Sunday, 2 March 2014

In the Spotlight: Megan Lee Designs


Here at Midwest Girls Society we love promoting other ladies. We are inspired and intrigued by the women around us really putting themselves out there to make their dreams happen. Each month we will spotlight a lady or ladies doing cool stuff. To start off In the Spotlight we are happy to have Megan Owdom-Weitz from Megan Lee Designs with us today. We've been a bit obsessed with her since we came across her Midwest is Best t-shirt in Wolfbait & B-girls. We were so so happy when she agreed to do an interview with us as we find her very inspiring and we hope you do too!!!!

Check out her amazing designs here: http://www.meganleedesigns.com




   1.   TELL ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I am a trained graphic designer - I went to Kent State University and got a BFA in Visual Communication Design and minor in Art History. The Kent design program is really amazing and very challenging. Academics have always come pretty naturally to me, and this was one of the first times in my life when I had to work REALLY hard to make sure I could even stay in the program. It taught me so much about typography, illustration, and things like negative space that are still invaluable to me as a designer. As much as I loved illustration, for some reason I never thought that was my path while in college, and focused on getting a job at a design firm where I could do annual reports, brochures, and the like. Its funny, because this work always seemed like work to me, while illustration was always fun. I think that since it was going to be a job I thought it had to feel like work. Thankfully I have grown in my ideas of what working "should" be since then! 

   2. HOW DID MEGAN LEE DESIGNS GET STARTED? WHAT GAVE
YOU THE IDEA TO START CREATING YOUR OWN DESIGNS?
I had just moved to Chicago with my boyfriend right before 9/11 happened. I was working at a design firm and really liked it at first, but as it became more corporate, I started looking for other creative outlets. I was constantly making things, whether in the kitchen or for my apartment, and then my parents bought me a sewing machine for my birthday. I began making sockdogs and I thought they were so cute that I just kept making them 'til I had a giant basket sitting in my living room. People would come over and ask me what I was going to do with them. Some suggested selling them. I thought that sounded cool but had no idea how I would go about it. I also started making little purses and reconstructed clothing with appliqués and stenciling. About this time I heard about a craft marketplace that was called Depart-ment and decided this would be a great place to try selling my sockdogs, etc. I created a logo for Megan Lee Designs (which is still my logo today) and began creating tags, business cards, and began building my brand.

When Depart-ment went well I decided to put more energy into Megan Lee Designs and try and see how far I could take it, while still holding down my 9-5. In 2005 I took my first screen printing class and fell in love. I began to see how I could use my expertise as a designer and my desire to make handmade goods an even better pairing. Believe me, I loved making sockdogs, I just didn't see how I would ever be able to make a living making each one completely by hand. I began experimenting with drawing my own designs and also using some clip art that I found. I was also doing craft shows such as the Renegade Craft Show in Chicago, Art vs. Craft in Milwaukee, and continued with Depart-ment. Also, thanks to my background as a designer, I was able to create my own website and began selling my wares online.




In September 2007, I got married and that whole year I was pretty obsessed with planning and making everything for the wedding, so MLD took a bit of a back seat. But, when I got back from my honeymoon, my future became more of a reality and I started to realize that the corporate world was not for me. I needed to figure out how I could work for myself full-time and began formulating a plan. In August 2008, I quit my job (right in the midst of the recession) and became self-employed, trying not to panic. I really loved getting to make my own schedule every day and as long as I made lists it helped me stay motivated, not to mention knowing I no longer had steady paychecks coming in. I read books, made sure all my business licenses were filed, took more classes and kept creating. Owning your own business is really fun, but it is a LOT of work and is definitely not for everyone. You have to really love your products and be super self-motivated. I have always wanted to succeed and when my own name is on the logo, it only made me want to work even harder.

