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[COOL JOB] Paperdoll Devotee Elaine Pedlar Goes From Layoff to Inspiration

Meet Elaine Pedlar, fashion designer by weekday, paper doll devotee by weekend. Pedlar took advantage of an unexpected layoff by combining her passion for drawing and fashion to open Dumbelle Dolls. Located in the heart of DUMBO Brooklyn, Dumbelle Dolls is home to three fashionista dolls Sunny, May and Katie—who Pedlar created in order to celebrate girlhood. Every weekend, girls of all ages stop in to color their favorite character and express their creativity, dreams and future aspirations. Through Dumbelle Dolls, Pedlar proves to young girls that fashion and style goes way beyond seasonal trends.

EBONY: What is it that you do for a living? Describe in full detail. What are your day-to-day tasks?

Elaine Pedlar: At Dumbelle I draw, and sew. I keep the shop and have coloring sessions. I put together birthday parties and encourage creativity.

I am a fashion designer.  Right now I am the design director for a handbag company and the owner and artist behind Dumbelle.  I do my design job Monday through Friday and open Dumbelle on the weekends.  As a designer, I create concepts for brands, research fashion trends, build color stories that will attract mass customers, sketch for inspiration and then create detailed technical sketches that will be sent to factories overseas to produce whatever product I have submitted for development.  Then I need to evaluate, and perfect it, and present it to the client or customer.  Fashion, like movies, is a collaborative business.  So you are constantly working with others to perfect the vision of the concept. The pace is relentless.  And the seasons are nonstop.  So it is high energy.

EBONY: Describe the absolute coolest part of your workday.

EP: As a designer, you travel the world.  I’ve gotten to go to the most inspiring places to gather inspiration.  And you get to draw.  I love to draw.  It is why I went into fashion. The best part of my day at Dumbelle is after a birthday party or coloring session. I feel so happy.  I feel like I am doing the right thing.

EBONY: Was this always what you wanted to do? Did you pursue this sort of work while in school? How did you become what you are today?

EP: We grew up in the projects in Queens.  I was always drawing as a kid.  My dad was a porter at JFK and an artist, who chose to have a family instead of going to art school. He drew and painted at home and encouraged us all to be creative.  My mom would crochet and often write and sew. My brothers and sisters were creative too. In addition to drawing, we were encouraged to sing, sew, write, dance, cook and play instruments. We used to fight over the perfect piece of white card stock in the panty hose package my mom would get.  It was perfect for drawing on.  I would draw girls in gorgeous outfits doing cool stuff. I knew that I wanted to be a woman that worked from a very young age. That’s as far as I could figure.  I never dreamed of what I would be doing.  I remember knowing I would fly on planes. The first time I ever got on a plane was to Hong Kong for work. When I was little I got a lot of unwanted attention for drawing. So I hid my drawings from everyone and would only draw in private. I managed to keep this up until my senior year in high school. Having to secure an art credit to graduate, I accidentally showed my course catalog to my loving art department head, Mrs.Darvin.  It was covered in drawings.  She encouraged me to drop all my typing and stenography classes and take art classes, the Art Regents and apply to Parsons.  My path was set when I was accepted.  I would be a fashion designer.

EBONY: Oprah once said that at her core, she is a teacher. What do you consider yourself to be at your core?

EP: I am an artist and a dreamer.

EBONY: What are some initial reactions when people find out what you do? What do they say? What are their expressions?

EP: “I like to shop. I can be a designer too! ” People always want to be a designer but don’t realize the hard work that goes into designing. It’s not just shopping or having runway shows or styling.  It’s having the ability to turn an idea into something that someone will wear and buy.  You need skill and creativity.  As for Dumbelle, People usually say, “You made these?!!!”

EBONY: Any advice to someone considered in going into your line of work?

EP: Nurture what you love to do.  Feed it with practice and education. Learn as much about it as possible and surround yourself with the best talent you can. And then make sure you show your work to people you trust. Make sure the world gets to see it, or hear it. The world is waiting for you.

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