Fashion Talk: Fashion Educator & Producer Maggy Francois
by ATFDC Contributor Barbara Collins
If there is anyone who knows a thing or two about fashion, it is THE Maggy Francois! With amazing events in the national’s capital like DC50 TV & CW Television “Fashion Beauty & Lifestyle Expo” and the Crystal Couture Fashion Show, we have to thank this beautiful woman that’s behind it all! It was at Francois’ first fashion runway show in 1996 where she fell in love with drama behind the scenes and began producing fashion shows and providing behind-the-scenes productions for various celebrated organizations along the East Coast.
A few years later in 2000, her creativity and talent led her to start her own event management company specializing in the fashion industry. She has had the honor to work with famous designers like Project Runway’s Season 4th winner Christian Siriano, Korto Momolu, and Betsey Johnson just to name a few! However, her work does not stop there! Maggy is also an educator and has been teaching for 15 years. As Fashion Design Director at West Potomac Academy Project Stitch Studio, she teaches high school juniors and seniors the fine art of garment construction, fashion design, fashion marketing and runway production.
So what inspires this Fashion Guru and how did she get her start? We’ll let her do the talking…
All Things Fashion DC (ATFDC): So, let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from?
Maggy Francois (MF): I hail from the Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn, NY has long been an alternative fashion mecca for those with a fondness for vintage and eclectic shopping.
ATFDC: Your alma mater is Delaware State University. Did you take any fashion courses while attending the university?
MF: Yes it is. I attended Wesley College for nursing my first few years, didn’t enjoy it at all. I did it for my parents. I found out that they had a fashion department and quickly changed my major to Fashion Marketing. I transferred to Delaware State University to complete my Bachelors in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising. They have a wonderful program there, which allowed me to hone some of the skills I used in my career now.
ATFDC: At what age did you realize you had a love for fashion?
MF: I was about 20 when I realized, I was “Made in NYC” to pursue this career. It was my first runway show for celebrity designer Moshood NYC, where I fell in love with the drama behind the scenes. He asked me to model but my passion was backstage. In 1996, I started producing fashion shows and provided behind the scenes productions for numerous reputable organizations along the East Coast. I am responsible for defining, orchestrating and executing the complex logistics involved in a successful event.
ATFDC: Who or what event inspired you to get into fashion industry?
MF: She doesn’t really know this yet, but my Mom was a big part of why I am here today. My impeccable taste for fashion and grace comes from my mommy whom I praise daily for her providing me with strength and courage to face any challenges that comes my way. I wore dresses all the time growing up. Not sure when I started wearing pants. I think I was in high school when I started wearing slacks, jeans and sneakers in college. This could be the reason why I am obsessed with dresses
ATFDC: Did you intern with any companies before starting your own business?
MF: I interned for several business while in college where I gained knowledge in visual, buying, merchandising, etc. I learned the event planning & bridal industry while working at a Bridal Salon, and all I needed to know about fabric terminology, yardage, and notions at a fabric store.
ATFDC: Planning big events can be very stressful. Are there any procedures you take before making magic? Day at the spa? (laughs)
MF: Keep Calm and never let them see you sweat. I don’t really do much before planning a big event. The most important thing is to get some rest. I am well known for taking my daily naps. While a good night’s sleep is essential, a daily nap energizes you when we’re not getting quite enough winks.
ATFDC: Who are some of your favorite people/companies you have worked with?
MF: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. Choosing the right planner isn’t always easy for people. I appreciate all my clients who have the guts and confidence & allow me to work with them. Finding the right person to mesh with in any business is very hard, so I you learn to appreciate everyone who crosses your path. Clients are the vitality of my business, and in a perfect world, they are charming, gracious and respectful people. But in the real world, some are often “challenging but you make it work.
ATFDC: Who are your favorite fashion icons and why?
MF: Anna Wintour, Editor-in-chief of Vogue. She is on Michelle Obama’s guest list. Need I say more? If anyone ever gets a chance to meet her, all she has to make is one call and you are headed to a fab career. Rachel Roy, I love her drive and spirit. Aside from successfully creating exquisite collections and lust after pieces, she’s an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, philanthropist, and honest-to-goodness kind person. Tracy Reese, She is amazing. We all know that Michelle Obama is donning Tracy Reese, as the designer has become a favorite for the first lady. Her pieces are classic, vintage inspired and colorful. The graphic embellishments and bold colors make you proud to rock Tracy Reese. She is by far one of my favorite fashion icons and her creativity is inspirational. Karl Lagerfeld known as the skinny man with big ideas. His runway shows are to die for. He is the only designer I know that can take architecture and fashion intertwines them into a breathtaking runway. I do not care about the clothes when I watch his show; I just want to see the runway. Many designers have learned a lot from Karl. He has been with Chanel for over 20 years, which is rare, and he continues to make Chanel one of the top fashion houses in the world.
ATFDC: What do you love most about your job?
