Kyoko Seki (Class of 2005, Fashion Design) figured out early on in her life as an artist that she could set her sights on a goal and achieve it. That attitude has taken her a long way at Abercrombie & Fitch, where she’s now a design director for the company’s Hollister brand.
You started out thinking you’d be a fine arts major. How did you come to switch to fashion?
When I was at Columbus College of Art & Design, I was on a student visa. I needed a company that would support me for a visa. Because I wasn’t really planning on going back to Japan. That’s also the reason I chose to major in fashion. When I was in high school and first connected with CCAD, I wanted to do fine arts. But no matter how good you are, it’s going to be hard to become a fine artist and make a living. For me, it was more about making a living, and I was also really into fashion. I can paint and draw on my own time — that’s never going to stop.
What attracted you to Abercrombie & Fitch?
I interned here a little bit when I was a student, and when I graduated, they were like, well, do you want to come in as a full-time intern? I told them, I’m really nervous about the visa. Because until you get hired full time, they don’t support your visa. They said, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get in. I’ve stayed because I’ve experienced different categories and areas, and that has just been exciting. It’s kept me going these 11 years. I also think I’m a people person I love working with a team. And the culture in this company is all about teamwork.
How have you grown and changed here?
Right now, I’m design director for Hollister guys’ tops. I’ve been doing that for a couple of years. I started in women’s design. I’ve done fleece bottoms, woven bottoms, fashion knits, multiple categories. I relocated to Tokyo in 2008, and I was there for a full year, reporting back the trends that were happening in Japan. I came back as a designer. I did graphic tees and other things. Then I came into men’s product in 2010.
How did you learn to advocate for yourself?
When you want something, you have to speak out. When I was 15, I found myself really interested in drawing and painting. My art teacher said, 'You’re really good at it'. I started taking a lot more art classes. I entered this scholastic show taking place at CCAD. Then I found out there were Saturday Morning Art Classes, so I did that for a couple of years. My senior year in high school, I decided to go to Fort Hayes in the mornings so I could build a portfolio. And I got a really good scholarship to CCAD. The experience taught me if you have a goal and you can see a clear path to what you want, just do it. There’s times you’re going to fail or get into a spot where you think, this isn’t what I wanted. But at least you’re not regretting doing it.
How does your CCAD degree continue to inform your work?
The biggest thing I appreciate about CCAD is that it wasn’t easy. I think the standard and quality of what we learned was just insane. Work-life balance is important, but when I came to Abercrombie, staying here until 7 or 8 a couple nights a week, I did not feel stressed. When somebody asked me, can you do this presentation on a board? Sure. And everyone’s like, that’s amazing, I’ve never seen somebody pin a board so prettily. I learned a standard at CCAD, and that standard was high.
Get to know Kyoko Seki
Graduated in 2005 with a BFA in Fashion Design
Has two daughters, one 8 and one almost 4
Born in Japan, moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was in high school
Her first experience with CCAD was in high school, when her artwork was exhibited in a scholastic competition. After that, she started taking Saturday art classes at CCAD.
Fun fact: She still has her senior collection work! She made four looks for women, inspired by suiting, tailored and stitched meticulously from kimono-inspired fabrics she found in Japan.