Erica is 25 years old and works in fashion (design management/product development). Erica loves food, puppies, travel, art, design, and especially fashion. She doesn't let the fact that she's been diagnosed with rare and chronic pain, including chronic myofascial pain syndrome, Hypermobility type Ehlers Danlos syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Disorder and hypothyroidism get in her way.
AXIS: What is biggest misconception when it comes to your illnesses?
ERICA: This is a toughie! Generally, it's hard to have a misconception about it when 90% of people have no clue what it is, especially when you continue to explain your diagnoses further, like mast cell activation disorder. That one is almost ridiculous on a comical level to explain to just any random person. I just read an article in Elle that 1 in 150,000 have it. Crazy. Anyway, for the 10% who are clued in, I think when it comes to EDS, most people know it's a genetic connective tissue/collagen disorder on the surface, but what most don't realize is that it affects 11 different systems in your body. You think of connective tissue, most people just initially think "Oh, her skin is stretchy and maybe her joints." No. Some of the systems it affects are circulatory, endocrine/immune, lymphatic, reproductive, digestive, etc. You get the point. You end up having all these really obscure medical issues that no one really thinks about. If something strange happens and I call my doctor and he's always like, "Yep, probably another EDS thing!". It's important to remember, everything is stretchy, even down the veins.
What is your favorite thing about your work in fashion and product design?
My favorite thing about fashion and product design...ugh so many things! It's one of those things where I still get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it! I love the energy of being around creatives and the creative process, working with color and textiles and working with the vendors internationally everyday. I've always thought my brain was perfectly right and left brained, so I appreciate design and creativity as much I as like business, productivity and order. I've always felt that product development had given me a perfect combination of the two. The most exciting part is seeing your final product come in, especially when, after all the handwork and craziness, it comes to market week and you get to see everything you've made come together and hear what the buyers like and don't like, many of times now, are my friends coming! My last job was actually for a major designer in the Home department (which is an equal love of mine). I have always joked that I am a designer wannabe. I am obsessed with the design of anything. I could walk into nearly any store at any time and be there for hours just looking at the design, packaging, everything! I am also a total art history nerd. I love when art ties in with fashion, or anything for that matter.
You are so stylish. What is your most practical fashion tip?
Ha, thank you!! My wardrobe over time has become completely utilitarian, almost to the point that I would say, I barely even own any color anymore (aside from the occasional oxblood, hunter green, blush, etc). Most of my entire wardrobe is black, white, shades of beige/camel and shades of gray.This is just something that has happened over time. It saves me a lot of money. For example, if I went out and bought a hot pink dress today for a party next weekend! I may wear it once, have to get all new things to go with it (since I don't have anything with color) and that will probably be the only time I will ever wear it. In a world filled with Instagram and Facebook, more people remember and have immortalized that pink dress on the internet forever until it becomes obsolete, especially by next year. There are only so many times you can wear a hot pink dress before you become "the girl wearing that pink dress". I also feel that when you are someone with a big personality, you don't necessarily need bright, crazy pieces to match. Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, I just love black. I want people to notice my clothes are nice and that I know what I'm doing but be able to showcase my personality and who I am, so I am not hiding behind my clothes. I don't want my clothes to overshadow me. My aesthetic is pretty minimal, but I do enjoy juxtaposing different ideas (i.e.. girly with edgy/androgynous, classic with modern, different silhouettes combined, etc.). Now that I have a slew of medical diagnoses, comfort plays a big part when I choose things now--not to the point where I'm like "Oh, crocs are comfortable, I need a pair now!"--more like "I can't wear these 6 inch stiletto heels anymore, so I will compromise with myself and go with a Isabel Marant like suede black wedge bootie instead." (These are the actual thoughts that go through my mind.)