FF: Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, and the landscape and environment of your early years.
Jill Anderson: Okay, I grew up on a little farm out in the middle of North Dakota. And basically it was pretty barren. It was like Little House on the Prairie -- not too far removed. You know, the nearest neighbor was a couple of miles -- mile and a half up the road. You learned how to be kind of self entertaining. There was one basic radio station that we received well, and it was a country western one.
I remember not going into town that often. There was a town ten miles away where you could get basics like milk and eggs and such. But then to go to the bigger town, was about thirty-five, forty miles. And in those days people just didnt travel like that, those distances. I dont know why. Just like the world has become smaller or something, you know?
And so every two weeks wed go in for groceries and a little bit of shopping and stock up on the canned everything. Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup staple. And the Velveeta cheese and all of that stuff. There were of couple of places where you could buy clothing. Probably just one that was for my age at that time.
FF: Was sewing part of being self-sufficient? Did your mother sew, and the other female members of your family?
Jill Anderson: My mom sewed a lot. She always made all our clothes when we were younger, preschool. And then I started sewing in high school. I had been sewing little projects all along, but then in high school I really got into sewing, because I could make things that I wanted to wear. I think I got Seventeen magazine. Because I remember cutting out pictures and making notebooks full of pictures of, you know, shoes that I liked and looks that I liked.
FF: And so what would you say was your aesthetic visual input in those days? What really drew your eye? Was it something on television? Was it in the movies? Was it in books? Was it the world around you? What were you gravitating towards when you started designing and making your own clothes in high school?
Jill Anderson: I think it was partially what I saw
on television and in the magazines. I remember Julia, that show -- that I thought
was a really great mod show, you know. And I liked that one. But the other thing that I
think that I got was just the sense of working with the cloths that were available to me.
And so like for instance I would get certain scraps from my Mom. So that was what I had to make an outfit for my Barbie dolls, say. So I would try to visualize what I could make out of that.
When I was making clothing for myself in high school, I remember you could get only certain types of fabric. So I would try to push that fabric in my mind, to kind of let the fabric tell me what to do with it. Im sure that it had you know some basis in what was going on in fashion at the time, but I wasnt that exposed to it. For me it was more interesting in just being limited to the fabric, and then trying to take those limitations and make it pretty in my eye.
Jill Anderson: Its interesting because I guess Ive never thought about this aspect of it, but now Im the same way. Fabrics are the very, very most important inspiration to me. So I start with the fabrics and Im always checking my visualization, my mental visual in what I want them to do, what I want them to look like, you know. And then I really, really prefer to sew the samples myself because that also develops the fabric for me.
FF: Yes, yes. So its really hands on.
Jill Anderson: Uh huh. Uh huh. I do the pattern too, the first patterns, too, and thats part of that same thing.
FF: And after high school where did you go from there?
Jill Anderson: I went to North Dakota State
University, and then I went to FIT here. North Dakota State University had at that time on
its books a fashion design degree.
Nobody had ever taken it before, and nobody you know had ever even asked about it. And so thats what I decided I wanted, and there were actually two other girls and I who decided we wanted to see the fashion design program. So we actually had to -- we made the faculty hire a person for us, and it was quite a battle. But the degree itself, because it was in the Home Ec college, we got heavily into textiles and construction and things like that. So they were a textile lab a testing lab. They had all the equipment there and everything. So big textile mills would be sending fabric to them all the time to have things tested. We learned a lot about fabric.
And then you have these older home ec teachers who are sewers, you know. And they just -- they will just beat sewing into you if you cant get it right. You know? And then of course theres no fashion design teachers out there. So they hired an art person. She was an art major. And so she just made up her own curriculum, and basically what we did was we learned different things that are done with textiles and we would make garments out of them.
FF: So then how did you make the decision to make the big leap to come to New York?
Jill Anderson: Well, in the third year of North Dakota, they had a field trip that went to New York. And its so funny because this field trip, they actually are still doing this. And the same teacher who brought me out, he was an old teacher at that time, brought these students out, seventeen years later; the same teacher. I was astounded.
FF: Did he bring them over to see you?
Jill Anderson: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
FF: Thats great.
Jill Anderson: But anyway -- I was on this field trip and I just went ah, this is where I want to live.
And to be honest the big move for me was from the farm to North Dakota State. That was the big move, because that was total isolation. North Dakota State was in Fargo, and that was a bigger town, you know. So I came out here and the energy just got me. And so I wanted to get out here, and it seemed to me like going to FIT would be a good way to make that leap.
So I applied for the Associates program. And used
that as my stepping stone.
While I was going to FIT, I worked as a girl Friday in a showroom. And the buyers would come in and Id just go, "Ah, youre the buyer from The Limited? Oh my goodness, what is it like? How did you get your job?" And the buyer from Casual Corner. So these buyers, I guess, thought that was pretty cool that I was asking so many questions and stuff and that I was interested in them.
And so I got a job with Casual Corner when I got out. Actually Casual Corner had interviewed me extensively and they said, "Oh, you dont have enough experience yet. So I did the buyers training program at Abraham & Strauss (in Brooklyn Gina.). Which at that time was a very good training program to go through.
And then, a year later, I said, you know, I have a years experience, will you hire me now? And they did at Casual Corner. So I was a buyer for them, because I really was scared that I could ever be a designer. And now looking back on it, Im really glad that I had those kind of experiences. You know because it ...
FF: You need to be a business person.
Jill Anderson: Oh yeah, definitely. And then
through Casual Corner I got into the market -- I worked for a couple of the wholesalers --
lines that I knew, and started designing that way.
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