An Emerging Designer: A Chat with Fleshia Gillon

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The research paper that she presented at the International Textile and Apparel Association Annual Conference

Production of Microbial Leather from Culled Sweet Potato Sugars via Kombucha Culture

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An Emergent Designer A Chat with Fleshia Gillon

Hello, Stitchers welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of selling experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Lisa Woolfork: Good morning, everyone, or good afternoon or whatever time you're joining us today. Thank you so much for listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women's Stitch. I am delighted to be speaking today with Fleshia Gillon. Is that right? (fuh-lee-sha) Fleshia Gillon. Is that-- am I pronouncing it right?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, ma'am.

Lisa Woolfork: All right, Fleshia Gillon, who is a designer, a former fashion student, and a graduate of Mississippi state university. And she has an amazing overall sense of fashion and design and a great experience to share with us. And I'm really excited to have her on the program today. So, Felicia, thank you so much for joining us today.

Fleshia Gillon:  You're welcome, I'm excited about it, excited.

Lisa Woolfork: Yay! Okay, so, I wanted to get started just to talk about your sewing background. Can you give us a sense of what got you started Sewing?

Fleshia Gillon:  Okay, it really just started I used to draw a lot and every time at Christmas time, when my mother used to ask us what we wanted for Christmas, it always uses to be Art supplies for me. And so, it all started out kind of like a concept, me sketching, clothes, and different things like that. And then as my grandmother started telling us stories about how she used to change her outfit like three times a day and things like that, she just basically explained to us how she knew how to sew and I was just like, well, I want to learn how to sew. And so she at first it was me and one of my other sisters who she was teaching, but my other sister she was really more of the kind of like outdoorsy type wanted to kind of like be out playing with friends and stuff like that, but I've just like I stuck to it.

So, she taught me how to like, read a pattern, how to cut patterns out, you know, how to go to-- at the time she was getting fabric from Walmart, so she showed me how to get fabric from Walmart. I mean, just kind of like the whole nine yards and kind of how to bring my designs to kind of like the end product. And so she's the kind of like the background to that and she used to, we used to see pictures of her and like these miniskirts and, and like these, the best and the had to match on my mother and things like that because she used to sell for my mother as well. And then my older sister who's older than me and my younger sisters. She sewed her wedding dress and then made ours. We were the bridesmaid dresses we couldn't have been no more than three. We had on these pink kinds of like silk satin dresses with a black bow. And she made everything, even her sisters, my grandmother's sister's wedding dress as well. So, she kind of like was the driving force for me to learn how to sew.

Lisa Woolfork: That's amazing because your grandma was up there serving, looks friend.

Fleshia Gillon: Yes

Lisa Woolfork: She was like I got the hat and the shoes to match. Plus, I'm a make sure that my baby is hooked up and my grandbabies are going to be hooked up. So, that's wonderful. So, I love what I hear in your story is that you used to draw, so this drawing sketching, illustrating, just drawing pictures. And then by working with your grandmother, you were able to transform some of that love of creativity into sewing, and because unlike your older sister, you had the patience to stick with it, you know, she wanted to be outside, you know, climbing trees and having a good time out in nature. And Felicia was like me. And she was like, I'm staying in this house with the air conditioning and the sewing machine.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, and some of my first garments, I mean, they were the best thing, like little Capri outfits and things like that. And I was just kind of like, well, I don't want to sew it up and then not wear it. Because of course, you know, like the fabrics from Walmart at that time, probably one of the best. And so, I'm just like, but it's something that I made, so I may do try to wear what I made and things like that, but it was really exciting to learn how to sew.

Lisa Woolfork: That is fantastic I really love it and I love that you know, you talk about your grandmother who likes my grandmother sewed amazingly well and you know, she was,-- it sounds like we have a similar story in the sense that just so we had like a grandmother as like a kind of a senior relative to look up to get a sense of inspiration and also to have precedent, you know, we know this is possible because we've seen somebody do it, you know, so my mother, so my grandmother sewed. And so, I love the story of your grandmother like just basically teaching you the ropes, teaching you the fundamentals. So, those Capri pants you just described was that you’re first sewing project?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, it was a few Capri pants outfits maybe one dress or so like that, but it was a lot of, kind of like tops and pants to match. So, they were more like those different Capri outfits that I could wear. So, maybe the shirt wasn't really made well, but the pants I kind of like fit into whatever other clothes that I had. So, or maybe I just wear the shirt around the house, but I try to at least wear it once, you know, even though it wasn't made all the way well I at least had to wear what I made because it was just kind of like once I saw the end product I was just like, wow, I've made that.

Lisa Woolfork: I think that's such good practice as something that I learned as well. And I learned to sew when I was much, much older than you were. And there's something to be said about, you know, what, just wear it anyway.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right.