MF: In ’96 I made a commitment to spend my life helping people celebrate and I’m glad I did it. It’s a lot of work but I love planning events.
ATFDC: Is there anyone that you would die to work with?
MF: Oh my, Oh my. I really do not have one. I love them all and it is so hard to choose just one then it would me Marchesa. Their work and creativity speaks fashion. I love the use of bold and subtle colors, gravity-defying dresses, laser-cut fabrics, embroideries and use of fabrics. It’s genius.
ATFDC: Not only do you have your own event management company, you are also the Fashion Design Director at West Potomac Academy Project Stitch Studio. Did you always want to be a teacher?
MF: No, it never crossed my mind. I just fell into the job and would never look back. I believe “The impact of educating through design is more than just creating clothing, it is fashioning a way of life for young adults to express themselves and their ideas into tangible items. What they create in life can impact upon others; and as an individual they can influence a generation. As future fashion designers, they will not just pick styles and predict trends; as a creative body they will fashion the world and design the cover of the book that is our society.
ATFDC: What do you love most about teaching?
MF: Being able to motivate young people to never give up and live your dream. I get a charge out of teaching students about not limiting themselves and think the industry is all about design. The industry is a billion dollar business so tap into it. Many people don’t realize the plethora of jobs in the industry such as, fashion lawyers, trend forecasters, writers, product developers, spec designers, merchandiser, to fashion branding.
ATFDC: The fashion industry does not always welcome everyone with open arms and getting your foot in the door can be difficult. How do you get your students prepared for the industry? What are some important lessons you teach them?
MF: We offer many hands on opportunities, internships, and real life experience with designers, nonprofit organizations and solid business partnerships. I have been instrumental in creating & directing numerous fashion industry educational programs for several organizations, and schools. This is what prompted me to conceive the “Project Fundway Scholarship” because we do not have enough resources that enable fashion hopefuls to afford college. In a nutshell, I advise them to dress the part, take notes, give 100%, build your resume, network, & don’t take anything personally.
ATFDC: What are your favorite places to shop in DC?
MF: I don’t do much shopping in DC but do try to support local designers. I shop in NYC and online quite a bit. My schedule doesn’t allow me to do much shopping locally but when I do, I find some great deals.
ATFDC: What do you think about the fashion scene in the DMV?
MF: The fashion scene is the DMV is flourishing but still has a lot of growing to do. In order for the area to be as successful as other metropolitan areas where fashion is huge, we must learn how to work together, give credit to one another and support each other’s endeavors. Teamwork is key! It allows us to blend the strengths and perspectives so that we can achieve goals that can help the DC fashion industry grow.
ATFDC: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects?
MF: At current, I’m working on several key projects, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity! My schedule is stacked with excitement–the LIFE of a planner never truly ends. There’s always careful planning, in truth some events require a full-year of mapping, in advance–this ensures proper execution. The BIG hooray doesn’t happen until December, e-mails and phone calls go DARK, it’s Maggy Time. Such a rigorous schedule requires that I have some recovery time of which to recuperate, travel, and share in fun times with family and friends. In doing this, I come back to the world of planning in the New Year charged with fresh ideas, and all systems are fired back up and ready to GO!
My Bougie Baby & Nation Tours set sail on the Potomac River on Virginia Jewels for a fabulous day with young models. Fashion Night Out in Old Town Alexandria, Alexandria is known for its historic ambiance and contemporary flair offering an extraordinary collection of local, independent retailers. On FNO night Shoppers can take part and enjoy this signature evening kicking off the fall shopping season. We will host and feature exciting events from cocktails, restaurant specials, music, fashion shows, trunk shows and exclusive style events. The CW/DC 50tv 4th Annual “Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Expo” was pioneered some years ago in collaboration with gwfcc, who is no longer working the event–moving onto other projects. The event takes place on Saturday, October 20th, a local extravaganza–fashioned by all-day runway fashion shows, free beauty makeovers; and the latest developments on design and style trends. “America’s Next Top Model” runway coach J. Alexander (Miss. J) will headline this year’s event & DC. Kate Michael, editor-in-chief of K Street Kate, will serve as co-host of the Expo. The Tiger Lily Empower Ball is a phenomenal event. For one night you can glam up and be part of Tigerlily Foundation’s mission is to educate, advocate, empower and provide support to young women – 15 – 40. The event raises funds to provide education, peer support, buddy bags, meals, financial assistance and more to young women in need. Baby Bash & Bling Expo in Dallas Texas is an interactive lifestyle expo celebrating expecting moms. The event will highlight a “Bump the Runway”™ show where models will be outfitted by couture runway designers, and will showcase how you don’t have to shop at a maternity boutique to look fabulous! It’s the central place where GLAM clashes with Babyhood & Mommyhood.
Fashion Talk: Maggy Francois
Barbara is a sophomore at Old Dominion University, majoring in International Studies with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. She also writes for CocoKouture Magazine and would love to pursue a career in the fashion industry as a writer for a top fashion magazine.