Interview of Alexandra Chang by Savannah Mullings-Johnson // Photos by Little Drill
What inspired you to start your own fashion line?
Growing up in Los Angeles, I have always been surrounded by copious amounts of creativity, particularly in the arts. I appreciate creativity in all forms, and although it was certainly a process overtime, in the back of my mind, I always thought it would be fun to be a designer. However, writing was my first love, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my company. The blog portion of The Zeitgeist actually came first. One day, after doing my market research, creating a business plan, and talking to a bunch of manufacturers, I decided to exert my own creativity and start my line.
You started your business at a relatively young age, did you encounter any challenges and how did you overcome them?
Business-wise, my biggest challenge has been time. I’m competing with brands who have a full team of people behind them who can dedicate their entire day to the company. As much as I would love to work on The Zeitgeist 24/7, I am still a full-time high school student. Juggling school work and college applications, as well as maintaining a balanced social life, can sometimes be tricky!
‘The Zeitgeist’ is a very unusual and original name, how did you come up with it?
I’m so glad you think so! “Zeitgeist” is a German word and translates to the phrase “spirit of the time.” I wanted my company and blog to represent everything current, so it seemed like the perfect name. Initially, I heard the word “zeitgeist” from my grandmother, and at age 82, she was the youngest person I knew because she was constantly adapting, learning, and interested in everything going on around her. The first shirt I ever designed has the “zeitgeist” definition on it, and I named it after my grandmother: The Suzanne Tee. The word has become really popular in recent months which makes me happy because now more people know what it means!
Your clothing line very much embodies female empowerment, what do you love most about being a woman?
Women get to play dress up every day! Although there’s nothing wrong with men’s clothing, I feel like wearing a suit or a striped shirt every day would get very boring very quickly. Women, on the other hand, get to choose from a variety of amazing fabrics, textures, and colors, and most importantly, we’re able to accessorize! Also, women have incredible bonds with one another, and I feel so lucky to have many close friendships that will last a lifetime.
Where do you get ideas for your designs?
I’m constantly thinking of new ideas, and my brain goes so fast that I probably have a hundred ideas a minute, and maybe one or two are actually plausible! I always listen to what people are discussing around me, whether it’s related to pop culture, current events, or anything in between. I also have a wacky sense of humor and coming up with funny slogans is one of my favorite things to do. If people laugh, that’s my main goal. Making people smile is the best feeling! I want Zeitgeist girls to feel happy and empowered.
Are there any designers you look up to?
Yes! There are so many, but Victoria Beckham is a particular inspiration. It’s incredible how she transformed her personal brand from being a pop star to an established designer. Also, my favorite designer in the industry is Iris Apfel— in fact, we share the same birthday! August 29th.
Sadly, there isn’t much information for young females looking to start their own business. Do you have any tips for young girls looking to start their clothing line?
It’s important to take your ideas, passions, and dreams seriously, but never take yourself too seriously. Once you decide to take the risk of starting your own business, surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and ask lots of questions. In other words, get advice from people who have done it before. Finally, stop talking about your idea, and just go for it! It’s always important to be a champion of others and support other entrepreneurs because all of us know how hard it is to get a business off the ground!
You donate some of your profits from “The Emma Tee” to Girl Up. Can you tell us more about the charities you work with and what drew you to them?
Ever since I first decided to launch The Zeitgeist, I knew I wanted to include a philanthropic element. Giving back is one of the most important and valuable things an entrepreneur, or any individual can do. I regularly work with several organizations, including Girl Up, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Planned Parenthood, and The Humane Society. I felt particularly drawn to Girl Up because I attend an all-girls high school, and realize the lack of access that many girls have when it comes to receiving or pursuing an education. Girl Up’s mission of empowering women and girls through learning very much appealed to me.