I feel like I might have kind of strayed on that question… :)



   3. HERE AT MIDWEST GIRLS SOCIETY, WE LOVE YOUR
MIDWEST IS BEST T-SHIRTS. WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR
YOUR ‘MIDWEST IS BEST T-SHIRTS’ COME FROM?
It was honestly a little doodle that I did, about 1"x1" in a whole page of drawings, and when I scanned it into the computer I really liked it. I decided to put it on a screen, along with making it into a button and magnet, and began printing it on totebags. At the first show I only sold it on totes and people began requesting it on t-shirts. I was hesitant to start printing t-shirts because of how many sizes I would have to stock and how much it would cost to buy the raw inventory. Man, am I ever glad that I decided to start trying it! I think I only printed it on a lighter gray unisex t-shirt at first, and then when I went to the American Apparel store in Wicker Park to see what kind of shirts they had I really liked the tri-blend fabric. I began printing the shirts that I still sell today, the red and blue hearts on the Athletic Gray tri-blend, and the rest is history.

   4. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR
DESIGNS? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CAFÉ, BOOKSHOP,
WEBSITE, ETC?
I think I am more inspired by the people and things that I love than anything else. I really love animals and going to the zoo, and my own pet and friends' pets. That has definitely inspired some of my designs. I also have always loved organic designs, nothing too symmetrical, and I really love pattern. I also really love to travel and take photographs of anything that I think might inspire a future design. I have also always liked puns and clever sayings, and that has really inspired a lot of my state designs.


   5. FOR SOMEONE VISITING CHICAGO, WHAT ARE YOUR MUST
VISIT PLACES?
Wow, having lived here over 12 years, that is a hard question. I really like Millennium Park and the Bean in the summer. Walking through the gardens is really relaxing and beautiful. For rock shows, the Empty Bottle is an awesome, small venue. I am obsessed with Mexican food and one of my favorite spots is Mixteco Grill (BYOB) on the North side - try the molé, its amazing! Small Bar in Wicker Park is a great place to sit on the patio for a drink in the summer and people watch. Some of my favorite local boutiques are Squasht by Les on Chicago Ave., Wolfbait & B-girls in Logan Square, and Hazel Apparel on Montrose (all which happen to carry Megan Lee Designs as well :). That's just a drop in the bucket, there are so many amazing places in Chicago — I love it!


   6. WHAT IS PLAYING ON YOUR IPOD RIGHT NOW?
Well it’s kind of embarrassing, seeing as I hardly ever update it. Probably like twice a year if I am lucky! But here is a glimpse: Muse, Lady Gaga, Neko Case, She & Him, GLEE, Robyn, The Black Keys, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and always a little Christmas music that we are always having to skip while printing.

   7. IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ANYONE IN THE WORLD, WHO WOULD THIS BE? WHY?
I have honestly never really thought about this, but I do really love Target and its ability to be both fashion-forward and extremely accessible.
Seeing my items on the shelves there would be pretty sweet!


   8. WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE SOMEONE HAS GIVEN YOU?
Basically don't put all your eggs in one basket - keep trying different things until something really works and don't stop there. Owning your own business is all about finding many different ways and places to market your products so that if something stops working you aren't sunk.


   9. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO US MIDWEST GIRLS?
Do what you love! Don't settle for a job you hate or even just tolerate, because you spend so much of your life doing it. Don't worry what others think and be as unique as you want - its amazing how many people are drawn to the things about me that society might not agree with.  For instance, I will never have a weight requirement for my models - I want everyone to be comfortable in my clothing and to see photos that they can relate to. Use the resources around you, whether its friends or other local businesses for advice and at the end of the day, listen to yourself.



     10. ANY EXCITING NEWS OR PLANS FOR 2014 YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

   Well, our partnership with Nordstrom is continuing which is super thrilling. Our new products will be debuting in stores and online in June, including state designs for all 50 states. We are also hoping to exhibit at Lollapalooza for the first time, along with lots of our favorite craft shows including Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, the One of a Kind Show, and the Bucktown Arts Fest.










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