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Meet Caroline Hagerty of Lini Victoria

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline Hagerty.

Caroline, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I always wanted to be a fashion designer when I was growing up. When I was very young, my aunt came from Brazil to stay with us to help my parents with my younger sister and I. She was the first person to teach me how to sew. We would make clothes for my dolls and I absolutely loved it. As a teenager, I continued to develop my sewing and illustration skills and ultimately attended Philadelphia University majoring in Fashion Design. I also minored in Graphic Design and spent about six months in Milan studying at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti. Fashion will always be my first love, but other forms of design also captured my interest. After college, I moved back home to Florida. I ended up working as a costume designer.

My aesthetic was and is really over-the-top so designing and building costumes came naturally to me. Eventually, I became frustrated with the lack of professional opportunities available in Miami so I moved to LA in 2014 intending to continue pursuing costume design in movies and television. I was already coming to LA for a friend’s wedding and as I was packing, I decided to PACK-PACK all the way. I think I am pretty ambitious and spontaneous- sometimes that serves me, sometimes it does not. I moved into an apartment in Silverlake with one last paycheck and hit the pavement looking for gigs. I pretty quickly started creating window displays for retail locations along with working as a nanny part-time. My display job paid $11 an hour which was not enough to survive in LA. After about a year I couldn’t take it anymore – I was sleeping four hours a night tops and working multiple jobs around the clock just to make ends meet. I almost moved back to Florida then. I literally even had a going away party and gave notice at my apartment! But then, some words of wisdom from my friends and my mom convinced me to give myself more time to find my way in this city of angels.

I am a big believer in fate and sure enough, my stars aligned right around then and I got a job working for Forever 21 as a Retail Designer in their corporate headquarters. I was finally making enough money to survive and begin enjoying LA more. After about two years there, I was ready to move on. I knew to continue as a Retail Designer I had to add 3D rendering to my skill set, so I’d watch SketchUp tutorials online and read some of those “For Dummies” books to teach myself. After Forever 21 I began working with cosmetics clients which I really enjoyed. Additionally, I painted in my spare time and showed my work around LA in a handful of small galleries. The art scene is actually where I met my boyfriend, who is a creative professional as well. I didn’t [and still do not] expect to monetize my paintings, but I really love to paint and find it often results in ideas I can apply to my “9-5” projects. Early in 2018, I became pregnant with my daughter. I was let go from my job the day after I told my boss.

Overnight, I suddenly “was not the right fit” for the job. Coincidence? I don’t think so. That really broke my heart and completely crushed my spirit. I had never lost a job before, never even been reprimanded at any job. I felt worthless. I wondered, and in fact still wonder, if I really was any good. It also happened around this time I was named one of the best 40 Retail Design professionals in the country by design. Retail magazine- but that didn’t alleviate the pain I felt having lost my job. People always are horrified to hear this and ask why I didn’t sue. Sue for what? To “win” my job back working at a company for a boss who made it obvious she didn’t respect mothers in the workforce? [This same boss told me sexism was made up by women and does not exist- but I digress].

Fate came through again though, and I almost immediately had a few quick projects lined up. I didn’t expect much more than that at the time, but then I landed a full-time role with a cosmetics brand on the Westside. I will always be grateful to that company for taking a chance on me and for giving me a job I could come back to after having my daughter.

2019 was a crazy year for me. My baby daddy and I bought our first home together, our daughter turned one, I was named one of the top dozen designers by VMSD, I started a community fruit exchange in my neighborhood [a food desert], and in September I decided to take a chance and switch from the cosmetics industry to the cannabis world. I had been interested in designing for cannabis clients for a while and when an opportunity presented itself, I accepted. And that is where I am now! I still design for my cosmetics, fashion, and skincare clients. I would love to take on some small businesswoman or POC clients as well as pro-bono. If that sounds like your business and you’d like a free consultation, hit me up! I am passionate about elevating ethical, transparent businesses through design.

