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My Resolve! My Journey from Fashion Illustration into Full Design & Construction

So, finally I've come to this resolve...

I wanted to make sure I document this moment because it's been somewhat of a lifetime of a literal wrestle with God.

Let me explain.


WRESTLING {Back Story}

I have always had a background in fashion. Even from the moment of birth, I was thrust into my fate. My whole life my mother has always told me the story of how I got into modeling. Her nurse, after delivery suggested that she put me into modeling because she thought I was such a beautiful baby. So, after much thought she entered me into modeling at 9 months old.

In an effort to spare you the details of my story, I will fast forward my backstory by saying...

I did several modeling jobs for catalogs, a few commercials, & fashion shows. (My mother instinctively kept us in fashion, and not even on purpose, it was kind of just opportunities presenting themselves. But I now know it was truly God's hand guiding her as a steward).

After moving to GA my mother had 3 jobs to provide for us but got injured and could no longer work in what she was doing. During the injury she dusted off this old sewing machine that was once her mother's (to take her mind off of the pain) and both our lives changed! She made some placemats & a runner for our kitchen table... 1 person (a neighbor) came over and asked could my mother make a Halloween costume for her daughter, and voila! A business was started by mistake!

Check my mom out: Maria Harper @mariaharperdesigns

So at age 12, I started my apprenticeship learning how to sew, cut patterns, embellish garments, design, & more.

I hated having to do any of it, because it meant I had less time to socialize and have fun with all my friends.

Long story short...

Yes, trust me, this is still the short version!🤦🏽‍♀️

I was reluctant to the process, but she never made me stop, so I was STUCK! lol. BUT, I had gained all this knowledge, and although there are other paths I considered to take, I decided senior year of high school that design was IT for me.

Then a culture shift happened! What we did was a respected "craft". It was exclusive, it was rare, it was a precious jem, and hard to find. Being a dressmaker was elusive, it was special; it was a woman's dream to have her own dressmaker, but unattainable for the average woman. Most women shopped at stores to grab ready-to-wear garments off of the shelf. But consumerism happened, and people saw the value of "Merch". This consumerist shift made absolutely EVERYONE a "designer". People who never studied it, never touched it, never had to stay inside away from their friends to cut pattern piece after pattern piece until their fingers were sore and their hands were tired... UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! .... sorry, I'll take a breather here.

My answer is YEAH! 😂


This made me angry. It made me feel like I had done all this for nothing and I didn't care anymore. It let any and everyone in through the floodgates, and even our supermodels were booted out for non-industry faces. I hated fashion now, because after all my time spent, it betrayed me.

I still did it out of necessity of helping my single mom. But by-golly I was NOT going to enjoy it! Humph! *crosses arms*

So, I go on to get my degree in Marketing instead of Fashion (yes, I truly have my regrets, but my 30+ years of industry experience helps me sleep at night.😁. And don't judge my age of experience too closely, I started as a kid OK! lol)

During this time I also received a university certificate in Fashion Merchandising to keep the fashion urge under control while I pursued Marketing. What can I say... you can't REALLY fight with God!

Afterwards I go on to work in Marketing and some other positions of corporate, but of course this was tough for a creative.

So, I found myself back at fashion.



So fast forward to now.

I had convinced myself that I had given in, because I came back around to Fashion Design a few years ago. BUT NO!

I still had one foot in & one foot out.

"What do you mean Joy?" you ask. Well, I was only operating the parts of my gift that I enjoyed most. Business, Ecommerce, & Fashion Illustration.

I have been blessed to design for some amazing people and plenty of celebrity clients but, I barely wanted to touch my machine. See, I know how to sew, it's not that I couldn't ... it's that I wouldn't! I just didn't enjoy it... at all! lol

You see...

My mother & I had the perfect relationship in design.

I'd illustrate designs out and she'd make them as I'd be able to move on to my next illustration. It saved both of us time.

My mother is the opposite... she doesn't enjoy the business/ technology side of it, and she would rather just quickly draw out her designs and could care less about the "illustration art" of it all (just like many designers) because she has to sketch quickly & move on. Sewing & draping her designs out is her favorite part, and she is a MASTER at it!

Me, nah!

You see... growing up, if I had given my mother ANY indication of liking to sew or knowing I was really good at it (beyond assisting her on the machine with a straight stitch and serger) I would have NEVER had a social life! Sorry Mommy, you know it's true, lol.

My mom LOVES her work and because it still keeps her out of pain, she is all about it and it's hard to keep her from it {we should all be so lucky to do something we enjoy that much, am I right?💕}. So even though it wasn't my favorite part (and TRUST, I let it be known!), as a teenager/ young adult I still secretly dabbled in sewing small garments when she would be off on tour or on set killing it in the wardrobe departments of your favorite plays & movies. But, the only person who knew was my sister Jackie aka my supermodel!

[Thank God I never broke her machines, she would have killed me! And YES, they were INDUSTRIAL sewing machines.😁 Jesus was a fence 🙌🏼]

It was also very helpful that once I got married her previous assistant, Thomas, helped her to forget some of what she taught me. Because I was able to be a little more hands off the cutting & sewing.

