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inspiration

Bright Lights, Big City, Bold Ambition

Assistant Designer for Ralph Lauren, Jordan Weymouth Richards

I’ve heard it said that if you can find something that you love to do, and find someone who is crazy enough to pay you to do it each and every day, then you will never work a day in your life. The implication is that work is a state of mind, and this week’s Monday Maine Maven Jordan Weymouth Richards lives in a New York state of mind.

Since leaving her hometown in Maine seven years ago, Richards has been pursuing her passion for fashion, and is currently working as an assistant designer for Ralph Lauren in New York City. Ironically, the path to Manhattan began when she was only seven years old and received a plastic Singer toy sewing machine. She says, “Of course, I was thrilled and went right to work with the intention of putting miles on that baby!” When it broke, her parents quickly realized that upgrading to a real machine was a necessity.

Jordan immediately put in hours creating dolls, clothes for all of her dolls, Halloween costumes and eventually reconstructing and redesigning her old clothes into custom creations. Without even realizing what was happening, she began crafting her future career. As she got older, she considered engineering because it would allow her to translate her childhood vision into a lasting career through the use of creativity and the logic of math and science.

Richards, with a handbag she designed for Lucky Brand.

However, her initial love for fashion and creation kept pulling her in a different direction. Jordan says, “I went to a Catholic elementary school, which meant uniforms and not much opportunity to express myself through my clothing. When I got to high school styling my daily outfits was exciting and fun! It was like playing with a fresh canvas each day and that truly appealed to my creative side.” The fusion of engineering a product with her passion and curiosity for fashion made fashion design the only option.

Four years of sleepless nights, one semester in London, an internship with Kevin Christiana, a bag design picked up by Lucky Brand Jeans, a feature on CBS New York, and an outstanding thesis presentation resulted in Jordan landing an interview and job offer from Ralph Lauren before she even graduated. She loves what she does and credits Ralph for refining her style saying, “My attention to details—the trim, buttons and the fabrication—has sharpened. I used to look at design in a broader sense of shapes and silhouettes, but the little things can truly make a garment special.”

A wedding dress Jordan designed for her cousin Kasie.

When she isn’t working at Ralph Lauren, Jordan can be found in her Brooklyn apartment booking work of her own. Her work has been featured in two fashion shows, one in New York at Webster Hall in 2010 and one in Maine for Maine’s Fashion Night Out in 2010. Richards has always worn her own couture apparel since she was in high school, but recently, she has been building a clientele that keeps her busy. She designed her cousin’s wedding gown in 2011 and is currently working on a 3-in-1 wedding dress for a New York City client.

Where does this designer find her inspiration? Richards says that she definitely looks at social media sites such as Pinterest, Etsy, and a number of blogs and Tumblr accounts to see what’s out there. She says, “I want to be original and that means I have to know what’s out there. You never know where you will find inspiration. You might see a sleeve on a Tumblr post that sparks the idea for an entire dress.” She adds that access to so many images helps designers understand construction and inspires creativity beyond what can be learned from a textbook.

Jordan credits her Maine roots to the other sources in which she finds inspiration—architecture and nature—saying, “I grew up surrounded by acres of woods and there is so much beauty in the striation of a broken rock, or in the texture of bark on a tree. These little details help me come up with color stories, silhouettes, seaming, fabrication and more.”

Jordan and her brother, Griffin, on a recent family visit in NYC.

While Richards loves New York City, she also loves to get away from the faster-paced life and relax with her family and enjoy the peace that is Maine. She finds it funny that even after almost a decade in the city, she still occasionally gets asked “you’re not from around here are you?” because she takes pride in the fact there will always be a bit of Maine left in the now-New York girl.

The vibe and energy that the city feeds Jordan is the same energy that she hopes to translate into her work. Richards says, “I am dedicated to becoming a designer of not just clothing, but of lifestyles. The impact fashion has on our society and the world we live in is fascinating, and I want to be a part of that.”

Richards will be launching an Etsy shop in the summer of 2013, where she will be selling couture accessories and pieces. For more information or to reach out to Jordan, you can add her on Facebook, check out her website www.jrichstyle.com/, or follow her on Pinterest pinterest.com/JRichStyle/.

Former Survivor Contestant Finds Inspiration Close to Home

Ashley Underwood at Survivor: Redemption Island Reunion show

Former professional basketball player, former Miss USA contestant, registered nurse, and third runner-up on Survivor: Redemption Island—these are just a few of the titles held by this week’s Monday Maine Maven, Ashley Underwood.

As a Cony High School and University of Maine graduate from Benton, Maine, Underwood says Maine will always be her home saying, “I’m a small-town girl.” The mix of her athleticism and lack of fear of getting her hands dirty helped her make her way through the Survivor experience, but it didn’t help with the aftereffect of increased interest from the public.

Across the country, people began to wonder: who is Ashley Underwood? And naturally, people looked her up on Facebook and Twitter. She quickly began to be thankful for various privacy options and the ability to switch location services off. Underwood sometimes feels the need to censor what she puts out there and says, “I will never post my minute-to-minute activities or exactly where I am. I think a lot of people treat social media sites as their diaries and that’s never really been me.”

Post-Survivor Ashley embraced an opportunity in New York City and began working at Leverage Agency, a full-service sports, entertainment and media marketing company. While in the city, she was also on the receiving end of celebrity sightings. She said she was surprised to be recognized especially in a city where there are millions of people who are accustomed to seeing celebrities on a daily basis. She says, “It’s a very bizarre feeling, but it is definitely flattering.”

Ashley in Nairobi while working with Flying Kites Global

Public attention is part of why Ashley prefers to keep her personal life as private as possible. She says, “I am very blessed to have amazing people in my life who have always been supportive.” She admits she’s not perfect and says, “It’s nice to have people that aren’t afraid to just be honest with me.” If you ask anyone who knows her they will tell you she is one of the nicest, most humble and genuine people they know and if you already follow her on Twitter or are friends with her on Facebook, you know that she finds inspiration in her faith.

Underwood has never been shy about her relationship with God and she credits her passion of giving to others to her belief in God. Ashley says that she believes in putting effort into loving others and making a difference; the things that truly matter.  She also credits her parents saying, “They brought me up to be a strong woman of faith and taught me to be true to what I believe in. They gave me a solid foundation to be the woman I am today.”

Last year she volunteered with Flying Kites Global, an organization based out of Africa that focuses on providing orphaned children of Nairobi with the care and resources necessary to build exceptional lives, families and communities. For Underwood it was an experience of a lifetime, which ultimately resulted in not only meeting with the children at the orphanage, but also a hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

After recently moving back to Maine, Ashley is currently working as a school nurse at Atwood Primary School in Oakland. To connect with Ashley you can follow her on Twitter @AshleyUSurvivor.