A conversation with Ezra Estes is infused with his love of fashion as well as his drive to motivate his students to work hard and be their best. Here are highlights of a recent interview.
Q: What brought you to teaching at the college?
A: I was participating as a designer in Santa Fe Fashion Week when I met this vibrant redhead wearing a red riding coat [Mechele Hesbrooke, former head of SFCC’s Fashion Program] who said, “I want you to be a part of our program at the college.” So I soon signed up for classes. When I ran into her, she smiled and said, “I don’t think there’s much that we can teach you. I want you to come out and teach here.” But I did complete the portfolio class, advanced draping and pattern making. It was a good experience to see what’s expected of students. Then she insisted I become a member of the faculty in 2006. From there I went on to be the Fashion Program Head in 2011 and then Program Head for Performing Arts in 2012.
Q What were you doing before you came to the college?
A: I learned how to be a tailor when I apprenticed with my grandmother as a teen. When I was 17, I was working as an independent tailor while still in school. I finished a design degree [at Eastern New Mexico University]. I worked a lot with production, pattern making, fashion illustration and sales. On the national scene, I worked for GAP and Sherman Williams. Locally, I worked as a tailor for Robert Bailey before I opened my own fashion/design business in 1990. I still have a studio.
Q: How do you prepare students for the industry?
A: Besides offering the skills, I’ve got to make sure they always design and deliver their best work. This is a very tough business. If you miss a deadline in the real world, you’re out. You’ve got to be able to deliver your work on time. Also, fabrics are expensive and can’t be wasted. I always tell my students while there are millions to be made in the fashion business, there are also millions that can be lost.
Q: Where do your students come from and what kind of jobs do they land?
A: People hear about our program through word-of-mouth and exposure through events such as Santa Fe Fashion Week. I’ve had many students come from out of state to study here. Recent graduate Richard Blake moved here from Atlanta and Ebbie [Elsbeth] Edmonston came from Phoenix. Last semester we had a student who is originally from Ethiopia named Etaqu Wondimu, and she introduced her cultural influences and textiles. We’ve had a student, Paola Palacias, from Chihuahua, Mexico, who is attending FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York). And the last time I checked Facebook she was working as a brand manager in the Fashion District of Manhattan.
Last spring, fashion designer Orlando Dugi (Diné/Navajo) started taking classes. Orlando and I have shown together at several Santa Fe Fashion Weeks. I think he saw the work I was personally producing, and the work SFCC students were producing. It was an aha! moment. He’s always been self-taught. He is very talented, and will certainly cause current students to step up their game. I’m already prepping him to go on to FIT, and then Paris, for further fashion education. [Dugi’s fashions are part of the Native Fashion Now exhibition at the Portland Art Museum through Sept. 24. See his designs at orlandodugi.com.]
We’ve also had many students from the region go on to work or study in fashion. Destini Duran is working locally with her designs. Santiago Ulibarri, a student who was concurrently enrolled at St. Mike’s [high school] received associate degrees in Business and in Fashion. He went to Paris where he interned with Louis Vuitton. Hanna Anderson of Albuquerque is now working in merchandising for Anthropologies.