Meet Sequoia Sierra, designer and owner of The Liturgical Co. as well as the fashion stylist, designer and owner at Sequoia Sierra Designs. Her goal as business owner of The Liturgical Co. is to preserve the beauty and tradition of the Catholic faith through designing, creating and repairing vestments, habits and all things textile. As stylist of Sequoia Sierra Designs, she helps her clients look their best while highlighting their natural beauty and personality.
Sequoia spoke with Radiant about her upbringing surrounded by religious men and women, how she paved a way for herself as a fashion stylist and designer, and what she suggests to other women trying to develop their skills.
Radiant: On your website, you mention that you were raised in great part by religious sisters and priests. How have they been a part of your formation throughout your life?
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Sequoia: Yes, they have been a part of my life since birth, literally. I was born at the Carmelite Sisters hospital at the time, and they held me before my parents did. I was blessed to have formation from them as a child into adulthood, and to continue to have them in my life even now. I don’t know life without religious, and I know I’m very blessed that this has been my experience and life.
Radiant: When did you become a Third Order Norbertine, and what inspired this decision? What kind of commitments does being a lay religious include?
Sequoia: I have been professed for almost 10 years now but [was] in formation even before that. We all follow our own personal rule of life that we create with our spiritual director, so it depends individually. But all rules of life encompass living out the Norbertine spirituality as one can in their respective secular lives.
Radiant: I saw that you studied at both community and technical colleges as well as a private Catholic college. What informed your decision to study at these different schools?
Sequoia: I didn’t do it to save money per se (although it ended up being a wise decision), but rather that I received the education I needed at the time for what I was doing. No education is a waste, and I’m grateful for all of it. Although I am also glad that early on I went to school for design over theology and philosophy. Not because I don’t care about those subjects, but I knew I didn’t want to teach them, and that I could continue to study those topics all my life, and that I should. But getting into heavy debt for degrees I wouldn’t use professionally would have been a financial burden that would have prevented me from doing what I do now.
Radiant: How did you get started in your work as a designer?
Sequoia: For film and fashion, back when I had zero experience, I had to begin by doing the work for free in order to build my portfolio and reputation. So the first several projects were not paid, but I gained great experience, networked, and that helped me propel my career forward.
Radiant: What have been some of your favorite projects both with The Liturgical Co. and Sequoia Sierra Designs?
Sequoia: So many. I’d have to say that vestments in particular are my favorite to design and work on for The Liturgical Co., and I really enjoyed styling and designing for friends’ films. But what will likely end up being my favorite Sequoia Sierra Design project will be the women’s clothing line I’ve been working on. It will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Radiant: As a fashion stylist, I’d love to hear your thoughts on following trends vs. personal preference. Do you encourage your clients to step out of their comfort zone to embrace new trends, or do you lean toward encouraging people to wear what they’re used to/comfortable with? What are your tips for someone who doesn’t want to look “dated” but might also be skeptical about all the new trends?
Sequoia: For everyday clients who are looking to find their style, the focus is usually on their color palette and body type, but I give them the tools they need should they wish to experiment with fashion trends at some point. However, most of the noneditorial styling clients I have had are more into buying pieces that will last them a lifetime and that will work with other pieces, so they tend to lean toward keeping to classic styles, mostly. If someone wears their color palette and silhouettes that flatter them, they never look out of date, that’s the trick! Sounds basic, but so many don’t understand their own body type nor the colors that work best on them.
Radiant: Why did you choose St. Michael the Archangel as the patron of The Liturgical Co.?
Sequoia: Because he has always been my special patron, and I have always felt a particular connection to him, [as] I was born on his feast day.
Radiant: I love that you have developed your gifts as a stylist and designer! What words of encouragement do you have for others who want to develop their skills more but aren’t sure where to start?
Sequoia: Thank you! My advice is to just get out there and do it! I started in styling and costume design before I ever went to school for it formally. It’s all about your work ethic and what you can do at the end of the day, not about where you went to school when it comes to fashion and design.
Radiant: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Sequoia: Just that there will be more times you fail than succeed, and that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, it’s just life. Perseverance will get you where you need to go, so get used to failing, and there is no such thing as an overnight, lasting success. True success is built “brick by brick,” and even when that fails, you can always reinvent yourself and your life, but it takes courage to keep at it.