by: Megan Beauchamp
In a modest downstairs apartment in Bohemia, Long Island, Samantha Williams sits hunched over her work table. Patches of fabric cover the table; the black and white garment she’s sewing is almost invisible in the pile, but Williams jokingly tosses over her shoulder that she knows exactly where everything is.
Williams is working on a Halloween costume for a client. From Erik Killmonger to Patrick Starr, this is her fifth costume this season. The client wanted to go as Doja Cat, an artist that most memorably put out the single, “Mooo!” this past August. With a needle balanced between her teeth, Williams mentions the confines of her workspace with two words: “It’s small.”
Working out of her apartment isn’t exactly ideal, but for now, it’s what she can manage. Set up in the corner of her bedroom, is a square table that holds all of the tools that’s made hundreds of pieces in the past decade: A black kit that contains spools and spools of thread, one big pair of shears, loose fabric, and a sewing machine that has seen some wear. Her hands her steady though. Something that could only come from years of practice.
“I’ve always been interested in clothes,” said Williams. “When my grandma was alive she used to sew a lot of my clothes when I was younger. Everything I’ve learned, it started with her.”
Designing and sewing is Williams’ passion, but it’s not her day job. She has two in fact.
During the week she works as a Day Habilitation Coordinator with disabled clients, and as a Director, working with one on one with youth. The weekends are devoted to sewing clothes she’s been commissioned, and building a brand.
“It’s kind of difficult, I still don’t know what direction I’m going in,” she said in reference to her clothing brand, Sainte Helene 41. “But the end of the day, nothing feels better than seeing my pieces come to life.”
Right now, this is the only type of work that she’s getting. Pieces people ask her to make, rather than having ready-to-wear clothes already made. This is something Williams wants to soon change. For years, she’s been known in the local area as someone who can make clothes, but she wants to elevate that status and build on something that is more than just freelance work.
“It’s not going to be mass production right now, but I want to have one-of-a-kind exclusives,” she said lifting her foot off the machine’s pedal. “I would prefer to have it totally coming from me, and if you like it, you buy it.”
The hard whirring of the machine starts up again.
Williams likes to work with the TV on. Something has to be going on in the background, and though ironic, she says it helps her focus when finishing a project. Tonight it’s a Kevin Hart comedy special. She’s seen it before but laughs heartily like it’s the first time.
“I started working on this at 4 pm yesterday, and basically finished most of it by 10 last night,” said Williams. Finishing an entire costume in a matter of hours is nothing for her, however. “There have been times when I’ve stayed up half the night sewing, just to get up at 7 am in the morning for work.”
Williams admits working two jobs, and doing fashion on the side is tough, but is hopeful that with ideas for a small men’s collection, designing can transition into the main part of her work life. The plan is to sketch out the designs, make the clothes, photoshoot them and put them up on the Sainte Helene website. A website soon coming.
So much of Williams’ plans is dependent on time, money, and opportunities. The color of her bedroom wall is lavender; her favorite color.
It reminds her of another time when she was attending school on Long Island. It’s the same color blouse she wore when she met Tim Gunn from “Project Runway.”
In a black suit and crisp white shirt, Gunn tells her she’s fabulous.
“In my head, I already knew that,” Williams said laughing, because though her situation isn’t perfect, her dream is still in sight. It’s just a matter of committing to it.
Looking at the black and white garment that is now stretched across a mannequin, Williams says, “When I do projects like this, I do get fulfillment from it, but it’s not the only thing I want. I want more.”