Since the beginning of time, the styles of the privileged, fashion conscious, and entertainment icons have influenced what the average shopper aspires to wear. It has even gone as far as impacting on how others feel about themselves when they look in the mirror. Body image is definitely an issue when it comes to ones perception of self. With having a negative body image, one may form a distorted perception when comparing shape and size to others. This has been true for millions of women and now being notice in males. Recent studies show that males are increasingly becoming more body-conscious. Approximately 45% of men and 55% of women are not dissatisfied with their physique. Many feel the pressure to measure up to a certain cultural and social ideal of beauty. This is now prevalent in the minds and lives of our children – the leaders of tomorrow. It is something that becoming a huge concern of parents, counselors, and pillars of the community.
Lisa Harris is definitely one that believes in nurturing and positively influencing the lives of our youth. With realizing the impact of social and cultural ideals of beauty, Lisa decided to start Mi-Chanel & Co. Fashion and Image Studio. She was introduced to the plus sized arena by parents that appreciated her clothing she would make for her daughters. She was then asked to make dresses for other children that were not your small framed child and had difficulty finding appealing apparel in their sizes. Lisa gained notoriety for her design business which led to amazing a growth opportunities for her. She was then able to open a small plus sized clothing boutique for children and later a studio and school.
By comeing from a humble beginning where she notes her natural talent in fashion comes from the influences her mother’s best friends, The Salvation Armory and The Goodwill. “My wanting to be in the industry was somewhat of an unintentional rebellion against my childhood. I remember going to school in my converses and got picked on. So I thought, when I grow up, I am going to buy whatever I want.” As a child, Lisa admired fellow students that wore the latest fashions and quality clothing. Her mother just could not afford to provide those things but instilled great values of hard work and an appreciation for the things she could afford. “I believe in this particular generation, children feel entitled to get all the new things and to be fashionable. It should be something you have to earn. Parents should know that even-though they are providing a way of life that they didn’t have, the kids should be rewarded for their good deeds, not just spoiled.”
Lisa attributes her decision to studying Fashion Design and Merchandising to her yearning to be able to wear beautiful clothing and to change the lives of those that followed behind by making affording pieces for persons of any size that fit well. She attended Bauder College in Arlington, TX and achieved an associate degree. She is celebrating her 20th year in the industry, ranging from management to the creative. I recently had time to ask Lisa a few questions as it pertained to our youth today, the services offered at Mi-Chanel & Co., and the concerns of Body Images. This is what she had to say:
BE-Style: How do scout talent for you agency?
LH: When I see a young person that may qualify to fit what I think would be a good model, I approach that parent(s) and let them know what it is that I do. Sometimes they are a bit stand-offish because they hear the word model and their eyes pop open. But I reassure them that my company is different. We are here to transform the lives of children that would not normally get the chance to be on center stage or in the spotlight. Even-though the child is a “plus” sized, they to have dreams. I also target the local schools and kid clubs.
BE-Style: Do you see a change in attitude of the kids that model in events?
LH: Oh My Gosh Yes, parents have come back to me and said that since their son or daughter was in that fashion show, he or she goes to school now and holds their head up high. Even-though kids may still be cruel and tease them, they have this new found self-esteem that does not allow them to shaken by it. They just look at the other kids and say “Oh really, well I’m modeling. What are you doing?” It all connected, when people ask me who I am and what I am, I find myself leaning towards the children and how what we offer affects them.
BE-Style: So we first met at a Dress for Success event. I appreciated the talent of the kids modeling and participating in the event. I could tell that they were there as children but carried themselves such ‘grown-up” attitude. How did you get in involved with the organization?
LH: Thank you for that because it is important that people see that in my pupils. I teach them and stress to them that there is a certain way to act in an environment. I started out as a volunteer, as personal shopper. And I did that for a while, then I was asked to participate in the first year’s event and it just went from there.
BE-Style: How do you deal with concerns of Body Image with the youth in your company?
LH: Well you know in the industry, you find that many times it is depicted that someone of a plus size does not “fit in.” This is something that we defiantly put at the forefront of our educational seminars and lectures. These kids haven’t even tapped into the real-world and already experiences rejection. Children are more self conscious now and I believe it starts with the family. When you have parents that make benign comment about a person’s body party, the seed is now planted and it adversely affects the child’s perception. At Mi-Chanel, we like to focus on being healthy. There are people that are plus size that are healthy and people that are skinny and not so healthy. You and I both know that the models you see in the magazines on are not that real thing. What you see is really an illusion.
BE-Style: Is there a timeframe that you work with the models?
LH: Yes we do have workshops, I teach etiquette, and walking. I love for them to just be children when performing on projects. I think that they should have fun and the experience should really be organic. We normally work together in 6 week spans unless the project calls for a specific schedule. I like to be straight forward with parents and let them know that I don’t baby-sit. I am here to build a professional and someone that believe in their self.
BE-Style: In what capacity do you work with the local school system?
LH: I am a partner in education in Henry County, so I do lecture series and motivation speaking at career days or other community activities>
BE-Style: What do you dream for Mi-Chanel & Co. to BE?
LH: I aspired to have Mi-Chanel & Co. grow to be this multi-facted enterprise that provides services to the fashion industry. From producing shows and events to catering to a wide range of clientele. I would love to continue to teach kids the truth about fashion through our educational programs. To be an entity that changes, influences, and transforms the lives of children and families all over. I want to positively impact the way children perceive themselves and aid in their ability to know their personal value. I also plan to continue growing my clothing lines. I do design under Mi-Chanel & Co but I am working on my new line, Abstract Couture. So stayed tuned for that!