A seam-ripper accident almost derailed Sherita M. Cuffee’s budding fashion design career.
“I stabbed myself in the hand trying to take out thread,” said the 2007 Fashion Design grad. “I don’t think I started sewing again until I was 10.”
Her women’s wear brand, Visçera, will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2019. The French word “visçera” refers to the main artery that goes to the heart, and is pronounced vish-AIR-uh. It’s also a nod to Cuffee’s mentor, who is French: William Dugain, head of Calvin Klein’s Atelier. “Everything I do and have done in my life, I always put my heart in it, so it made sense to use that word,” Cuffee said.
Her focus the last five years has been bridal wear. She said today’s brides are looking for dresses they can wear again, a move that’s in line with the sustainability movement in the fashion industry.
“Brides like the option to shorten (the dress) to be used in renewal ceremonies or just to have for anniversaries,” she said. “People are trying to get more mileage out of the wedding dress nowadays while still being unique.”
DON’T GIVE UP
When she’s not busy designing, Cuffee likes to work on the house she and her husband bought in Westchester County, New York, in 2016.
“Eventually, I’m hoping to turn the garage into a little factory,” she said. “Instead of having contractors sew in their homes, they can sew in my space.” Cuffee said it’s a way to control counterfeiting, which happens often in the wedding dress design business.
In October, Cuffee, who has an MBA, participated in a five-week business development collaboration between Moore’s ROI (Resources. Opportunity. Inspiration.) program and the Wharton Small Business Development Center, to improve her business pitch and to meet potential partners and collaborators.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve my presentation,” she said.
Cuffee credits Moore with giving her a great technical foundation for the fashion industry, and with her teaching career. She taught as a junior in the Young Artists Workshop program, and will soon start a position as adjunct professor of fashion at ASA College in Manhattan.
College can prepare students for the world of work but Cuffee urges students not to give up on their passion.
“Don’t listen to what people tell you that you can or can’t do,” she said. “If you have to get that second job to fund your passion, I understand that, but don’t give up on it, don’t make it secondary.”