Lisa Woolfork: I mean that's how you learn you know, like if you're like, oh, you know what, I skipped this step or I forgot about this step, or I didn't know this step. And now I'm wearing this thing and it's a little bit uncomfortable. And maybe if I had sewn it in a different way, then I would be able to enjoy it and appreciate it more. But no matter what I'm wearing it right now. So, that's I remember once I made my husband a dress shirt and you know how they have the sleeve plackets with the buttons that go near the back of the wrist.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes

Lisa Woolfork: I put the sleeves in wrong. I put the left sleeve in the right arms eye and the right in the left arms so, the button placket instead of being at the back of his wrist was on the top.

Fleshia Gillon:  Oh, wow.

Lisa Woolfork: So, you could tell this man loves me because he wore this shirt all-day

Lisa Woolfork: And he was like, -- I was like, oh no, I made this shirt for you when I did French scenes with all the stitching and the topstitching and all that. And he was like, oh no, it's fine I'll wear it. It's like, he wore it all day and he came back and he said, yeah, it's a little awkward. Do you think you could put the sleeves in the right direction? And I was like, of course. And so, I did, but that one time only takes one time to have that kind of, you know, a mistake. And then you're like, okay, I don't need to make that again. That's really great. And so, I know you said earlier, and this is going to be fun because I'm really excited about this. You are a triplet.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, I am a triplet

Lisa Woolfork: You are one of two others in you-- tell me about that I don't think I've ever talked to a triplet before. And I remember you said when we were talking earlier that being a triplet has shaped your approach to sewing and fashion. Can you share more about it?

Fleshia Gillon: Yes, definitely. So, I, -- oh yes, I am a triplet. Its three girls we're fraternal we look nothing alike. And but brothers and sister wise it's eight of us total. And the triplets are like the last, we were the last born out of them. So, we're the babies of the family and I'm like the baby of the family. And so.

Lisa Woolfork: You are number eight of number eight.

Fleshia Gillon:  Number eight of eight

Lisa Woolfork: You're the baby

Fleshia Gillon:  Yeah, right.

Lisa Woolfork: I bet you got in some shenanigans, you know, my baby sister is always pranking me. She's always forever clowning me. I can only imagine you being the youngest of eight all that you put them, people, though.

Fleshia Gillon: You know, even though I was the youngest, I acted more like the older sister, because I learned how to do hair before my other sisters. I learned how to cook before my oldest sisters, so once my mother knew I had that skill, those skills, she kind of like retired early. So, I was the one cookie that was the one doing hair for picture day and doing relaxers and braids and things like that. So, even though I was a baby, I wasn't as forward or I got away with a lot. I was kind of like the leader of the group, I guess you could say,

Lisa Woolfork: Wow, so your creativity shows up in other ways too. So, it's sewing and hair and doing chemical treatments and braids and cooking. If I was your mother I would be retired long before that I tell you that.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right,

Lisa Woolfork: Everybody would have had some essential skills.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right, definitely. So, we're like I said, it was three girls' triplets we're 28 now I birthday, October 25th. And I mean, I just love being a triplet and like I was telling you earlier, like, people don't believe that we're tripling because we don't look alike. And so, and then our first names don't rhyme, So, like when people ask, we have to go through the steps on the kind of convincing them. Yeah, we are triplets like our middle name's rhyme, Michelle Centrelle, Danielle, and then they'd be like, oh yeah, I get it. And then they are like, when is your birthday? And then at the same time, we will say October 25th. And so, then they'll kind of like, Oh, it's clicking now y'all are triplets and we be like, well, we wouldn't lie about it.

Lisa Woolfork: Exactly

Fleshia Gillon:  But yes, love being a triplet I remember in first grade when we first grade, my mother had us I'll move to the same classroom because she didn't want us all coming home with different homework from different teachers. So, she,

Lisa Woolfork: Smart lady

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, so, she had us all move to the same classroom and going through our high-- younger school and older school like we were just known as like the Gillon girls and the Gillon triplets and things like that. And it was just I like, --I love being a triple and I was always the one on picture day. Can we wear the same colour shirt or the same pair of pants or something like that? And my sister's like, I don't want to dress alike, you know

Lisa Woolfork: So, y'all never dressed alike your mother or grandmother when she made those outfits for y'all. She did not dress you all alike?

Fleshia Gillon:  Probably between the ages of one to three. I would say we see pictures of us dressing alike, but after that, it was individual different outfits and things like that. So, we really didn't dress alike for-- we only dressed alike for a short period of time from pictures that we've seen as we got older, it was just kind of like everybody develop their own sense of style really quickly. I only remember once on school day picture as we all wore the same colour shirt and maybe as a different bottom. And after that, it was just kind of like, I want to wear this. I don't want to dress alike or nothing like that.