Some days I feel like a corporate sellout, but I also believe we all have to make a deal with the devil on occasion for the greater good. As a designer, my strategy was to align myself with clients who could open doors for me to one day work exactly as I’d like to. My goal is to work from home so I can spend more time with my daughter and also have more of a voice on my projects. Almost 6 years later, and I can now say I am head over heels in love with LA. I love the culture here and the creative opportunities. My career, dreams, and life in LA were earned not given, so I really appreciate what I have built.

Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely not a smooth road at all! I don’t have any sort of mentor and I think every creative professional need that. I believe one day I will find one, but not having one definitely resulted in having to learn things the hard way. I was really underpaid for years, sometimes my invoices were not paid at all. My ideas and projects were often stolen. Managers I wanted to look up to would take credit for my work. People love to tell creatives to “just sue!” as if that is so quick and easy! It is honestly so unrealistic and terrible to even tell artists and creatives that. How can any of us really stand a chance going up against corporate counsel? If you have a following, your fans can sometimes win that fight from a PR standpoint but most creatives do not readily have a fan base ready to attack on their behalf. I do hope I can be a mentor for young designers and creatives to be that person I missed so much in my professional journey.

Distance and isolation are also struggles. Living in LA put me across the country from my family and even further away from my family in Brazil than I already was in Florida. It really makes me sad to think about all the things I’ve missed- graduations, births, deaths, weddings, and even just day to day life. Technology does help with that though. Many of my skills are also self-taught. I invested the time to learn and it feels great to have that pay off. But, prioritizing learning in my spare time limited my social life. The FOMO is always real! I actually met my partner while live painting at an art gallery in Highland Park. I love painting and the art scene, but those events are always way more business than pleasure for me. I did not expect to meet anyone in that setting, but I did- totally worth the sacrifices I made to spend all my weekends working behind a canvas.

Perhaps my biggest struggle was being let go from my job at five months pregnant. There are no words to express how much damage that caused me. I spent my last trimester riddled with career anxiety. I didn’t take my full maternity leave because I felt an overwhelming pressure to rush back to work because my self-worth was so heavily rooted in my professional value. I wish I could have that time in my daughter’s life back. I would do so many things so differently if I could turn back time.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
As a retail designer, I design commercial spaces, trade show booths, pop up shops, displays, print collateral, fixtures, and more for brands with a focus on cosmetics, cannabis, and fashion clients. I think my projects for my beauty clients are probably the most recognized and my cannabis projects have been my most challenging.

I like to call myself a design chameleon – I can design print graphics as easily as I can render a fixture concept. I work very hard to be able to pivot to fit whatever my clients need. I take pride in being a designer who can own a project soup to nuts. I think many millennial designers are that way because we are used to wearing many hats in the workplace while making less money than our predecessors. I think my scrappy millennial vibe definitely sets me apart. I also have a huge, huge interest in ethics, sustainability, and social justice. I believe design is a vital tool that can allow good brands and businesses to stand out in a supersaturated market. I would love to add smaller brands owned my members of marginalized communities to my clientele.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes, yes, and yes! LA is a great city for designers! How could it not be? My brain is always, always on here. I definitely have ideas to spare that come from this incredible city. I am a Brazilian-American transplant by way of Florida so I have plenty of personal identity to draw inspiration from- but I really skyrocketed creatively after coming to LA.

For designers starting off it is potentially helpful to start out elsewhere at least to build up experience, because the reality is living in SoCal ain’t cheap. It isn’t a bad idea to live adjacent to LA for slightly cheaper living costs and come to the city whenever possible. There are seriously tons of amazing events in LA like Creative Mornings where you can meet people and learn so much. Bring your hunger to the table and don’t be intimidated by other creatives. Also, be flexible. Maybe you really don’t want roommates, but having them temporarily could allow you to afford life here in LA. If you work VERY hard, soon you’ll be able to afford to live on your own if you want that.

LA could do better by creatives [and really by all Angelenos] by keeping housing costs in check. Gentrification is definitely a complicated issue but we need to find ways to balance LA’s need to blossom while respecting our existing communities. I’m a Libra and an idealist, so maybe I am a fool- but I really think the city can accommodate everyone if we find creative solutions to address our growing pains.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Jessica Moncrief
Richard Cadan
Joanna Tejada
Wildchild World

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