and create tech packs (creating instructions for factories on how to make the items). I also fully bring the garments to life with photo shoots, models, etc., which is what I’m going through now with my first small women’s collection with Diamond coming out at the end of the year. Oh and designing women’s accessories as well.”
What is the best part about your job?
“The best thing about my job is having the freedom to design the line and support of everyone around me giving me confidence that I’m doing the right thing. It doesn’t make designing exactly easier, but smoother I guess, would be the word. And also the people I work with… they are all really dope and amazing… a well put-together team, brand, and family.”
How did your previous position at Crooks and Castles, LRG and Young & Reckless help you grow as a graphic designer, and help you transition into your position at Diamond Supply Co?
“Well I started off at Crooks a few years ago as an intern and really got to learn the ropes there, especially when I got hired on. I learned everything from how to build a tech pack, to cut and sew fundamentals, trend forecasting, and principles like trusting your gut… and just hard work in general. I mean, if you have worked there you know what I’m talking about. But being at Crooks really helped me a lot… I wouldn’t be where I am at if it wasn’t for them really pushing me to my limits. Leaving Crooks helped me move to other opportunities such as LRG. At LRG I was an assistant women’s graphic designer… although I didn’t stay there too long. I learned that organization, appearance, and having a vision are all super important.
Lastly, after LRG and before Diamond I ended up at Young & Reckless. I became the head designer at Young and Reckless for RECKLESS GIRLS. Finally taking on somewhat of a head role at Reckless, I learned a lot about the Pacsun business and concept of “supplying the demand.” Being at Reckless was like taking all my training from the past two brands and training me for an even higher role. I had a director and another designer helping me with Reckless Girls and even though I had a lot of input and say with my ‘head’ position, I wasn’t necessarily alone and was able to fall back on my coworkers for help if anything happened.
All that training helped me in the position that I am at now, which is the women’s designer at Diamond Supply Co. So kind of like I said in the question above, I’m responsible for a lot and I’m doing women’s alone, which isn’t bad at all– I LOVE IT, but the pressure is really on me this time around.”
“I’m responsible for a lot and I’m doing women’s alone, which isn’t bad at all– I LOVE IT, but the pressure is really on me this time around.”
How are things going with your business, IN//BEINHABITED?
“BEINHABITED is going great. We definitely have our ups and downs. Some of it is my fault for being so busy at times with my full time job, freelance, and trying to have a personal life. But we have been getting a lot more recognition/attention naturally– not just hype like a lot of these brands get these days. We’ve had rappers like Meek Mill, Dizzy Wright, Chris Brown, and The Game wear it; and girls like Karrueche, fashion bloggers, models, Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s friends (still trying to get to them, ha ha) and Teyana Taylor interested. We’ve expanded from silkscreen tees to just cut and sew luxury items. We are eager to grow, but not in a rush because the brand’s core members are also still trying to pave a path in their own lives/careers. Plus, we want be an example to the younger generation. For example it’s awesome when people start brands that blow up quickly, but if you’ll notice they aren’t ever really fully accepted. We want to work for everyone, work our way up, and learn from the best and then prosper. We want everything to happen naturally.”
We want to work for everyone, work our way up, and learn from the best and then prosper.
After being in the industry for over three years, what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned since graduating at FIDM?
“I know I mentioned this before in another question, but again– working hard, organization, appearance, vision, and learning that your customer is super important. We all know networking is also important… but don’t just meet people. CREATE friendships/relationships with these people in the industry. Lastly, exercise your craft and always be willing to learn. Learn to be irreplaceable and if you do get “replaced” then make them regret it.”
Do you have any advice for aspiring graphic designers who want to work in the street wear industry?
“Don’t just limit yourself to graphics. LEARN EVERYTHING. INTERN, INTERN, INTERN. Don’t EXPECT things to be given to you. And even when you do get hired on full-time, still act like an intern… every day you learn something new.”
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited since its original publication
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