Lisa Woolfork: That is so fun. And so, speaking of your education, you went to Mississippi state university and you studied fashion or fashion design. I'd love to talk more about that. Can you share what your course of study was like, and what made you decide to study this?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, when I was in high school well coming from high school into college, I ended up joining Deca I don't know if you've ever heard of deka. It was like a marketing club and I competed in different competitions and fashion like someone once told me, I don't remember who they said, whatever you love to do, make sure you make a career out of it. Like you will do it for free and won't have to get paid for it I was just like, I want to do fashion and I always used to hear these stories about, Oh, you're going to change your college major two or three times a day. I mean, you know, all through your college career, you'll change your major. But as I was looking for schools, I found that Mississippi state had a program at the time when I originally went to school in 2010, it was apparel and textiles merchandising, but because of the progression of the program and that it was getting noticed more they changed it into what you can get your degree in merchandising or apparel design. And so, I got my in-fashion design with a concentration in product development.

Lisa Woolfork: That's fantastic. So, as the program develops, they split off the marketing and the apparel design, they split them in two. So, what were some of the courses you took when you were on the apparel design track?

Fleshia Gillon:  Okay, so, some of the courses I took, I took apparel one, which is kind of like basic sewing. And we had like this big binder where we had to do like the different scenes like I heard you mention a French thing earlier. You had to do all of those different scene's straight scenes and just a lot of different scenes. And then we had like a surging test. It was a class that I took where we had to, we were actually timed on threading the surgery. And so, we, they taught us how to do that. And it was just basically like, you can come into the college program without knowing how to sew, but I kind of had an advantage because my grandmother had already taught me how to sew. So, I already knew how to thread it up a sewing machine, but not a surgery machine.

And so, I kind of had an advantage a little bit in some of like the basics sewing classes and things like that. And then some of the things that kind of, I guess, get you that your inspiration and your concept of like what you wanted to design. I took a floral design class as well, and they taught us how to put floral arrangements together, how to make bows and it was all under that kind of like artistic creativity type umbrella as well as like design one and drawing one. And then I took draping and we also took it was kind of marketing and promotional strategies where we had to design a garment and we had to create the fashion show from beginning to end. So, we were responsible.

Lisa Woolfork: Wow

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, we were responsible from hitting the vendors, the food getting the kind of like the marketing out on who should attend the fashion show our judges as well as if you were as, as a design student, you could submit a garment into the fashion show to be presented at the fashion to win an award. And so, I was there from the day from morning until night, and then I had a garment in the show as well. I mean, I was once hired student after, but it was fun being like the creator of the fashion show and having a design in the fashion show as well.

Lisa Woolfork: That is really incredible this idea this hands-on learning these practical skills, as well as throwing in floral design. I don't think I would have imagined floral design could play a role in fashion education, but then you look at some of these, you know, patterns, Felicia, these different prints these different illustrations can be like, wow. It really, if you think about it a lot about composition. It's about how you use light, it's about, you know, I don't know I just, I would not have thought about putting these two things together.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right

Lisa Woolfork: Can you talk about; I love that you shared about the fashion show that you all built. I'd love to hear about the garment you made. Can you tell us more about that? Do you remember what you made that you submitted to the show and was accepted?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, I submitted a Red jumpsuit. Our theme was like a Safari theme and we had to come up with a name for our garments so they can read it off when the garment is walking the runway. So, I named mine jungle fever,

Lisa Woolfork: OH my God

Fleshia Gillon:  I named it Jungle fever I made like a little then it was kind of like, it was hosted by Cotton University. Part of our textile--

Lisa Woolfork: Can you say the university's name again that was hosting it?

Fleshia Gillon:  Cotton university cotton.

Lisa Woolfork: Cotton okay.

Fleshia Gillon:  Hm, and so one of the people who worked for Cotton university, she came and she was one of the judges as well as maybe like one of our professors and the Dean of admissions in our program they were the three judges. And so, it was a red jumpsuit, had a red tie the fabric was, it had to be at least 6% cotton so my whole jumpsuit was cotton. It was a red cotton fabric that I had found, I think at Walmart. And then I found this kind of like furry fabric and so I made a little clutch, a hand clutch to walk down the runway with the model and then the inside I lined it with cotton fabric as well so if you kind of like go with the aesthetic of kind of being like a jungle type theme or whatever, but the girl who wore it she knew how to walk. And so, I would just kind of like, I was, that was like my first experience of like a fashion show and I just loved it. And then I didn't win, but I did get an honourable mention. So that was good enough.

