Tara Pemba has already seen success in her career—before even graduating.
Pemba was selected to interview and appear in the 2021 Visionary Woman Awards (VWA) video with one of this year’s honorees, fashion entrepreneur Joan Shepp. At that interview, which took place in Shepp’s eponymous Center City boutique, Pemba asked Ellen Shepp, Joan’s daughter, if they hired college students. The answer was yes. So she asked if they were currently hiring. The answer was once again yes. After the video shoot, Pemba reached out to Ellen, asked if she could apply for a job at the store, and received a job offer on the spot. They had learned everything they needed to know about her during the VWA interview, and they wanted her on the team.
As a member of the support staff team at Joan Shepp, Pemba values the firsthand boutique retail experience and industry knowledge she is gaining. “Who buys what? That’s my favorite thing to watch,” Pemba said, comparing it to fascinating and valuable market research.
As for her future plans, she is like many others poised to graduate. “I don’t really know right now, honestly. I’m just exploring and seeing what I’m interested in.”
Pemba’s 2021 summer internship included a lot of custom-work experience. She interned with Marco Marco, an LA-based designer who she connected with thanks to former Associate Professor Nasheli Ortiz.
The ability to drop some impressive names has already given Pemba some networking opportunities. “I worked on a Drake music video. It was number one on the charts for two or three weeks,” she said. She also did work for Jennifer Lopez for DSW and for a Rita Ora music video. According to Pemba, the ability to name-drop and own her achievements gives her a sense of pride and accomplishment.
“For people who have no idea what your life is like, or what school here is like or what this industry is like, it’s really important that you have some sort of footing to stand on that they can understand. It’s like, ‘Oh, Drake? I like Drake!’ Sometimes people don’t understand your perspective, so you need to talk to them from their understanding.”
During her summer internship, Pemba also did quite a bit of drag design, including a handful of dresses featured in promotional efforts for the show We’re Here on HBO Max. “I actually just found out one of the dresses I worked on this summer is now on the biggest billboard on the West Coast. I was just stalking this person’s Instagram last night and then [I saw this post and] I was like, oh my god, I made that!”
“Look how small those people are!”
Pemba credits her successes to the connections her professors have helped make for her, as well as the self-advocating she has done for herself.
“One of my strong suits is that I talk a lot and I can talk to a lot of people,” she said. “I know some people have a much harder time with it, but I think that the more you put yourself out there, the more people will see you, respect you and respect your work. Make connections with people who can uplift you.”
These connections have brought Pemba to where she is now: gaining as much experience as she can and looking at what’s next. “I really want to round out my experience. I did a lot of custom wear this summer, and right now I’m doing more business stuff and working retail, so I feel like I’m doing market research. I’m starting an internship with a brand called Ana Ono that makes bras for people who have had different breast-related surgeries, so it’s an amazing cause and I get to do things I’ve never done before, like tech packs and flats.”
Pemba’s advice for Fashion Design students at Moore? “Take all your classes seriously. These are valuable times. Build a really good rapport and personal connections with your professors. I’m very grateful for Nasheli [Ortiz] and the opportunity she provided. And build that resume! Honestly. You want it to be so beautiful that, no matter what school is at the top, someone will look at it and be like, that’s a nice resume.”