THANK YOU THOMAS! You gave me a life!😭😭😭😭😭 I love you forever!💕

I know my Mom's face looks like this right now: 😒😑#notamused as she reads this. 🤣 Sorry mom.



After years of avoidance, I'm done fighting.

I'm done wrestling with God. I'm done telling myself...

ME: "Fashion doesn't favor black women."

GOD: "Favor favors who I want it to favor!"


ME: "The market is too oversaturated and nobody respects the craft of fashion design anymore, so what is the point in trying?"

GOD: "But YOU still respect the craft of it. That is the thing that will set you apart, and what I bless is blessed!"


ME: "I'm too impatient for the slow process of sewing, I'd rather illustrate & move on."

GOD: "Sewing will go as fast as you go!"


ME: "I'm not my mom and I'll never be as amazing as she is."

GOD: "That's right, you are not her, just be you and fill YOUR space in the industry, you've had the best teacher, now let go of your excuses and be all in. This is what she trained you for! To make a blessed life for yourself and pave YOUR way. Not in her lane, in your own."

I've realized that instead of fighting & leaving myself open to other career options {and oh how I craved a different career path sometimes) that I need to be ALL IN!

So, I have very recently since dusted off my machines and started to sew garments again. Of course, I've been sewing & SELF-manufacturing my own home goods, but I'm speaking on making garments again.

My mother's positive reaction to my new work has been truly rewarding, I must say. Her shock tickles me 🤭and her positive opinion is truly valued, not only mother to daughter, but designer to designer.💕

After years of working with my mom, starting my own business, & having raised my own kids to a wonderfully independent age (kind of... they're still my babies though, lol), finally today, after my prayer time, and after years of this severe wrestling, I give up 100%. God wins, because fashion literally won't let me go.

"Didn't you already say you were designing?" you'd say.

Yes, but, God revealed to me today that I'm operating in disobedience. Although I'm doing the work I'm still not all in FOR REAL.

To be all in is to show you what I've been up to the past few months... to let go of the last little bit of fashion rebellion that I was holding on to.

This is the last piece of the puzzle to me as an artist/ creative. As any artist knows... it's scary to put your work out into the world. After all, it's your baby! But, I have to "let go and let God" as the church ladies would tell me.


This is my way of solidifying the resolve that I've come to. My way of stepping all in, no holds barred.

If I share this bit of information with you, I am more apt to hold myself accountable to my word.

[And hopefully this will help someone else who is fighting against their life's calling. A reminder to evaluate... are YOU all in???]

So now you will officially get to see everything I do, from design to stitch as I post on social media in my attempt to go ALL IN on my art.

YOU: "Can You Make Me Something?"

ME: "Pump your brakes, give me a minute to oil up here." [insert reference to The Wiz]. "Let me make some designs and build up my business first. Here are some facts about my business..."

  • Ready-to Wear will be my main business. Which means soon you will be able to purchase your size on my online store. I will only do custom in the future for specialized clients, or once my fashion house grows. In the meantime, call my mom, she's doing custom designs as we speak. So no, I'm not currently taking orders... I'll let you know when I am. Right now, I just want the space to be creative.

  • Womenswear is my specialty! Nope, I'm not really sure I want to do Menswear. But God keeps surprising me so it's an absolute "No" for now, but who knows... God is in control!🤷🏽‍♀️

  • Fashion Design is my main gift, but not my only gift!😉 So, I will continue to do my home goods, my online thrift shop, and other projects coming up. I will be ALL IN on Fashion Design, but you will also see other amazing things from my brand. I'm using ALL my gifts! I pray God gives me the ability to "rob the grave of my work" and accomplish all the things He has given me to do!

  • Will you do Alterations? Nope, that's like asking an artist to fix another artist's work. I have no interest in that right now within my creative moment. It is better for a designer to alter their own work. Altering someone else's work (whether poorly constructed or not) has risks associated with it. It's much cheaper for you to have your local cleaners to do it for you. Plus, if anything goes wrong they are "supposed to" replace the cost for you.

  • Will I be able to get some designs for free? No. I'm sorry, I've "paid my dues" and studied this craft for years and years. My "free" days are soooo over! This is how I make a living, and as we all know, the cost of living is high! I will, however, offer a 10 to 15% friends & family discount to use on my shop website when it's ready.


I wrote this out for this purpose...

From now on I vow to live out my full purpose. To live full out without fear. To respect my craft and ALL it's parts. To be vulnerable enough to truly be an artist and not care about what anyone thinks or feels about my work, but to just do it because it was meant for me to do.

All in.

Let's go!


Joy 💕

P.S.- Thank you mom for making me do something that I didn't know would sustain me, something that I LOVE to do each & every day! The thing that wakes me with excitement, and the thing that I never want to go to bed for. Now I understand why you can't put it down, I can't either, it's truly a GIFT! Now I get to pass it down to my daughter. I Love You So So Much!



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