Lisa Woolfork: Fantastic, oh my goodness, wow, I want to hear, -- I'm so interested in your fashion education. Can you, do you remember a class in particular that stands out to you? I mean I just want to reiterate, I know everybody, we did just hear Felicia say that one of her, I don't know if it was a quiz or an activity or maybe just hazing, but she had to thread a surge in a timed trial, and I'm pretty sure that there are some people out there who'd be like SIS just, you know, let me just step aside a little bit. Because I have seen people who do not enjoy threading their serge.

Fleshia Gillon:  Oh, no

Lisa Woolfork: People who I know have a story of this person who was teaching us a surgeon class, and she had taught everybody how to thread their surgeries or was going to teach them. And so, she had gone around the room and cut, you know, how you can have till you have a forthright surgery, for example, she went around and she cut all the threads from the loopers and the needles. And then one of the students to rethread their serge from scratch.

Fleshia Gillon:  Wow

Lisa Woolfork: And this one Woman, she got up, she took her surgery packed up and absolutely walked out of that class, all her stuff, because that woman apparently had been tying a knot on her thread and pulling it through the loopers for years.

Fleshia Gillon:  Oh, wow.

Lisa Woolfork: And she did not know how to thread her serge, loopers, or needle. Right?

Fleshia Gillon:  Right.

Lisa Woolfork: I guess get the needles, but I guess getting it through the loopers is the harder part. And she was like, forget this. She was furious. I had those knots in there for a decade, you know, so threading a serge can be challenging. I did learn how to now I have a serge that self-threads,

Fleshia Gillon:  oh, wow.

Lisa Woolfork: Oh, yeah, which I love, I love it I absolutely love it. But I did not start with surgery that threaded itself. I started with the $200 surgery that I had to absolutely threaten everything and keep an eye on it and babysit it. So, this idea of like developing fundamental skills, like threading your machine, basic maintenance, and those kinds of things are pretty, you know, it's pretty nice to know that when you are learning to design, you have to learn these kinds of just basic skills. But do you remember a class that you really, really loved, or things that lessons from any courses that stuck with you in addition to the fashion show experience?

Fleshia Gillon: Yes, I actually took I'm talking about two creative design classes that I took. So, the first one I took with one of my design professors, and in that class, she taught us a level of skills to develop as in like crocheting knitting. We had a segment on embroidery and then we had a whole segment on dyeing fabric and that class, she has kind of like kickstarted my interests like it just expanded kind of like blew my mind of like the other skills that you can have in fashion. Like you could actually knit up a scarf for head or a sweater or whatever. So, she taught us all by hand. But she taught us how to do all of that. And that was the first creative design class that I took. And that whole class was like, we did samples, knitting samples, crochet samples embroidery samples, dying samples.

And then at the end of each segment, we had to do a project on each of those skills. And so that was the only thing currently right now that I've kind of mastered is crocheting. I love crocheting I'm just like the next crocheted that was one of the things that I kind of like took to really quickly in that class. But I also liked the idea of like coming up with your own textile and dye in your own fabrics as well and knowing between natural dyes and the other type of dyes and different things like that. But the one that kind of like stuck with me the second creative design class that I took, that kind of like, I would say kind of catapulted me a career in a little bit in a sense is the second creative design class that I took, it was a class where we had to take, we partner up with the farmers Vardaman, Mississippi, because I'm originally from Mississippi so, of course, Mississippi State.

But we partnered up with this sweet potato farmers of Vardaman Mississippi all had to cut down on their sweet potato waste. And so, they partnered with a fashion design program. What can your fashion students do with these sweet potatoes they were having to throw out? And so, we have to partner up and each group had to come up with an end-use product using these sweet potatoes. And in that process, me, and my partner is the time we created this sweet potato leather is what we called it. And so,

Lisa Woolfork: Oh my gosh.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, and so it's kind of-- that kind of opened up a whole other world of like fashion means science and biology in different things like that. It created a whole new test out, not in a, like a fibber concept, but like more of in like a chemistry lab, you know, developing in a bat or a Pirate dish or something like that. And so, we have to do this whole research of who's our customers target customers. How is this sustainability? What can you do with what's leftover of their product? And we created this leather and it's kind of like went everywhere where we presented in our symposium. It was like a research symposium where we came in the first place and in like art and design. And then we were also accepted into the I T A, which is the International Textiles Apparel Association.

And we got to present our research in Vancouver, Canada on our sweet potato leather. And that was just kind of like one of those moments in my life, just like, wow, like I actually went to Canada to present research and the school pay for it, the all-expenses-paid. And it was just like, that was kind of like one of those defining moments for me, as that class kind of like set the bar on what I could create and kind of like me as a designer, it kind of opened my mind to sustainability in a way and how, like, you know, you can come up with a sustainable product and it does not harm the earth, or, you know, creating like a zero-waste type of product aware because you create the size. Just say like you know, the pirate's glass dishes that you probably get for Walmart or Target or something like that.

