BY CLAIRE PARKER, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Junior Katya Ekimian cuts an unassuming figure, walking down the Wilson hallways in plain jeans and a hoodie. Looking at her, you wouldn’t know that she is a talented aspiring fashion designer, whose work has been praised by fashion moguls and is regularly worn by more than one Wilson student. “It’s so funny, people always tell me, ‘Katya, if you’re so into fashion, why don’t you dress better?” she says. “I tell them I’m too busy making clothes to worry about myself.”
Ekimian is a DC native with a global perspective. She went to Murch Elementary and then Washington Latin for a year, before moving to Egypt with her family for five years (her mother is a news reporter). Egypt is where her interest in fashion design took off, and she has incorporated elements of its culture into her work.
Ekimian is the artistic one in her family, and she grew up making art. But when her mother first bought her a sewing machine for her eighth birthday, Ekimian was initially not very interested in making clothes. “I really wasn’t that into it,” she says, “And then one year I was like, f*** it, why don’t I just start doing stuff?” She started small, practicing making little rectangles and basic purses. Her interest in sewing took off during her freshman year of high school. “I would make simple skirts, or a really simple shirt, and wear that to school, and everyone would be like ‘Oh my God, you made that? No way!” she says.
That year, nine girls at her school asked her to make their prom dresses. Ekimian had never taken any sewing lessons, but she agreed. “Some nights I would be crying, like ‘aw I can’t do this,’ but I got it done and they were all happy,” she says. “Everything I sew is honestly kind of a learning experience. I have to figure it out as I go.”
Since then, she has had plenty of practice. During her sophomore year, she began to make gowns for her art classes as part of a ‘wearable art’ theme, a theme she is continuing this year in AP Studio Art 3D at Wilson. She transferred here junior year after moving back from Egypt. While she says that as a new girl, getting her name out there as a designer has been hard, she has already been commissioned to make at least four prom dresses this spring.
As a designer, she is remarkably versatile. “On the one hand, I’m really into making gowns and evening wear, but I always love to make the hoodie or a sweater or something,” she says.
Making each piece of clothing is a long process. “Whenever I make a garment, I go down to my fabric store, just grab something at random, then bring it up to my room where I sew, then just blast music. I listen to a lot of trap when I sew,” she laughingly admits. “I hate starting a project and not finishing it, so I’ll be in my room for hours on end, just sewing. And I’ll usually get it done in a few hours.”
Ekimian’s high fashion idols include Marc Jacobs and Zac Posen. One high point of Ekimian’s budding design career came when Posen stumbled across her Instagram account. “He liked and commented on a bunch of my Instagram photos, and I was crying, like ‘Oh, my God!’”
But Ekimian also gets ideas from the DC fashion she sees every day around school. “I like Wilson, because people aren’t afraid to wear what they want to wear,” she says.
Egyptian street style has woven its way into her work as well. “I would get a lot of inspiration from draping from [when] we used to go on boats on the Nile, and just watching the fishermen. They would just wrap fabric around themselves and be there all day,” she says.
She plans to channel these influences into a brand of her own. “I want it to be a well-rounded store, with men’s wear, women’s wear, everything from gowns to gym shorts,” she explains. Ensuring that all of her clothes are American-made and accessible to the average American is important to her. “I want [my brand] to be affordable,” she says. “Everyone in high school now — these are my customers. These are the people I’m selling to.”
Ekimian was recently accepted into a Nordstrom entrepreneurship competition. She presented her business plan at a three-day conference downtown last weekend. While she didn’t place, she won $100 and more exposure for her work.
Ekimian is not sure whether she will go to college, but if she does, she plans to aim for design schools like Parsons in New York, as well as a few in the fashion epicenters of London, Paris, and Milan. “It would be nice to actually learn how to sew,” she says. “I’ve just been winging it.”
She cites determination as the key to success. “That’s what makes you stand out,” she says. “Everyone else could be going out, but you’re staying at home sewing, you’re sticking with it, and that’s how people become famous. ”
All of her hard work pays off when she’s rewarded by the sight of people wearing her clothing. “I love it when people ask me to make them clothes,” she says. Follow and message her on Instagram (@katya.ekimian) to commission your very own Katya Ekimian design. •