Travel Beautifully · Perform Confidently
Travel Beautifully · Perform Confidently
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How She Carries On with Simone Gonzalez

Exploring Tijuana opened my eyes to the reality of child trafficking and sex trafficking.

  • Learn how the designer’s experiences visiting Tijuana in Mexico redirected her to the fashion industry
  • Hear about Simone’s goals to create a non-profit organisation to provide rescue and rehabilitation for children who have become victims of trafficking
  • How support from her family has given Simone the courage to pivot in her career

Simone Gonzalez is a designer for Shelter Los Angeles, an extension of a brand her family once started. She talks to 35 Thousand about her ‘why’, aspirations to create a non-profit organisation and how her travel experiences have influenced her career choices.

Describe yourself in 3 words…

“Faithful, loving, driven.”

Tell us about your work… 

Shelter is an extension of a brand my family started ten years ago named Pleasure Doing Business.  With “PDB”, we established a niche in women’s contemporary through the elastic mini skirt. The dynamic of the material gathered a loyal audience of women of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  We launched Shelter this spring, with the goal of creating body-conscious pieces that inspire confidence and femininity through a material that functions like shapewear.  Our specialization in working with elastic is the key component of our current work.  Though the item has changed, the concept remains the same.  Each piece I design is created to embolden its wearer and to convey the sense that she is effortlessly pulled together.   

My family named the line Shelter for two reasons.  We feel the name Shelter appropriately describes the warmth our pieces provide to the female form.  Secondly, it is our dream project to build a place of refuge in Tijuana, Mexico, for children who have become victims of human trafficking.  While my main role is design and creative direction, I play a large role in the company’s management as well.”

Shelter’s Demure Pop Top with Peplum in Peach

Do you work in the spare room, a skyscraper or other? 

“I currently work in the living/dining room of my family home in Arcadia, CA.”

What parts of your work give you energy?

“The process of actualizing a sketch is quite magical and addicting. With Pleasure Doing Business, I worked with a seamstress, so I rarely developed the first sample with my own hands.  With Shelter, in order to make our first set of samples, I had to do the sewing myself.  I’ve come to cherish this part of my work.  Creating the first sample is like assembling a puzzle. Each step is exciting and rewarding.  I am most productive between the hours of 10pm and 2am, after the rest of our house has gone to sleep.  I find that for those four hours, I light up and can focus.”

What parts of your work drain you?  

“Perfecting a pattern and testing each revision can be pretty tiring.  It’s not my favourite thing to do but it is important.  Elastic is a strange material to use for clothing and I’ve yet to find the right person to take the job off my hands.”

Most pivotal point of your career so far? 

“In between Pleasure Doing Business, and Shelter, I painted for about 6 years.  During that time I went to Tijuana in search of inspiration.  Exploring the city opened my eyes to the reality of child trafficking and sex trafficking.  I have since made it my life goal to provide rescue and rehabilitation for children who have become victims of trafficking, as well as give shelter to homeless children at risk.  This cause has redirected me to the fashion industry.  I hope that through Shelter, I can acquire the capital needed to create a non-profit.  Without this sense of duty, and support from my family, I’m not sure I would have found the courage to do so.” 

Advice you were given that you would like to pass on?

“There was a funny time in my early twenties when I kept running into a travelling psychic/shaman all over LA.  Every time I saw him, he told me I think too much and to stop pushing my thoughts.  I was a little lost at the time and didn’t know how to get started as a designer.  My brain was constantly searching and it just wasn’t working.  After the third time seeing him, his words finally sunk in and I actively started working to stop myself from “thinking too much”.  It was a process, but shortly after, I started to see images of clothing when I closed my eyes.  I believe we all receive messages from a higher power that uniquely fit into the scope of our lives.”

What’s your context outside of work? 

“I am extremely close with my family and a huge animal lover.  My life is currently quite simple. I don’t have children, I’m single, and I live with my parents.  We just started the company so getting Shelter off the ground occupies most of my time.  My brother moved home shortly before Covid so our house has become very lively.  Right now, we all count on each other.  It’s the first time since my high school years that our entire family has been under one roof.  We have a dog and two cats; I would love to have more.  Also, we recently moved to a neighbourhood that is inhabited by peacocks.  They are everywhere.  There is always a wounded peacock whom we are looking after, and during the Spring/Summer, mother hens and their chicks show up to our backdoor asking for snacks.  It’s pretty funny.”