That's what we were growing our leather in this science lab. So, we had like a chemistry professor, we had our design professor, we were also partnered with the entrepreneur department of Mississippi state university. And all of those people working together say help us create these products, create this leather and make it like an end-use product. It still has some kinks and things like that in our research, but it was still kind of like one of those pivotal moments like that class was just kind of like a wow moment for me like we actually created a leather out of using sweet potatoes. Would you say [inaudible24:15] culture like a good bacterium, Apple cider vinegar, just kind of like random ingredients that you can kind of get out of the kitchen to create this leather

Lisa Woolfork: That is blowing my mind. Do you hear me? Fleshia? My mind is blown. There are so many ideas that are rushing through my head at once. First, I remember there's a book called the Guernsey sweet potato literary something like that. Anyway, it's about basically that back in the day, like during world war II, when there was a lot of like rationing people actually, instead of making the pies out of sweet potatoes, like the potatoes, -- it was the same idea, like not wanting to waste anything. So, you feel a potato and then like, what do you do with the waste? You know, we are in this, you know, this war, this crisis, no one wants to throw out food. So, you-- turned it into something in order to be able to make a pie out of it, you know what I mean?

Fleshia Gillon:  Right

Lisa Woolfork: So like--, so take that kind of resourcefulness, and then making like a chemical leather out of sweet potatoes and you've met this farmer that has like, he must have like thousands and thousands of pounds of stuff that he's not using and that's not fit for eating. And, but not, shouldn't just be thrown away.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right

Lisa Woolfork: And you're like, oh no, I got this. We are going to work with a chemistry professor and the design professor and an entrepreneurial professor. And we're going to create this new, this totally new product. That's amazing.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes

Lisa Woolfork: When you got the leather put together, did you end up making anything with it or did you just want, was it like a formula to you could kind of share with people like, just go into that conference. What did you call it then? The international apparel--

Fleshia Gillon:  The international textile apparel association, it's was kind of, it's like an annual conference that they have where students can come to present their work. And then like programs, like kind of like school programs, like lecturer Ameduri's and Gerber, and those that have something to do with the kind of like the textile industry. They come and present their books and products. And then you have a portion where students come in and either do a research portion. And then you also have like a garment where they display a garment that they have made out of something sustainable or something creative that they have done sewn up or, you know, kind of like the possibilities are endless. And as far as the sweet potato, it was never, I was never able to kind of like, get it off the ground as far as getting a whole garment together, still kind of like on my bucket list to try to go back and do.

But when we presented our research, we just had like these little samples kind of like with needle and thread so they can see like this can be like, and then we pass it down to the judges so they can like take the needle and thread through it so that he can see like it's durable as well. So, it's not one of those things where you just kind of like, we're just presenting something to you that that doesn't work. It's actually a product where you can stick your needle through, you know, something minor is like just doing like a needle and thread, not normally not necessarily developing like a long sheet of leather to where we could create like a garment or maybe like an accessory or something.

Lisa Woolfork: But I mean, you've made the first step

Fleshia Gillon:  Right.

Lisa Woolfork: I mean who else making leather out of sweet potatoes. I mean, that's the reason you all won first place. I'm sure because this is amazing. It's not just a theoretical application you actually went into the lab and ended up converting this waste product into something that's usable. That's on for you know, then your group could like to sell this very productive idea and let some big company or whatever do all the chemistry and who has, you know, to kind of really build behind it. But like, I don't know, that's just amazing to me I was today years old before I figured out that you could actually make a leather product out of sweet potato peels. And I'm also now having this really intense desire for sweet potato pie. Really a --

Fleshia Gillon:  And you know I'm not a big fan of sweet potato pie or yams or anything really sweet potato kind of like ish or whatever. But when we were doing this research, they took us to the farm to look at the meals and they took a sort of sweet potato kind of like, I guess you'd say garden or fields were and then we got to like pick sweet potatoes and take them home. And then they took us to this sweet potato kind of store where this lady had like all different types of things made from sweet potato. Sweet potato chips, sweet potato sausage balls, and sweet it's, everything was sweet potatoes. And like when I tried like a little sausage ball that she had made out of sweet potatoes and something else, I mean, I'm just like bawling. I was just like, well, I guess I kind of like sweet potato but you know, I'll stick to, I get the fashion realm of it were--

Lisa Woolfork: Exactly

Fleshia Gillon:  It's like, I'm not eating it, but, you know, whatever, I can help cut down on the ways during that, you know, during that class. And we kind of like, I mean, that went on for a while during my college career, we did I mean, yes, it went on for a while. And then at one point, it was just kind of like my partner, it was kind of-- I'm sorry, the project ended up becoming my own project because my partner ended up kind of like separate her ties with it.

