Vogue Binge’s celebrates a woman of many titles as Artist of the Month for May. Meet Ayanna Listenbee! Ayanna is courageous and talented at what she does. As a designer, mother and wife, she works hard at her passions in life. Catch a glimpse into her journey to becoming the wonderful designer she is today!
1. Ayanna Listenbee is…
A designer. wife. mother. loyal friend. recovering introvert. consummate encourager + believer of God’s awesome power!
2. What is The Look Book Philosophy and from which did the name come from?
The LookBook Philosophy is my fashion + lifestyle blog. It is where I share things that inspire my life and my work. The mission of my blog is to foster individuality, inspire creativity, and encourage women to create the lives they want to live. I started this blog with the hope of creating a supportive and encouraging community of like-minded women who love fashion and are passionate about living and creating stylish, authentic lives. The name comes from the fact that I am a sketchbook junkie. I’ve always kept sketchbooks and journals that I would sketch in and paste images of clothes, fabrics, words and things I thought were inspiring and beautiful. My blog started as an online continuation of those books. I guess it’s my curated style philosophy, now in an online format.
3. Growing up, have you always been into fashion?
Yes! I’ve always loved to draw, even from an early age, and I’ve always loved clothes. I started out drawing pictures of clothes I would like to wear or have in my closet. I used to be painfully shy, and I remember going shopping with my Aunt when I was younger, about 9 or 10. She would pick out clothes for me and oftentimes I did not like them. I was too shy to tell her because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But I would get home and cut the neckline, or change the sleeves to make it into something I liked better. I’m sure that contributed to me wanting to become a designer. Realizing that I could change the look of something to make it more “me” was empowering.
4. Ayanna’s style in high school…
Ha Ha Ha! I ran the gamut. I’ve always been attracted to classic silhouettes. But I also love things with a little edge. I hated perfection and I never really followed trends. I just liked what I liked, whether it was “in” or not. I went through phases in high school, earthy-hippie, hip-hop influenced, afrocentric, wanna be surfer-girl . . . I was always taking bits and pieces from what I saw around me and making them my own. I still do.
5. When did you know you were destined to become a designer?
I fought it for a long time. My dad was an art dealer, both he and my mother encouraged my brother and I in our artistic and creative endeavors. But my mom was more practical, and wanted to make sure we could survive with paying jobs, so I always had this underlying thought that I couldn’t really have a career in fashion if I wanted to survive. I was one semester from graduating with a degree in English (not sure what I was gonna do with that!) and I changed my major to fashion design. I never looked back after that.
6. On your blog you mentioned that you paste inspirational images and sketches into notebooks, categorizing them by style. Where do you grasp the inspiration for the style themes created in your notebooks?
It all comes down to what inspires me. The style categories are loose. It may be something general like “pants” and then I will sketch and paste fabrics and images of wide leg pants, skinnies, and cropped styles. Or “Big Hair” and I will sketch and paste images of hair styles I love and that are inspiring to me. It can even be certain colors, or even a feeling that inspires me, and I will collect things all relating to that color or feeling. It just depends on my mood or the project that I am working on.
7. What was it like when you first saw your designs come to life?
Both amazing and frustrating! I am very detailed. You have to be as a designer. You must be able to communicate effectively what you want your finished product to look like to your sewers and contractors. I use sketches, photos, notes anything that will help convey my ideas. My first bag looked great to everyone else, but all I could see were the details that didn’t look the way I saw them looking in my head!
8. Tell us a little about your handbag line.
I started out creating framed clutches out of hand dyed brocade from Mali. The fabric was beautiful, but hard to come by. I then began creating oversized bags, mostly totes, hobos and satchels to carry my sketchbooks in. I work mostly in leather and lamb, and my bags are typically lined in suede. I have grown to include clutches and cross body bags, and am incorporating fabrics into the line as well.
9. What are some of the challenges you had to overcome in the mist of establishing your career? How did you face them in a positive light?
Ha Ha Ha! So much to say, so little space! 🙂 Early on I decided I needed a partner. (this links back to my recovering introvert status) I didn’t want to be the one to do the marketing and selling of my bags, so I brought in someone else to do it. Needless to say, it was not a good fit. But it taught me so much! I learned a lot about myself and how strong I actually was. More recently, I designed a collection and was manufacturing it overseas. I was scared to manufacture there, but I had a trusted confidant vet the company for me, which was the only reason I decided to move forward with that manufacturer. I worked closely with my contact to design all my hardware, custom dye leathers and create all my designs, all of which took appx 9 months. When it was time for the samples to be shipped, I got nothing. I was devastated.
10. As a wife, mother, fashion blogger, and designer, how do you manage to take out personal time for yourself?
Personal time is a major challenge for me. I work from home . . . actually from my bedroom. And I homeschool my son. There isn’t much time for mama! But the best way I have found to get the “me” time is to get up early, way early, before the kids, and the husband, so I can spend time with God, and mentally prepare for my day. I can see that am a better person for it when I set my day up that way. Unfortunately, I battle with that a lot because I often stay up late working after the kids go to bed, and then I find it hard to get up early!! Pray for me! Lol!
11. What advice do you have for those who are interested in or are beginners in creating their own fashion business?
First, I would say, you can do it. There are always people who will tell you you can’t. But you must believe you can. Second, I would say, research; know your industry, know your customer, and what your customer wants from you. Know what differentiates you from your competition and build on that. Third, I would say, create beautiful things with fervor! Be relentless in following your passion, but have a plan, even if it is a loose one. You can always change it as you go, but you need to at least have an idea of where you want to go in order to get there!
12. What can we expect from The Look Book Philosophy in the future?
I’m working on my new handbag line now, which will be available by mid summer. I will be re-launching my website, and there will also be a link to the shop on the blog. I am also working on a coffee table book related to the beauty of design process. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of for years.
13. Where can we keep up with you and check out your designs?
You can follow all my design shenanigans on the blog: www.thelookbookphilosophy.com. I’m also addicted to instagram, so you can find some of the behind the scenes stuff there:www.instagram.com/thelookbookphilosophy and I just recently discovered this great little social media platform called twitter, have you heard of it? Lol. (I’m so late to the tweet game, but I love it!) My handle is @ayannalistenbee I’d love to hear from you guys!
Thanks for featuring me Ashley! I loved your questions! xx
Ayanna wasn’t afraid to step outside of comfort zone to make things happen. She didn’t let her fears hold her back from her dreams. As someone who is an introvert, she had face a fews challenges with socializing and putting herself out there. With much confidence and God by her side, she let nothing hold her back. Now, Ayanna has a handbag line that has been worth her journey, which is continuing to grow.
If you have a goal to accomplish and are battling your fears, don’t let them hold you back. You can do it! Just take a leap of faith and release all your fears. What’s the worst that could happen?