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Incredibly talented and driven, Simone Stern has developed a brand that is instantly recognisable for its quality and style. Add to the pot a never-ending supply of energy and creative vision and it seems Simone has it all.

Not content to stop there, Simone has now just opened a new store that caters to those that prefer a more “Pret-a-Porter, casual, ready to wear, easy to slip on, mix n’ match” style. I managed to prize her away from her work for a quick interview for Friday Feature and thoroughly enjoyed learning a little about what makes Simone (or the person behind Simone) tick.

Harriet Gausman: For those who do not know, how long have you been in SL and what initially attracted you to the place?

Simone Stern:I’ve been in Second Life since December of 2004. I read an online article in the Wall Street Journal. People were selling things they had created. Specifically, clothes. So, I had to see.

Harriet Gausman: So many designers begin designing only days after stepping into their new skin, was this also the case with you?

Simone Stern: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘new skin’. I’m not a roleplayer. Simone is an extension of myself, sort of like my voice is as much me on a telephone. And yes. I made my first item within 3 days of arrival.

Harriet Gausman: You have earned the reputation of one of the most talented designers in Second Life; your beautiful designs show great attention to detail and grasp the hand of fashion perfectly. Can you remember the first item you ever made for your business? Where was your very first store? Would you care to share some of those memories with us?

Simone Stern: My first store was in Clunn on ‘new land’, a 512 spot that I paid for with bingo earnings. I had a wall, not a building. I hung my dresses in boxes on that wall, and used in-world shots to display the clothes because I didn’t know how to save textures to my harddrive. Finally I learned enough about prims to put a few walls together. I was so proud. Of course, the building was horrendous and people were pretty loud about telling me so, but I didn’t care. It was MY build, you know?

Earliest work. *chuckles* Let me share with you some pictures. I will let the pictures tell the story.


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Simone’s first store in Second Life

Harriet Gausman: Tell us a little about your new store and the type of clothing you are specializing in?

Simone Stern: Style Starts Here is a casual wear sim for men and women… mostly separates. I made a lot of items that are simple, fun, easy to mix and match. They are like a starting point for a wardrobe, and allow for a lot of freedom to create a personal style rather than have it forced on you by the designer. Fashion, like any art, should be a dialogue, not a monologue.

Harriet Gausman: This is now your full time business, I believe; what made you decide to put so much time and energy into the venture and at what point did you see a real return for all your effort? How many hours do you actually spend working online and do you get any ‘downtime’?

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One of Simone’s first designs – Burgundy Cutwork Catsuit

Simone Stern: This has been my ‘full time’ job since I logged in. I’d envisoned a place like Second Life long before I ever heard of the place, some 8 or so years before. So when I heard of the place, I came to see if it was as much like what I had envisioned, as much as to create. Depends on what you mean by ‘real’ return. It can be argued that the ‘real return’ of seeing your work evolve is as rewarding as any monetary gain. I guess it depends on what your motivation is for being here. And, most all motivations are valid. I work every day. I work long hours every single day. I’ve had days off within the past year. I can’t say that was true, especially in the first year. I work this job like any ‘real life’ business owner would, and when you’re the owner, you have to be willing to give your project that sort of commitment. If you want to work employee’s hours, then it’s best to remain an employee.

Harriet Gausman: I’d love to know where you gain your inspiration for your creations. I’m assuming it is mainly from real life but have you ever seen something in SL that has started the creative juices flowing?

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Another of Simone’s initial creations – Goth Gown

Simone Stern: I am inspired by everything. I can’t separate one form of visual stimulation from another. Sometimes it’s as simple as a color, sometimes I see my gowns in dreams beforehand.

Harriet Gausman: Did you have any design knowledge before entering SL? If not, how did you learn? Which software packages do you use and how easy were they to grasp?

Simone Stern: No I had no graphics arts training or experience. I guess I learned the regular way anyone learns a thing without a teacher. Trial and error, experimentation. I use GIMP.

Harriet Gausman: In terms of design, which piece has been the most difficult for you? Can you run us through your design process? Which part of the process is the trickiest?

Simone Stern: “First time” is always the worst. First pair of panties, first neckline, first dress off the shoulder. I don’t have a process. Design’s not about a formula that I follow, at least not for me.

Harriet Gausman: I’m curious as to your influences; which RL fashion designer do you aspire to and why?

Simone Stern: My favorites are 20’s through 50’s era American and European design houses. I’m not much of a fan of what’s come after. Modern designers… I think Vera Wang’s one of my favorites, though I don’t see a lot of her influence in my work.

Harriet Gausman: You have had your fair share of controversy, like all well-known residents; I’m referring in particular to the hacking of your account and the subsequent theft. How do you think Linden Lab can improve the SL experience and safeguard its residents to a reasonable level? What is your feeling on the recent spate of design thefts that are sadly becoming more and more frequent in Second Life?

Simone Stern: I think they can do more to ensure that copybot and similar methods are not used to steal. I think Linden Lab can also do more to remove stolen content from the data base once they identify a theft. Imagine purchasing a stolen gown, and the next week logging in to find it missing from your inventory, the store gone, the maker gone. That sends a pretty clear signal to everyone about theft.

Harriet Gausman: Give me one word to describe the designs of Simone Stern?

Simone Stern: Oh, I can’t do that. I’d say you need to pick the emotion you feel when wearing the clothing for yourself.

Harriet Gausman: What has been the most ‘fun’ piece you have made?

Simone Stern: Well, they’re all fun when I am making them.

Harriet Gausman: You seem to be incredibly busy; do you have time to do others things outside of your business here in Second Life

Simone Stern: Hmm, no, not so much time for myself. I work insane hours. When you’re the boss, and there’s no time clock, and no one around to pay you by the hour, you are the one responsible for making sure the job gets done.

Harriet Gausman: Where do you foresee your business headed? Any plans for taking your empire into the realms of real life?

Simone Stern: Oh, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Harriet Gausman: You obviously have a successful business model in play, what advice would you give to those who might wish to follow in your footsteps?

Simone Stern: Be yourself. If you follow me, you’ll be behind me all your ‘career’. Make your own path, never give up, never surrender, listen to your own inner vision…. all the cliches apply, here. They’re cliche because they’re true.

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