And I was doing it all by myself and I was trying to partner with different schools and never got off the ground, but just to have that on my resume that I did have this research project that I created this leather from. It was, it was great. That is really amazing. I'm so glad you told us that story because I just feel like you have changed everybody's views of sweet potatoes.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes

Lisa Woolfork: So, thank you for that. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk with Fleshia about her current projects, as well as New Orleans fashion week, which is something that she did last year. So, everybody stays tuned and we'll be back in a bit.

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Lisa Woolfork: Welcome back everybody thanks you so much for joining us again, you are listening to the stitch police podcast. I'm talking to Fleshia Gillon who is this a wonderful designer and really creative spirit who just really changed how I've used sweet potatoes. And hopefully, anyone's listened to the previous segment. We'll know that a sweet potato is way more than a delicious base for a pie. Fleshia, I wanted to ask you about your opinions or thoughts on your fashion, education, and formal education. What is your opinion about it? I know some folks there are lots of different ways to approach fashion. Some folks don't have formal training, some folks do. Can you share some of your opinions about what you see as a benefit of your fashion education?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, well, I actually think a fashion education is definitely a good route to take. I know a lot of designers today are self-taught or maybe started out on another major, but me as coming from Mississippi, a small town, Vardaman Mississippi, I really just didn't have a lot of connections. And so, going to Mississippi state and having those outlets to where I could like travel abroad or go to New York to attend the national retail Federation conference and in like marketing it like all of that came through the school. So, if I didn't have that college education, I would have never applied for my passport to go to London and spend a month over there or go to New York to go to this conference, or even Dallas to go to the apparel markdown in Dallas like all I did all of that, traveling a lot of traveling through the university and had not I attended Mississippi State University and tried to kind of like get off the ground. Not saying that I wouldn't have been able to, but I probably wouldn't have had as many opportunities like I did if I would have-- wouldn't have that as a college education.

Lisa Woolfork: So, I want to check if you could tell us about what was London like when you went to study abroad in London, you said you were there for a month, and I know a lot of students that is one of the benefits of being able-- of attending college is that you can do a study abroad program and lots of students have their horizons broadened by travel as a student. What were some of the highlights from your London trip?

Fleshia Gillon:  Oh, wow. Well, yes, we've spent a month in London and I mean, it was a culture shock, I would definitely say somewhat of a culture shock. London, of course, they speak English, but they do have like their British undertones, you know, and things like that. Literally every day we did some kind of walking tours, some kind of museum tour, the VNA, the British Museum, the Jewish museum. And we did a lot of like a panel talk with different stylists and bespoke artists and things like that. And then we did a tour of Elsevier Row, which is kind of like home of the tailoring too many designers in London. And it was a great experience I took a class on how to make you know, those bows that you put in your hair, they're like flowers that you kind of see it, like the beauty supply store at Walmart? They taught us how to make those different hair flowers and, and different things like that. And then we took a polymer clay class where we learned how to make Jewellery. I mean, it was just like the possibilities were endless and not to mention the food fashion aside. The food was really good in London, a lot of pasta, lasagne and it was just a great overall experience just to see Oxford street and tour Beverages and like these big stores and just to see like their visual merchandising that they had in their store compared to what we have over here in the US it was a great experience. Definitely great and I would love to go back.

Lisa Woolfork: Did you go to Liberty of London when you were there?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, we went to Liberty yes.

Lisa Woolfork: So, tell me about that--okay, so I can say I've never been to London. I would love to go at some point. But I have seen some images of Liberty, there's all --there's these like classic shops, like Harrods and things like that, that I've read about, of course then, but Liberty just seems like a place I would like to go just too just look, it seems like a fabric museum.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes

Lisa Woolfork: Tell me about what your time was like when you went to visit Liberty of London?

Fleshia Gillon:  Liberty I mean, fabrics galore, they had an elevator we can go to different floors a lot of different like yarn and knitting accessories and things like that. I mean, I had to send a box home ahead of time because of so much fabric that I bought in London. And it was just kind of like, I mean, it was just kind of like fabric heaven, and they own a separate occasion aside from the school, we went to a show where Tilly and the buttons she was there,

Lisa Woolfork: Oh yeah

Fleshia Gillon:  She was there sewing up one of her patterns and we went and saw her. It was just kind of like a meet and greet type thing. Me and some of my college friends, we went to her showing off her putting together one of her garments as well at Liberty.

