Meet Fashion Illustrator, Sarah Dahl
“I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was in grade school. My coming back to the pursuit of my fashion career is my attempt to fulfill the wish my 11 year-old self. She’s very insistent.
My favorite element of the fashion industry…in the end, it’s all about the product in fashion. In fine art it’s about the process. Which is what makes fashion lean towards commercial art. There’s something finite about that.”
- Sarah Dahl, Fashion Illustrator
Fashion Illustration As a Career
NIF: Describe a normal week or month of your professional life.
Sarah Dahl: Meetings, working under sometimes seemingly impossible timeframes, and more meetings.
NIF: How did you transition from L.A. fashion industry to the NYC fashion industry?
S.D.: In between, I took a detour in the L.A. graphic design industry. But, as far as getting in the NYC fashion industry, I just decided to move here, and got some fashion work — in that order. Just making up your mind to do something new is half the battle. It’s not always how you might have imagined, though.
NIF: What has been your proudest accomplishment thus far in your career?
S.D.: Being able to comfortably sustain myself. The occasional little luxuries are nice too.
NIF: Who have been your biggest mentors throughout your time as a student to where you are now?
S.D.: Probably my folks — they are not in design like me, but have their own passions: my mother is a musician and my father is at heart a photographer and avid reader. When I was growing up they always reminded me of how I was good at art and design.
NIF: Who was the person who gave you your first opportunity in the fashion industry?
S.D.: It was just an interview with a design head while I was in school — she hired me on the spot, and was encouraging and nurturing to me without being sugary-sweet. She recognized my abilities and was very matter-of-fact about what I could potentially do. It was something else to sense this from someone who was not in anyway obligated (i.e. family, friends or teachers).
Fashion Illustration School
NIF: I noticed on Linkedin that you were able to attend F.I.T. and California State University-Fullerton. How did you end up at each of these schools / why did you choose to attend these schools / would you recommend them?
S.D.: I had heard from different illustrators and artists (one of them being illustrator Dennis Brown) how strong the Art Department at California State University Fullerton was, particularly the Illustration Department. And they were right. Once I moved to New York, I was working in the fashion industry, and wanted to take some career courses — I think that it’s great to constantly brush up or learn new things, which enrich your perspective as a creative person.
NIF: What was the greatest learning experience you had prior to graduation?
S.D.: [Realizing] how similar and yet different the visual arts can be: illustration, fine art, fashion design, graphic design. Similar in that composition, shape, line, color, style or point of view is always crucial. Different in how one goes about getting your work out in the world.
NIF: What pre-graduation side-projects/activities/internships were you involved in to build up your resume?
S.D.: I freelanced at several L.A. fashion and graphic design companies while earning my dual BFAs in Illustration and Graphic Design and AA in Fashion Design, which helped pay my way through. Those experiences allowed me to figure out what I did and did not want from these companies and industries. I think that it was also invaluable to be able to stand out from my peers once we graduated and were on the race to get our first full-time positions.
NIF:What specific advice do you have regarding ‘how-to network’ in the fashion industry?
S.D.: Career networking tools and sites are there for all of us and join industry clubs that interest you. Help other people out, and they may return the favor when you need it too.
NIF: What is the best advice you have been given regarding careers in the fashion industry?
S.D.: First, be sure that it’s what you want, then be tenacious, then do a re-check that it’s what you want. Repeat. Also, remember to enjoy it when you can!