Alumni Spotlight

 Michelle Christina Larsen

Michelle Christina Larsen

Class Of 2009

Why FIT? When I was gearing up to graduate from community college in the Hudson Valley, I only applied to FIT. My then-professors and parents were alarmed. They told me I needed to apply to a few more schools as a backup plan. I knew the Fashion Design program only accepted 20-30% of all applicants, but I’d made up my mind. I was going to FIT. The day I got my acceptance letter was a day I’ll never forget.

Major? Fashion Design with a specialization in tailoring (AAS) & sportswear (BFA).

LIfe after FIT? After FIT I pulled a similar stunt to my application method and applied for a single internship at a then blossoming Refinery29. Under the creative guidance of the incredible Christene Barberich and Connie Wang, a whole new world opened up to me: digital content writing.

A few months after graduation I was interviewing celebrities at New York Fashion Week, reviewing runway shows, attending swanky boutique openings and editing until my fingers hurt. I fell in love. I went from intern to contributor and then to hired copywriter at R29 before launching my writing career.

I loved the fact that writing allowed me to be largely location independent. As long as I had my laptop and a cup of coffee, I could create awesome content for my clients. Since then I’ve worked for Victoria’s Secret, Intermix, J.Crew, John Varvatos, and many other brands.

I also launched a few small scale clothing lines, worked as an agency wardrobe stylist, created a style/DIY blog that attracted the attention of Bloomingdale’s, Patricia Field, and countless other brands, and so much more. I used all of the creative improvisation skills I acquired at FIT to turn life into a whirlwind of pure imagination and unique style. Looking back, it was basically a dream come true. 

What experiences led you to who you are today? My biggest influence has always been my parents. They always emphasized the importance of creativity and dream chasing from a young age. They were supportive of ALL of my endeavors, both successful and not-so-successful. To this day, their belief in me pushes me to become a better version of myself.

I was also shaped by the experience of leaving school. I experienced something similar to what many grads feel once they jump from the nest and attempt to fly: the real world is completely different.

I like to think I rose to the challenge of fending for myself and pursuing dreams right out of the gate. At any given time, I had multiple jobs and projects running parallel so I could both pay the rent and satisfy my insatiable need for creating. Many people don’t know this about me, but I spent about six years working as the music booking agent for an Eastern European nightclub while I was building my writing career.

I learned quickly that if you want to work toward your dream on a day-to-day basis, you have to figure out how to alleviate the stress of being broke. Sometimes, that means impromptu jobs and temporary detours! 

Daily routine? These days I wake up and do some stretches before a strong cup of coffee and a sit-down with Google Calendar. My schedule varies because I’m a location independent freelancer. For that reason, sometimes I wake up in NYC, and sometimes in tropical paradise!

Once I have my to-do list for the day, I’ll grind out as much of the core work as I can before noon. Paid clients come first, and then I dedicate my day to my own projects—a freelance writers’ website called Day Job Optional and the relaunch of my personal blog, Hey Mishka. I also dedicate a chunk of my day to online business training and learning new things.

I love going to the grocery store midday when everyone else is in the office, and taking my time to pick out ingredients for the week. In the evenings, I usually meet friends for cocktails or host them at my apartment. I’m a total night owl, so it’s not uncommon for me to sit back down and finish up some more writing before I go to sleep.

Any memorable event or professor you’d like to share about FIT? There was never a dull moment, but if I had to pick something, I’d say Fusion Fashion Show—a production I both competed in and helped direct for several years, even after graduation. Having Alexander Wang as my senior critic and receiving his compliments on a pair of harem pants I designed is up there on the list as well. And I can’t NOT mention the countless nights I draped and sewed until sunrise with my classmates, who became my best friends. 

As for professors, Kenneth King was my favorite. I took all of his couture embellishment courses and couldn't get enough. He was a brilliant mentor and great company—full of hysterical stories. He really went above and beyond for us all, lending his own apartment for our after school model casting and teaching me how to make a military lapel out of scraps for a side project. He seemed genuinely interested in our creativity and success beyond the classroom.

If you could translate your style into a person, place or thing what would it be? My style has evolved a lot pretty recently—I’m officially out of my 20s and my mish-mosh thrift store boho style of days past is right where it should be: in the past. I love huge, sweeping tropical prints and easy natural fiber dresses… so I guess if my style was a place it would be Costa Rica!

What do you find that sparks creativity? Travel! A huge priority for me since graduation has been traveling to collect inspiration and expand my view of the world. My favorite places to get inspired (besides New York, of course) are Miami, Montreal, Arequipa, Tulum, Bogota and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

I’ve been able to see more of the world in the past few years than I ever did when I was in school. Sometimes I wonder what I might have created back then if I’d spent spring break traveling like some of my classmates!

What three things you can’t live without? I hate to sound cliché, but… coffee, my laptop and my go-to LBD.

Future projects you are working on? I’m building out a location independent online writing course through Day Job Optional, which I’m really excited about. I feel like I’ve been relatively successful in my career so far, but I also have an endless list of things NOT to do, which I can use to help other women succeed more efficiently!

I’ll also be creating fresh new content over at Hey Mishka, showcasing my favorite things to do in NYC and giving people a little taste of my crazy, creative life.

Finally, the thing I’m most excited about! I’m launching my own NYC-made clothing line in 2017-2018. There are not enough concrete details to share yet, but if you jump on my mailing list for Hey Mishka, you’ll be the first to know when it debuts!

Advice to spring graduates? Feel the fear and do it anyway! I wish someone had told me this, but it may be something you have to learn. It’s not a bad thing to try something and fail. Do as many projects as you can. Work for a lot of amazing, scary people. Take notes. Do experiments. Get your hands dirty. Publish or showcase your work. Don’t wait until you think you’re ready. You have your whole life ahead of you to make bigger, better things. You have to start somewhere. Talk to people, ask questions, find mentors who know more than you. Always help others and be kind. Live life to the brim and be authentic. This is how opportunity finds you. I’m a firm believer in this: if you broadcast to the universe that you’re going full speed ahead and infusing your daily life with passion, incredible things will start to unfold in your favor. Don’t stop. You’ve got this.

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