Lisa Woolfork: Oh, my goodness. What a treat. Oh my gosh. And so, speaking of food, I'm going to transition very awkwardly. I find it a bit surprising that a woman from Mississippi really enjoyed the food in London because I tend to not think of London or England having like particularly culinary like I don't know. I just feel like I'm from the South as well, like you're from the South.

Fleshia Gillon: Yes

Lisa Woolfork: And I think that we have such a unique food culture and London has a unique food culture as well. And I think about them as being kind of compatible, but I guess, I mean, I don't know. I'm sure I would love the food in London because I love food pretty much everywhere anywhere, I go. So anytime I go somewhere, I look for the two F's fabric and food. And I do what you do I buy a box I shipped; I went to Paris I shipped a box back to myself from Paris. When I go to New York, which you know, is pretty close, not close I'm in Virginia. So, it's like a nice six-hour Amtrak ride up there I will buy fabric, go to the Ups store before I even get back to my family where I'm staying and put that box right in the mail. And when I get home, it's like, woo I slip myself a present.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right, definitely the food was really good there. It was like, surprisingly good because I thought it was just like, oh my God, they, you know, they have Cod instead of like, I guess like our catfish or whatever, but it was good, like fish and chips. And then we actually did tea time high tea, the British Museum. So, they had like these little sandwiches and macaroons and we got to have our own little tea pie with our teacup and.

Lisa Woolfork: Oh, that's so sweet

Fleshia Gillon: So, I had--

Lisa Woolfork: You had the high tea

Fleshia Gillon: Yes, high tea

Lisa Woolfork: That is enjoyable

Fleshia Gillon: Yes, it was real fun


Lisa Woolfork: I would love to try that-- I would love to try all of that, especially the fish and chips.

Fleshia Gillon: Yes

Lisa Woolfork: But I want to talk about New Orleans because New Orleans is one of my favourite foods places and drink places and just places in general.

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes

Lisa Woolfork: And you participated last year in the New Orleans fashion week. Can talk about that, what brought you to the New Orleans fashion week and how that played out?

Fleshia Gillon:  Yes, I heard about New Orleans fashion week actually from another one of my classmates that attended Mississippi state university. He attended a couple of them as well. Actually, a couple of Mississippi state fashion students attended maybe like years, year after year, it was a Mississippi state student and New Orleans fashion week. So, I apply one year I didn't get it that was my own fault I think I rushed the application process, but I was just kind of like, I was determined to apply the year of 2019 last year. And I'm just kind of like, I have to get in it, I'm going to get in it. So, I took my time getting my application process together and at the time New Orleans fashion was always hosted in the spring, but due to kind of license switching around of the owner.

And I guess I think that we're going on at the time she switched it to the fall. So, it gave us an ample amount of time to develop a collection. And I just-- to do it in the fall. And so, I applied, I got accepted we had to submit a bio of ourselves and a headshot and things like that. And then we were able to go and I spent the week in New Orleans. I enjoyed the food there as well it was really good food. I didn't get to explore as much because I was doing model fittings from day one that I got there to literally the day of the fashion show. Because some models were kind of like commuting back and forth. I mean, it was a stressful, exciting anxiety feel. I mean all the emotions and whatever emotion you have I had it during New Orleans fashion week, but ultimately it was very exciting competition, I made it into it was the emerging designing category is what I applied for and then you have the feature design portion. I made it into the top eight of the emergent design competitions had my name under my key, I had a nine-piece the collection that I created and models of all different shapes and sizes. And I really loved that. And so, it was a great, great, great experience.

Lisa Woolfork: That is fantastic. And I love about, I love your comment about the size inclusivity, because I feel that sometimes that fashion, because it seems so theoretical or because it seems so it's about these different projections that I think that there tends to be such an unlimited imagination, which is ironic, at least for me as a consumer, that designers are only designing for people who wear between a size zero and a size four.

Fleshia Gillon:  Right

Lisa Woolfork: I'm like, that's not what, you know, that's not what most people can wear or look like. And of course, I know that you know, high fashion is not meant to be the same as ready to wear. It's meant to be more artistic and aesthetic and pushing boundaries, but I think you could also push boundaries and also be inclusive. And so that's some of the things I love to hear about your collection. Do you remember one of your favourite pieces from your 2019 collection that you did for the show? It was there something that you were like, oh, I'm really proud of this, or, you know, I'm really, I think, I really nailed this.

Fleshia Gillon:  Well, I have, it was this Coat pattern that I made. I had it on two models, one of them wore it as a dress and then the other one wore the coat with a pair of shorts. And I made that, I really loved that parent that I made. And then my handpiece was like a gown that I had made with godets and it was kind of like a collar neck. And I really love those three main pieces in my collection, but the coat piece and then that my finale gown dress that I had made for the show.

