Name: Dillon Eisman
School: Malibu High School
Company: Sew Swag
Dillon Eisman, rising high school senior and California resident, uses his passion for fashion design and upcycling to make a difference in his community.
Hobby to Non-Profit
In need of a hobby to keep busy over summer break a few years ago, Dillon taught himself how to sew on his mom’s machine with the help of websites, such as YouTube and WikiHow.“I have always been interested in fashion design since I was young, always reading Vogue and trying to sew dresses for Barbies,” Dillon said.
Following the discovery of his newfound talent, Dillon toured the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which shelters homeless youth. While on the tour, he learned that the shelter needed work appropriate attire for teens attending job interviews.
“When I saw people my own age on the streets with nothing to wear, I realized I needed to take action,” he said.
Knowing many donated clothing items are outdated, Dillon devised the idea of transforming donated apparel into trendy, esteem-boosting fashions. He began his mission by transforming the clothing his mom planned to donate to the shelter into trendy, fashionable pieces.
“Ever since then, I realized that I could combine my newly found skill and passion for design with helping those in my own community,” he said. “Thus, Sew Swag was born.”
A Second Chance
Dillon gives clothing with life still left and incredible stories in their seems a second chance. The designer completes a process known as upcycling, which encompasses a combination of skills including cutting, dyeing, sewing and embellishing to align old fashions with present trends.
“Upcycling is like recycling, except with the goal of producing a product of higher value than its initial state,” he said.
Upcycling not only increases the physical value of the garments, but also uplifts the receiver's self-value, the goal of Sew Swag.
Dillon derives inspiration and follows design plans unique to each garment he creates.
“Since I deal with clothing that has been neglected, my process of upcycling always varies depending on what needs to be fixed, changed or added,” he said. “Sometimes I see a top and immediately think, ‘some trim around the cuffs and collar would really make this fabulous,’ or ‘if only this was a different color.’”
Sometimes he becomes inspired when shopping at the fabric store.
“For example, I'll see a box of appliqués and buy some of them without knowing what I'll put them on until I find something that they work with,” he said.
Dillon also finds inspiration in the work of his favorite fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.
“A lot of my out-of-the-box designing stems from my love of his extravagant looks,” he said.
Dillon's favorite upcycling transformation is a set of overalls turned mini skirt. The designer strategically cut the overalls into pieces; sewing them together to form a skirt. Then, he embellished the garment with patterned elastic straps and crystal buttons.
“I was so happy that I could take something that I literally couldn't imagine anyone wearing and made it into a fun garment,” he said.
The skirt was one of the first garments selected at his recent event in Venice, California.
“It made me feel so special when Iris, the homeless girl who received it, came up to my rack and said ‘this is so beautiful’ before she even knew all the work I put into it,” Dillon said with excitement.
As a self-taught sewer, Dillon faces obstacles involving learning new skills and using new tools to complete projects.
“One of the first pieces I've ever done was a flannel shirt to skirt transformation that I learned from an online DIY tutorial,” he said. “I didn't have French curves to cut the skirt along or a dress form to fit it. I managed to use a soup pot to fit the skirt around and a large bowl to cut along for curves.”
Dillon's quick thinking and creativity allows him to push through design barriers resulting amazing garments, which makes Sew Swag such a unique success.
As a high school student, Dillon faces the challenge of balancing designing and complete homework.
“It can be very challenging trying to balance academics with growing my organization,” he said.
He often stays awake until early hours of the morning to complete all of his responsibilities.
“It can become very stressful and tiring, but at the end of the day, I am happiest when I am continuing to create and knowing that all of my effort will make someone in need very happy,” Dillon said.
To Future Designers
In regards to advising future designers and philanthropists, Dillon said, “My advice to youth with similar aspirations and dreams as me is to go out and chase them! If you can find a way to use what you love doing to help others then run with it. You are never too young to start something and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Find your vision and go out and make it a reality, because nothing will ever stop someone with a passion and the will to work hard.”
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