Chelise Damilliea, Visual Coordinator, for Tommy Hilfiger
Betsey Johnson, Jean Paul Gaultier and Tommy Hilfiger.
For most of us, those names can only appear in a shopping bag – for a pretty penny, at that. But for Chelise Damilliea, visual coordinator for Tommy Hilfiger, those big names appear on her resume. And they pay her the pretty penny.
Damilliea started out like us mere fashion-loving mortals, but then couture became a career possibility when she was a high school senior. She was hired by the Fitton Center for Creative Arts to help develop an arts program that would bring art and design to children during the summers at the YMCA of America, Boys and Girls Club of America and the local community center. “It was the work that I did here that showed me where there was a need and an interest level for the arts on a larger scale and led me to entertain fashion and art in a more serious capacity,” she explains.
Her idea was to combine, fashion, art and politics on a national and global scale to assist children in need. Working toward that goal, she studied Political Science, with a minor in International Affairs. She studied abroad, and continued working with the fitton Center for Creative Arts to build and enhance their program.
There, she served as International Affairs student Ambassador to build, foster and expand communication, education and social bridges between the students on campus and the community, through programs, initiatives and excursions spanning the arena of art, design and politics. “It was in this position, that I was able to expound and develop a format that would allow me to professionally intertwine the two areas,” Damilliea says. “I was able to work with Leone film Studios, an international studio, to assist with editing and concept design for a documentary on the city and its inhabitants. This experience further fostered my thoughts of combining both areas as a viable career and seeing where there was a true need in communities and wanting to bring my talents into their lives to help them.”
With this work, she made a name for herself in the fashion industry. Especially with the big names. “Various positions and internships in different areas of fashion, with designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Betsey Johnson and architecture, on the side of floor plan design and renovations for green buildings and educational units brought me to Tommy Hilfiger.”
Today, she works for Tommy Hilfiger as a visual coordinator, overseeing the visual, training and sales for retail development in the “Missy” division in New York. “This position is one of the most rewarding undertakings of my career,” she says. “Tommy is an amazing company to work for. It has and continues to foster my growth, knowledge and love for the business of fashion.”
According to her friend, Dawnita Smith, Damilliea’s outside interests entail volunteering to implement a global art symposium class that teaches children how to develop and design their hopes and dreams through art. In addition, she volunteers her time to work with her sister, film producer Ericka Smith, where Damilliea designs and develops a film documentary that captures the art making-process of these children from low income areas and impoversished areas, spanning from Cincinnati to Sierra Leone. “Damilliea also volunteers her time and talent to design garment apparel for children living in shelters,” says Smith, “for those from disadvantaged and impoverished homes and communities, to build self esteem, belief and knowledge that there is always hope and change will come.”
When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Damilliea provided a detailed laundry list (focused, much?). She said overall, she sees herself still busy at the work of inspiring, enlightening and empowering children to reach, believe and seek. As for specific goals, here’s the list:
- To have grown where I aspire to be within the fashion career I hold.
- To see the poetry book I’ve written expand into a four-volume series.
- To see the dreams of some of the many children I work with and will work with, come to fruition and bring about some of the change the world is waiting to receive.
- To have developed programs, a school and have been instrumental on some level in placing policy to effect and change the circumstances and lives of many homeless, abandoned and extreme impoverished children in this country and abroad.
Where does this girl get her energy? “I draw my inspiration from so many places and people,” she says. “The biggest inspirations come from the children themselves and my own personal role models, such as Oprah Winfrey, The Clintons, Barack Obama and my mother, who always told me — the world is your oyster, waiting to be cracked open and surprised.”
Photo: Courtesy of Chelise Damilliea