Lisa Woolfork: Oh, my goodness. If you have pictures of that, I would love to see photographs. Maybe we could include those in the episode cover art--.

Fleshia Gillon: Okay

Lisa Woolfork: I think that people would love to see what you've done. Let's talk a bit about it because we're getting near the end of our time, but I'd love to hear about what do you have going on now? What are some of the current projects you're working on?

Fleshia Gillon: Well, current projects right now, I'm doing a lot of freelances. I wasn't going to get on the mask bandwagon, but I was just really trying to make a mask for my friends and family, but I've had people contacting me to make a mask so I'm kind of doing a little bit of mask right now for people who are asking me to do them. And then I want to freelance, I just got one of my old high school classmates hired me on to do her bridesmaid's dresses as well as her flower instead of flower girls, she's doing flower women. And so, I'm designing like that whole row of like gowns and blazer dresses that she wanted for her wedding. And so, I see now that like my kind of like my specialty is going more towards like a special occasion.

Like I've done prom and I've done, you know, weddings and different things like that. So, I'm just going wherever the fashion train sends me. I have a lot of stuff that I want to do. I kind of want to go for my masters. I am in the process of working for that. And so, yeah, I'm just kind of like taking whatever comes my way really, and just kind of like kind of more since I've been designing for so many people outside of myself, I kind of want to tone it back a little bit and just kind of like do a little bit more for myself instead of kind of like designing for others. But ultimately, I just kind of want to get my name out there as an emerging designer. And let the people know that Fleshia Gillon is on the rise you know.

Lisa Woolfork: That is really amazing because I think what I'm learning is that you have all these skills, but they've been designed to benefit someone else like I mean it-- and I keep thinking about what you said about the flower instead of filing flower girl, she's going to have flower women. I'm like, oh my gosh, there it goes again, that floral design, that flower arrangement class keeps coming in handy, you know, between learning to make the floral accessories in London or designing these dresses for flower women and the entire life of the bridal party. Like that's a lot of, you know, floral related things so that's excellent. And so Fleshia, this has been such a treat to talk to you. Thank you so much for taking the time. Where can people find you on social media if they want to connect with you?

Fleshia Gillon:  Okay I have a YouTube is called the South corner I love blogging like my daily life, my family, and then fashion related things as well. And then I also have a fashion Instagram is called And just a quick story behind it all, you know, earlier I told you that our middle names, as far as like me being a triplet, they rhyme. So, Michelle, Centrelle and Danielle, the end of that is E L L E. And so, I kind of wanted to kind of like play off of that as far as like being a triplet because I, as I said, I love being a triplet, I think it's a pivotal part of like my identity as being a triplet. So, that's kind of like how I got the L and then the G is as far as like my last name Gillon and so that's how that LG, how that came about, but it is L. G. Designs on Instagram.

And then my just regular Instagram, just Fleshia D. That's F L E S H I A and the letter D is just my regular Instagram. And then I've also gone on Tik Tok, it is a whole new generation of Tik Tokers out there and that is the South corner as well, underscore after the corner. So, these style corners underscore, and I just found that as a way to quickly edit a fashion clip that I can upload really quickly to kind of just let the people know where I'm working on instead of sitting in a computer and edit it on alone, drawing out the video for YouTube. And so, yes, I've kind of done on that. Ticktock train as well.

Lisa Woolfork: Oh, that's wonderful. Well, again, thank you so much, everyone, we've been talking with Fleshia Gillon, who is an emergent designer on the rise and this has been such a treat and thank you so much for joining us today.

Fleshia Gillon:  Thank you, I really enjoyed it.

Lisa Woolfork: Thank you for joining us for this week's episode of the stitch police podcast, the official podcast of Black Women's Stitch, the sewing group, where Black Lives Matter, there are a variety of ways that you can support the program and you're doing it right now by listening to the Podcast, it does help us grow.

Another way to do that is to rate the podcast and review it, subscribe to it. All of these things are ways that you can support the podcast without having to spend any money at all. If you would like to spend some money to support us, there are ways to do that as well. You can make direct donations to our Patron site for monthly contributions, as well as one-time contributions to PayPal cash app or Venmo. And finally, we have another cute, very adorable way for you to support The Black Woman's Stitch project.

It's a pin, a P I N. A an enamel lapel pin that's very cute. it's about two inches wide and one and a half inch tall, and it's of a Black Women's Stitch logo. And that is $15 with free shipping to the US and so if you drop $15 in the PayPal, Venmo or cash app account, and then send me your email, they'll not email you send me your mailing address to my email either at or you send me a direct message on the Black Women's Stitch Instagram page, we will put the pin in the mail to you again, free shipping, $15 for the pin, and all of this go to support the Black Women's Stitch project. Thank you again for joining us this week, come back next week and we will help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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