As a fashion design major at Baylor, Leslie Medlin did what she was supposed to do. Her free-spirited undergraduate designs earned her the praise of her professors and a prestigious internship with Anna Sui in New York City.
However, despite her clear talent, her ambitions lay elsewhere. She didn’t want to pursue the ideal life of the fashion designer, ruling the runways of New York City.
She wanted to start her own business, maybe something on a smaller scale, that would satisfy her own budding sense of creativity.
“I knew I wasn’t made to do anything else with my life, but I was just drowning,” Medlin said.
Deadlines and other workplace pressures didn’t suit her, so Medlin, with her dad’s help, opened her own business in Waco just after she graduated in 2010.
Coming back to Waco presented its own set of challenges, of course. Medlin’s work designing clothing, southwestern-inspired scarves, and minimalist accessories was not enough to sustain her in a town without its own Garment District.
“I just couldn’t make it financially with just design,” Medlin said. “I think that post-college is one of the hardest times because you have an identity crisis. We get frustrated because we start a business and it takes time. But whatever your dream is, it’s worth fighting for. Every time you have a failure, it’s making you better.”
Now, while Medlin works in visual merchandising, designing store displays for Magnolia Market and Grae Apparel, she has her own permanent booth in Anthem Studios Artisan Market downtown and sets up weekly at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market.
“Waco needs more of what she brings,” said Peter Ellis, one of the owners of the Artisan Market. “She really is a shining example of the creatives we’re seeking to encourage.”
Having her own space to create and sell in the Artisan Market allows Medlin to develop her fashion sensibility with fewer time and financial constraints. Her style has evolved from what she called her free-spirited college days to something that is minimal and mature.
“The design world is so huge that you have to have your own voice,” Medlin said.
For Medlin, living and working in Waco, and balancing financial and creative demands, has been a large part of developing that voice.