On the Runway
Sonjia Williams '07 Makes it Work!
As a youngster growing up in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, a precocious Sonjia learned to sew at age 12 and never looked back. The mischievous seamstress soon "borrowed" fabrics from her mom and refashioned her sister's skirts into her own designs.
"I have never wanted to do anything else in my life, it was always what I wanted to do," says Williams, who last Fall became a national fashion sensation during her appearance on season 10 of Lifetime TV's Project Runway.
Williams, who ranked respectably as one of the last designers to be voted off the show, was followed closely each week by former Lasell Fashion professors, young Fashion majors and fashion-forward staff on her alma mater's campus. For weeks on-end the community was delighted to see Williams win design challenge after challenge and calmly navigate the divas of the Project Runway cast.
All the while Williams consistently produced quality designs - garnering praise from accomplished American designer and Project Runway judge Michael Kors and winning a coveted contest to design a baby outfit to be sold by Babies-R-Us.
"Sonjia was always very serious about her work here at Lasell. She would go above and beyond to create the best and highest-quality designs," says Lasell Fashion Department Chair Lynn Blake, who admits she watched all the Project Runway episodes with a box of tissues. "She made us so proud."
Williams made her way to Lasell following a one-month experience at New York Coty's the Wood Tobe-Coburn School ("I immediately knew I wanted to transfer") and discovered the special atmosphere and intimacy of Lasell's campus.
"It was a small school, and I knew I wouldn't be just another number," she says.
It was on the Auburndale campus where she made life-long friends, honed her sewing and pattern-making skills, defined her design aesthetic.
"It was important for me that I didn't just make clothes for an assignment," she tells Leaves. "I wanted to create things that would help me evolve as a designer."
During long nights of sewing in Yamawaki, Williams hatched her future fashion plans including a tryout for Project Runway (as a junior).
That first tryout set the stage for the callback that came last Spring for season 10 of the hit series - at just the right time. She quickly left her retail job to begin filming for the show, which aired in August 2012.
Now, with the rewarding experience of Project Runway behind her, Williams remains on the fashion radar with her new Project Runway-related blog for Lord & Taylor, in addition to her well-read blog "Haute and Low." More recently, she landed a creative director position at Annabelle New York (an upscale boutique design firm) - where she will design a line of coats and jackets under her own special label.
Reflecting on the total experience, perhaps what makes her smile the most is that she remained true to herself throughout the process and showed the world that a fashion designer need not come from Fashion Institute of Technology or Parsons to succeed.
"I think it is important to find your own way. If it is something you are really passionate about, then don't give up. If it means moving to New York or LA to find the opportunities, do that. Don't just wait for them to come to you."