When Kelsey Lenoch was a student at Missouri State, she wrote an essay about a garment factory that collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,100.
She learned she didn’t want any part of fast fashion, so she networked and found internships with designers who shared her values.
Now, she keeps sustainability and ethical treatment of workers top of mind in her work as both a studio manager and independent designer.
First Missouri State fashion class solidified her dream
Lenoch grew up in Wichita, Kansas. She attended an International Baccalaureate, or IB, program during high school.
Missouri State made the final cut as she applied to universities because she knew it would accept her IB credits. She was also interested in the fashion merchandising and design program.
“I knew I was where I was meant to be when I took my first fashion class.”
Lenoch was a member of the Honors College, played in the orchestra and was involved with the Association of Fashion and Design.
She regularly assisted with and modeled in student fashion shows, and created her own collections.
She said the technical skills she learned at Missouri State, such as pattern-cutting, were critical to her future success.
“Kelsey was an amazing and talented design student,” said Dr. Jenifer Roberts, associate professor of merchandising and fashion design.
“She worked hard and set future goals to attend graduate school in the U.K. and find a dream job in design. I’m so proud she achieved her goals.”
Education abroad, MSU faculty both opened doors for her
As an undergrad, Lenoch studied at the London College of Fashion.
She fell in love with the city and embraced all the European fashion industry had to offer.
“We visited Paris during fashion week, and I met designers I had been reaching out to for internships. Those in-person networking opportunities opened a lot of doors for me.”
When she returned to the U.S., Lenoch interned for a summer in New York City with one of the designers she met abroad.
But London was where she wanted to be.
After graduating from MSU, she returned to the U.K. to study at Kingston University London. She earned a post-graduate diploma and a Master of Arts degree in fashion.
“Missouri State prepared me in the best way for a career in fashion and for a graduate degree,” Lenoch said.
“There were so many helpful faculty and staff members who helped me through the graduate application process. Dr. Roberts even put me in touch with one of her former students who studied at Kingston.”
Becoming a studio manager for an established brand
Lenoch began her career in London while she was completing her master’s degree.
She spent a year interning with two different brands, Orla Kiely and Clio Peppiatt.
Orla Kiely is best known for retro-inspired prints on bags and accessories, and Clio Peppiatt is known for ethically minded clothing with hand-beading and hand-embroidery.
After graduating, Lenoch freelanced with Clio Peppiatt and worked in retail for Dr. Martens.
She was recently named Clio Peppiatt’s first studio manager. The brand’s unique beaded garments, which Lenoch helps to create, have been seen on celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne. The brand also boasts write ups in Vogue and Refinery29.
“I’m so glad I work for a designer like Clio Peppiatt,” Lenoch said. “We have the same mindset when it comes to sustainability and manufacturing practices, which is so important to me. We do a lot of the work in house. But the factories we do work with provide their workers with a living wage and proper days off. Some also hold sustainability certifications.”
Lenoch now spends her days delegating job duties to the studio interns, assisting in designing the new collection and managing the logistical side of the business.
This includes booking models and photographers as well as processing orders.
“It’s something new every day. It’s still a small operation, so we all have our hands on everything,” Lenoch said.
“It can be stressful, but we also have a lot of fun. I still get time to make tea for everyone, try on samples and color in sketches.”
Flexing her muscles and exploring England
Her work in fashion doesn’t end when she leaves the studio.
She has an Etsy shop with ready-made and made-to-order heart-shaped bags.
She makes them using vintage tea towels, which are abundant in the United Kingdom.
She also hopes to release the collection she designed while at Kingston University.
“It’s important that I keep my creative juices flowing,” Lenoch said. “I really enjoy creating made-to-order pieces. I feel better knowing I’m not producing something that will just sit on a shelf, and I get to involve my clients in the design process and make something they really love.”
In her free time, she visits different cities and historic sites with her husband.
“He’s from London, so I think I’ve refreshed his perspective about his home country because of how excited I get visiting castles and different towns,” Lenoch said.
“I feel so lucky that I’m doing exactly what I came here to do.”