Lakiya Ealy has been an art student her entire life. Graduating in 2022 with a degree in fashion design, Lakiya has had many involvements throughout her time at Central Michigan University. Ealy was the Fashion Coordinator for the Fashion and Arts Students association, a Vendor Director for the OBU Fashion Show, as well a Designer and Producer for Threads Fashion Show.
How did you end up in the world of fashion?
“I have been an art student all my life. I was first introduced to the world of fashion during my junior year of high school. My concentration during high school was in art, at my school we had concentrations related to what we would want to pursue in college, and then I was able to take a fashion class. I fell in love with the drawing aspect and I wanted to learn more and how to make my designs a reality through sewing. At first, I didn’t think there would be a career for me in art.”
In your early design work, can you name any major inspirations be it someone in pop culture, another designer, etc.
“My biggest inspiration was definitely Project Runway. I love Project Runway to this day. Seeing designers put themselves out there like that was amazing, it was also amazing to see them produce so quickly. I also really like De’arra Taylor who is a youtuber. She isn't a fashion designer but she is amazing at styling herself. Christian Siriano is another major inspiration to me and in his work with black women and how he dresses them.”
Do you feel as though Black voices, as well as POC voices in general, are highlighted enough within major events here on campus?
“When I went there I really didn’t feel like they were, within my major as well as outside my major. It's a PWI, what do you expect? Even with this event I feel like we aren't getting enough attention. They are definitely working on it though, there is opportunity here but they just need to keep pushing it.”
What are some challenges you have faced being an artist and a creator as a Black woman within a PWI?
“I would say from freshman year up until my third year I was the only black woman in my classes. It didn’t bother me per say, but it was obviously there. I made friends but I didn't make lifetime friends until my third year. My third year I started seeing other black women and I met my fashion sis. The challenge was just finding my voice as a black female designer in my classes, because a lot of the time I didn’t want to show my work. But I had to find my voice and let my work speak for itself.”
Can you speak a bit about the process behind making this dress in particular?
“In class, we had a book full of project topics we could choose from, so I chose this dress style. I didn’t really like the way the book showed it at first so I wanted to make it my own. I added the slit to it because my style is all about sexy. The patterns for the dress were kind of weird, they were really big. The tie straps have kinda become a signature of mine. But I wanted to challenge myself, especially with the sinched part. When I do something I need to be interested or else I'll lose focus. I couldn't just sit and make another plain dress, I had to start making stuff I loved.”
You have been very involved with Threads throughout your time here and you were a producer for last year's Threads Fashion Show: The Elements. Can you speak on some of the challenges you faced as well as your favorite parts about the experience?
“It was very challenging coming back from a pandemic show. It was the first in person show having been back from the pandemic. It felt like threads started all over again. We had to figure out the involvement within committees and whether or not we wanted to lose the virtual aspect of the show, or if we could even have the in-person show. There were a lot of question marks, we just planned the show and hoped we wouldn’t get shut down. We kept the virtual aspect for those that didn’t want to be around others due to the pandemic. There were communication problems, being a producer and learning how to lead while actually leading was hard. But I loved putting on the show and collaborating with everyone else involved. I really loved working with Ian, he taught me so much about putting on a show. It was challenging being both a designer and a producer, it was a lot of late nights.”
Looking at the fashion industry, there are very few prominent Black designers being showcased within major brands, not to mention the complete lack of Black women being featured as designers. Having to grow up with a lack of representation within this field, how does that affect your goals for your future in the fashion world?
“I feel like if I'm gonna come out with a brand I have to work much harder just to make a name for myself. I want to pave the way for future black women within design. As black women, we go get it ourselves, we don’t need representation from major brands, we do it ourselves. I know I have to make sure my brand is what I want it to be and not try to look at what others are doing, I need to focus on what I am doing and make sure I love it. If I love it people will see that and future black designers can look up to me and see themselves.”
As a Black Woman in the industry, what are some changes you hope to make to the industry in terms of highlighting Black experiences and Black artists? What does the future of fashion look like to you?
“I think the future holds a lot more technology. But outside of that, I think it is important when highlighting the voices of Black artists to network, it is so important to network. Black women designers need to network and collaborate more. We are always trying to compete and we need to start uplifting each other. We have to share each other's work. That's where we go wrong, we need to start bringing each other up and come together. It is all about staying humble and helping each other. We can all win, we just need that support system.”
Do you have a favorite designer or a favorite collection? If so, what about it speaks to you so deeply and how has it shaped your experience as a designer?
“My favorite designer right now is Classic Royalty, she is a black female designer from New York. She makes a lot of special occasion dresses which is what I do. Glitter and stones and fringe that's me right there, sexy cutouts and mesh, I love it. I learned a lot from her. She has a lot of tutorials that have helped me throughout my work and she has created a community of sewers that all help each other thrive.”
Lastly, if you were able to go back in time and speak to your younger self about your success at CMU, your start in the fashion world as a whole, and your experiences as a Black woman within the field, what would you say?
“I wish I would have been more involved sooner. But I would also say put yourself out there more. I'm all about promoting myself right now which has been such a struggle for me. You have to start putting your work out there, I doubted myself so much. I am learning how to promote myself further and gain that confidence. Don't look at others and what they have to say, if they like it they like it, if they don’t they don’t. There will always be someone out there that will love it and that's who you work for, that one person.”