401 Longwood Court, Unit C
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
The range of group classes, private lessons, video tutorials, and online articles that is Fair Fit Studio was born in Andrea Eastin’s midcity home four years ago, but Eastin herself has been part of the handmade fashion world for much longer. After achieving a bachelor’s degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of Iowa and attending workshops in dye and surface design at the Penland School of Craft, Eastin attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a Master of Fiber and Material Studies degree. There, she also taught a beginner-to-advanced curriculum of four classes in sewing, with an emphasis on clothing construction and fashion. She set up a fashion line in New Orleans until the disaster of Hurricane Katrina forced her and so many others out of the city, but later moved back to complete what felt like unfinished business. “I came back to New Orleans and I got really involved with the fashion scene there that was growing because of the post-Katrina influx of new people and new initiatives,” Eastin said.
Though fashion and clothing design remained (and continue to be) one of Eastin’s passions, it was difficult to meet the production demands of clothing stores that were interested in carrying her lines. “I knew I was in a model that I did not have the resources or the capacity to make successful from where I was,” she said. “I had to just totally start over. Sometimes being able to totally start over can bring something really amazing into your life, because you’re not repeating something you know how to do.” A marriage (to local hairdresser and creative director Paul Eastin), a move to Baton Rouge, and a “stop-doing” year to give herself a chance to recharge were just what was needed to let the idea of Fair Fit Studios percolate. The move especially helped to shape the business: Where New Orleans is known for its grandiose celebrations and regular festivals, all of which require a different custom-made costume or gown and each of which places severe constraints on the natural ebb and flow of clientele, Eastin found that “here people are really looking for ways that they can grow their children’s interests. With the private lessons for teenagers and children that I do, that’s often parents that know their child loves fashion, or wants to know how to sew, and they don’t have anybody that can teach them. And so the parents really try to figure out how this can be their kid’s thing.” Private lessons may be anything from a young child designing and sewing her own Christmas dress with Eastin’s careful supervision, to a teenager building a portfolio to apply to advanced courses of study with the benefit of Eastin’s vast technical skill.
The name “Fair Fit” comes from Eastin’s academic background and personal philosophy towards fashion and clothing design – it was originally the title of her thesis at the Art Institute. In this case, “fair” means both “adequate” and “just,” and plays off rising concerns about where clothing is made and how it is paid for. “It was a form of grading, meaning sizing, that I created so that it had some play – could be customized. I named it off of my clothing line because I think it’s more fair to teach a person the skills … it’s more fair if you have the autonomy to be able to make it yourself and to make your own decisions, it’s more democratic that way, than having to find somebody to do it for you, or having to rely on what already exists to make the choice for you. It’s not fair that we don’t have these skills anymore,” she said. The Fair Fit dress and pattern will soon be available online, and Eastin will teach classes on her sizing system.
Many of the emails Fair Fit Studios receives are centered around the problem of fit and how rarely something off-the-rack is a perfect match, either physically or aesthetically. “The hard thing is, you have a unique perspective, and they’re not trying to appeal to that. So then you can either do it yourself, or you can pay someone to do it for you, which, I don’t know if you really want to go down that route,” Eastin laughed. “There’s no way to make a dress that makes everybody happy. But there’s a reason why they don’t fit right: because it costs too much money for them to fit right.” Even professional sewers struggle with learning how to design and construct clothing in a way that excites their client base, and as Eastin said, that’s because “if I go about making the way you want it for your body, you’re still going to be unhappy, because it’s not your perspective, it’s still my perspective. So if you just teach people the skill, that’s the closest to fair in fashion that I have gotten.”
Even creatively focused small businesses need growth, and to accomplish this, Fair Fit recently began offering online classes in beginners sewing and basic patterns. Eastin also dedicates more time to the blog, writing a combination of articles on everything from upcoming in-person classes to the how-tos of pattern piecing to philosophy of design. “I like to feel like I’m enterprising, just always thinking of how can we offer more. But I’m still one person,” she said. Eastin is thus committed to steady, reliable growth of 17% per quarter (a number derived based on the advice of a business coach). “It’s more about what’s that one next achievable step that’s towards growth,” she said, than about doubling profit or output as quickly as possible – sustainability in the long term over more dramatic results more quickly. “Same as with sewing, creating a business is not really that different from creating an art project. It has a circuitry. It has a series of steps. It has a way that it reaches other people, and there is an exchange. You shouldn’t go, ‘oh! But the money isn’t important to me.’ Of course it is, right? But you just make sure you’re not trying to put expectations on it that are the same as what a marketing business would grow, or a tire business.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, the library can be an invaluable resource – Eastin has used everything from online audiobooks to listen to while she works on sewing projects, to spaces outside of her home that make it easier to concentrate on business writing, to advertising upcoming classes, to classic sewing instruction books for deeper research. “I really believe that a lot of the great references are there. A lot of people believe that you should really learn sewing on YouTube these days, but there’s such good information in the classics. Those books from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are amazing. That’s how I learned,” she said. (The fashion conscious can also use online resources like Women’s Wear Daily and the Vogue Archives to check out styles of the day as far back as the 1800s.)
Join the Fair Fit Studios emailing list to learn about upcoming classes, both in-house and online, and for more information about every aspect of fashion design. You can also follow Fair Fit’s Facebook page.