Recently I met a young lady who’s future in the fashion industry looks as bright as the lights in her adopted city, New York. Most girls would offer to scrub toilets for free if it meant working alongside style icons Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, but Melbourne girl Eileen Chu not only has a paid job with the Olsen’s iconic label The Row, she has the incredible role of Production Pattern Maker.
At just 23 years of age Eileen Chu has an enviable resume under her belt with roles as assistant handbag designer for Australia’s Mimco, internships at Yeojin Bae and Marc Jacobs and now of course almost two years as patternmaker at The Row. This girl is going places fast!
I sat down with Eileen on her recent trip home to Melbourne to hear all about life in the big city and of course probe her for gossip on Mary Kate and Ashley, who she tells me are “Down to earth and lovely, they’re not afraid to put their opinions forward and have an open door policy for all staff.” So basically she has access to two of the fashion world’s most influential women any time she wants, no biggie!
Would you say the fashion industry is the way you would expect from watching Hollywood movies? Cut throat and exhausting?
Fashion that I’ve experienced is definitely not like the Devil Wears Prada, although I have heard horror stories from friends working in PR and Marketing. I’m lucky enough to have great co-workers who are down to earth, live in Brooklyn, bike to work, there’s no pressure to have to walk in to work looking immaculate.
It’s definitely a lot of work, but I love my job so much that long hours and late nights don’t phase me. Not saying that my job is my life and that I work late nights every night but when it’s needed I don’t mind at all.
In saying that, there’s so much competition out there, with new fashion graduates each year trying to find a job. You just have to be focused, work hard, and show them how passionate you are about what you do.
You explained your role as pattern maker at The Row as a bit like a ‘clothing engineer’, what does the average day at work entail?
As a patternmaker I assist in the way clothes are sewn together, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, everything needs to match on paper in order for the clothes to be sewn correctly.
An average day of work would be working closely with our tech designers to prioritize pattern corrections based on fabric delivery, have a fitting with our production fit model to execute design and fit into production, then from there work on the pattern based on these corrections to ensure each style and garment maintains our high quality standards in stores.
When did your love of fashion begin? Was there something or someone that inspired you?
I’ve always loved art and being creative. When I was younger I would get hand me downs from my sisters who are nine and thirteen years older than me, so it was fun to experiment and dress up with their fashionable clothes that were a decade ahead of me.
Also one turning point was in year seven on casual clothes day, I would usually be at home the night before rummaging through my closet of hand me downs and altering them, ripping holes and using safety pins to make things look cool and glue on embellishments.
Prior to moving to New York to Intern at The Row and Marc Jacobs you interned with Yeojin Bae here in Australia. The experience obviously had a great impact on your career as you still speak very highly of Yeojin.
I started interning with Yeojin in my 2nd year of University and ever since then we’ve kept in touch. She’s been such a great support and has always been great at giving me advice about the next step in my career.
I was feeling very frustrated in my 2nd year of Uni and just wanted to get out there and work in the industry rather than study. When Yeojin was 19 she also moved over to New York to intern at Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui, so that inspired me to aim for the same thing. She helped look over my cover letter and resume and advised me in the steps needed to getting an internship in New York and I was lucky enough to score an internship at Marc Jacobs.
When I moved back to Melbourne after my year in New York, Yeojin got me in touch with a recruitment agent and that’s how I got the job at Mimco. I’m so thankful to have met her, she is literally my mentor guiding me in the right direction. She’s also such a lovely, talented, successful businesswoman who I admire so much.
You’ve been living in New York over two years now, so let me in on some local secrets. New Yorks finest,
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe – SOHO
East River State Park, Williamsburg BK
Tender Trap – Williamsburg BK
Taste of home:
Tuck Shop – They sell good ole home made meat pies and sausage rolls
Long Beach NY for some sun, sand and a surf or Dia Beacon Gallery – Upstate NY
High Tea at Bergdorf Goodman