August 2019: Natasha Toth '08

A “Laurel Lifer,” Natasha Toth ’08 first honed her confidence and creativity at One Lyman Circle. As an Upper Schooler, she founded Tasha’s Totes, which provided her first exposure to running a brand and aligning her creative vision with the needs of her customers. Now a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s fibers program and a designer and textile artist, Natasha has designed apparel and accessories for Target and Garnet Hill. At Garnet Hill she helps shape their kids’ brand, including a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Read on to learn more about Natasha’s design process (it takes a year and a half to bring a product from concept to catalog!) and life in New Hampshire.

If you could describe Laurel in three words, what would they be and why?
Empower, engage, independent. Not only did Laurel give me a wonderful education, but it also taught me to be confident in my opinions and myself. These are skills I use every day in my career as a designer.
 
How did your experiences at Laurel influence you as a person and/or shape your career path?
I feel so lucky that I went to a school that encouraged my strengths and nurtured my entrepreneurial skills. I was never the best reader or mathematician but I loved the arts and I was able to grow as an artist at Laurel.
 
Tell us about Tasha’s Totes, the business you had when at Laurel. What inspired that and how did it play a role in your career?
Tasha’s Totes was my small tote bag business that I started in high school. It was a great outlet for my creativity but it also taught me the basics of running a small business and a brand. I attended local craft shows and sold my bags in small shops around town. I learned about production and inventory and aligned my business to the needs of my customers. I also think this was the beginning of my love of fibers —something that would be my future major at the Savannah College of Art and Design!
 
You earned a BFA in Fibers from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Can you share with us how you developed your passion for fibers?
I started at SCAD as a fashion major and quickly learned that I loved the materials, textiles and artwork more than the “fashion.” I changed my major to fibers and took classes that were a better fit with my passions. I also was focused on what I wanted to do for a design career and in fibers I had more opportunities to work in the interiors or fashion industries. As a fibers major I took classes such as weaving, dyeing, and screen printing.
 
How did you land your first job at Target? What advice do you have for students interested in the design field?
Before my senior year I had an internship at Target and received a job offer upon completion.
It is really important to have internships in any career you are interested in. I also interned at Shaw Flooring, a carpet company. Each internship I had taught me different aspects of the industry.
 
During your five years at Target, you designed everything from hosiery and junior accessories to boys’ apparel. Now at Garnet Hill you design children’s clothes, backpacks and accessories. Is there a piece you are most proud of?
My career has changed a lot since I left college. I feel lucky that I started my career at Target where I was able to learn every day. There are so many talented people there and each time I changed departments I had new challenges and learned new skills. I also learned about various roles and responsibilities and how I wanted to shape my career moving forward.
 
Now at Garnet Hill, I am a designer and textile designer. I design the garment including the artwork and fabric details. Garnet Hill is a smaller company so I am more involved in shaping the brand’s vision and overall direction. I am so lucky to work with wonderful people who stretch my skills. In the last year, we have changed the overall feel and direction of the brand and we are so proud and excited about the line we created for Garnet Hill Kids.
 
I also am proud of the work Garnet Hill is doing around sustainability. We are passionate about our social and environmental responsibly in the fashion industry. This year our backpacks are made from recycled water bottles.
 
Can you talk a little about the lifecycle of a piece—from concept to customer sale? How long does that take? How do you predict what will be on trend months in advance?
We work a year and a half ahead of when a product is released in our Garnet Hill catalog. It starts with an overall trend meeting where we align with our women’s and home categories and then branch out to make a collection that is workable for our kids products.
 
We try to have pieces that are more “trendy” but also some that are more traditional pieces. There are many times that we see trends and decide not to follow them because they are not practical for our customer.

What is a challenge you experienced and how did you overcome it?
As a designer, it is sometimes hard to align with a brand vision. When I arrived at Garnet Hill we started to re-shape what the kids' brand looked like. We gathered information from our businses and created new "brand principles." It can be a challenge to put your personal interests aside and remember to design for the customer.
 
How do you enjoy living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, right on the Atlantic and southern border of Maine?
I LOVE living on the seacoast. I am close to the ocean and a short drive to the mountains. I have lived here for just over two years and still love the smell of the ocean at low tide.
 
What makes you proud to be a Laurel alum?
I love reading Highlights magazine to see where all my fellow alums are now. I am especially proud of my 2008 class :)
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