“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…” that quirky ’80s new wave song by Timbuk3 may as well be Natasha Morgan’s motto when it comes to her outré style and positive personal outlook. A New York-based self-taught designer and entrepreneur, she founded her eponymous company at the young age of 19 and has since gained an enthusiastic following for her fierce-nouveau aesthetic and futuristic vision. All about courage, provocation and imagination, her eyewear collection Natasha Morgan…Framed captures her concept of a new world where expressive fashion is a lifestyle, and not just for the runway.
The idea that personal identity resides at the core of human existence and radiates out to inform every life facet, from decision making to self expression, shines on Natasha’s belief of how important it is to remain true to oneself. Her journey as an emerging designer navigating a tumultuous fashion industry while having the tenacity to endure it all proves that unwavering optimism and hunger for more always wins. Thus, Natasha explains why being bolder is indeed better.
How did you get into designing eyewear? What made you pursue your creative field?
I created NATASHA MORGAN eyewear for myself. It began as a personal project because I’ve collected vintage eyewear since I was thirteen. I like the exclusivity of wearing vintage because no one else has it. I own over 100 pairs of vintage eyewear and yet I still crave something different. At one point, I was bidding for two pairs of vintage eyewear on eBay and lost both of them the same day within thirty minutes of each other. I was so devastated I cried for a week. When this happened, I was in school at FIT taking a few classes to tweak what I knew about design and, of course, learn a few new things.
Then it dawned on me; why not try to create my own eyewear? The first pair I named Elizabeth The First before knowing what they’d look like and what the brand would turn into. People from diverse backgrounds, young and old, went crazy over them. It was really crazy and it freaked me out because people were literally running down the street after me to find out where my eyewear came from. I’m from NYC and it’s definitely not a common thing to run after someone on the street. After creating a few more pairs for myself, I garnered the same reactions from my friends in the fashion industry who kept pulling them for editorials! It began as wanting something different for myself and turned into something beyond my wildest dreams.
When I was eleven years old, I knew I wanted to be a designer and immediately my mother paid for private art lesson for two years so I could get a head start. Art and fashion are my life. My creativity began with art. I only know how to create beautiful things.
What are some of the challenges you face as a self-taught designer?
One of the biggest challenges is teaching everyone who works with me what I do. It’s very hard to teach others simultaneously when something is created by hand that no one else has done before and has perfected it each time. People who work with me only learn from me. So, it’s very difficult when I have to be in several places at one time with several people needing me all the same. What we do takes time and sometimes we have to do a single thing more than once to get it right. Also, financial backing is a problem especially when so much is attached to certain schools and the networking that occurs within those institutions.
What are some of the triumphs?
A triumph is when I create something that speaks louder than a voice and people want to live their lives in it. Essentially, it’s empowering people.
What do you love most about what you do?
I get to change people’s lives everyday and open their eyes to new beginnings. What I create really affects people from within. It’s not just about being fashionable; it’s about building confidence and a new lifestyle. Encouraging people to have different experiences in life is what’s important to me.
Who and what most inspires you in both your personal and work life?
The answer is very simple. What inspires me is life and the need for change. I envision a better world where all our dreams are possible.
What are some of the inspirations behind your latest collection?
My inspiration comes from life and everyday things like watching nature, the elements, people moving, walls, doors, fabric, etc. I’m not a designer that will tell a story about travel or anything like that. I will never make up such stories. I either touch something or look around me and immediately my hands go to work. Sometimes, I don’t know what will be created and it just happens. I don’t process things like other designers may do. I like the element of surprise!
Who do you admire most and why?
Just to name a few from today and yesterday: Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Nicholas Ghesquière, Riccardo Tisci, Valentino Garavani, Ralph Rucci, Diana Vreeland, Isabella Blow, Patti Wilson, André Leon Talley, Pat McGrath, Nick Cave, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Edward Enninful, Daphne Guinness, Anna Piaggi, Lori Goldstein and Oprah Winfrey. They all are inspiring in my life and enable me to dream even bigger!
What is your creative philosophy? Does it directly relate to your personal philosophy?
I will change the world because I can, and because I can, so can you. I belong to you. And yes, this is both my creative and personal philosophy.
Do you have any advice for other self-taught designers or emerging designers just starting out?
1. Go to school and learn everything including: business, accounting, marketing, merchandising, social media, PR skills and even sports. All of these things are effective. It’s not just about fashion design or design in general and if so, that means you must already have financial backing so all you need to do is create. Designers need to learn more about how to run a business in this industry no matter where they are in the world.
2. Learn other languages and also try to get internships in countries other than the US. Volunteer, work and use your time wisely while in school. Do numerous unpaid internships even after graduation. Also, start making connections on LinkedIn. This is so important. Network, network, network! And it all starts in school. Knowledge is power and no one can take it away. Be someone that everyone wants to work with because you are worth it. You want people to not only want you; you want them to need you. And never give up! If you have the passion and the drive, then you will be successful no matter how big or small. There is no dollar amount on success; it’s what’s inside of you. So, be prepared for financial ups and downs and everyone telling you, “no”–even some of your best friends and loved ones.
3. If you are in this business to make money, then you are in the wrong business. Fashion is about passion, change, love and all the crazy things in between that make you laugh, frustrated and even emotional at times. And no matter what happens, when you do the right thing in life–especially when it comes from a place of love–everything will come your way. Dream bigger, my love!
What’s next for you?
What do you do when you’re not working?
There is no downtime because I am always working. I work 20-22 hours a day. I sometimes try taking off Sundays but I always end up working. I love what I do.