Describe your pre-pandemic day-to-day…

“Before the pandemic, I was working as a receptionist at a salon during the day, and designing at night.  I was frustrated due to my time and energy being pulled in different directions. “

How has your daily life changed? What is your new normal? 

“The pandemic allowed my family the break we needed to get the company started.  I now spend my days doing something in which I am invested.  Working from home affords me adequate time for family, animals, and personal life.  I currently have a good balance of time and energy.”   

Has the Corona crisis impacted you personally and professionally? How? 

“Professionally, it has forced me to take matters into my own hands.  I never imagined I would be creating patterns and sewing samples, but due to the shutdown, I’ve taken on tasks I otherwise wouldn’t have.  Personally, I’ve learned to be more laid back and to go with the flow.  I realize how blessed I am to have everything I need, and my loved ones around me.  Over the past year, I’ve let go of a good amount of materialistic temptations.  Overall, it has been a purifying time.”

What, if anything, keeps you up at night?  

“If I’m lucky sometimes I see images of clothing so when that happens it’s a lot of turning the light on to sketch, off to sleep, back on to sketch, off to sleep, and so on.  I don’t currently have many worries since the company is so new.  Some nights I stay up thinking about how it would be possible to get water to the deer and other animals living in the hills, especially after the terrible fires we’ve had over the past summers.”

What  have been your  2020  coping strategies?  Do you have any objects, routines or tools that you  found particularly uplifting?  Gin or Gym? 

“Well, I gave up drinking about four years ago so the usual methods of coping weren’t an option.  I pretty much dove into sewing and creating our first line.  For exercise, my brother and I go on early morning hikes.”

What has kept you sane? And kept your family sane? 

“Working together to create the company has kept me and my family sane.  Don’t get me wrong, we argue every now and then, but having a common project and goal has been pretty cool.  Personally, I’ve enjoyed binge-watching the various streaming services.  I can honestly say that for the past several months, Golden Girls has kept me sane.  They lightened up my endless hours of pattern work.”

Did 2020 change your outlook on life in any way? 

“2020 has brought me closer to my family.  It’s proven how delicate life is.  I’ve learned to appreciate the simple things and to separate what’s meaningful from what’s not.  I feel I’ve found a more wholesome grasp on life.” 

Are you travel-ready? Where do you want to go, with who or would you rather stay home?

“I‘m a total homebody.   I like to be able to get creative whenever the moment strikes and that requires being around my machines, tools, and materials.  Anytime I go away I miss my animals and feel stressed about not working.  Maybe after the line takes off, a couple days in Laguna Beach would be nice.”

Finish this sentence “Currently stashed in my handbag is….”

“…a bunch of receipts, change, a few old pen caps, hopefully chapstick, and maybe a hair clip… I honestly couldn’t tell you. As long as it can hold my phone, wallet, and keys, I’m happy.”

What are your work from home saviors? 

“I wake up with coffee, one to two cups.  It’s hard for me to get started in the morning so I begin by reading the comics and Ask Amy letters from the LA Times.  While working, I listen to classical music, the daily show on democracy now, and audiobooks.”

Describe your style:

“It’s almost like I don’t know anymore!  These days, I spend most of my time in leggings and a sweatshirt…But during normal times, I’d say I am a multiple personality dresser.  I lean towards a bit of something classic, a splash of rock and roll or rebelliousness, an element of girliness, and a sense of humour.”

Name your 5 essential items of clothing:

“Ballet flats, snug fitting black boots, high waisted, loose fitting jeans, a good pair of mens’ style trousers, and an elastic top from Shelter.” 

How do you see your business or career in two years from now? 

“It is my goal that women will know of our brand and come to us because they feel comfortable and confident in our clothes.  Right now, we are strictly online, but it would be nice for our line to be available in retail outlets where women can see and feel our product in person.  I see our business stabilizing financially so that we can start considering how to structure our non-profit.”

What’s your go-to mantra or life motto? 

“If you build it, they will come.”

Take a look at Shelter’s website here.

If you loved reading this then you will love peeking into the life of Diana Larkin, Founder and CEO of MyHare.

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