The Secret Life of a Fashion Designer’s Assistant



When you imagine the lives of a fashion designer and their assistant, your first thought might be that they have the coolest job in the world, with endless parties and fun. What many don’t know is the fashion world is a very busy, fast industry where nothing comes easy and everything can change in one second. Ryan Grass is the assistant to upcoming Navajo designer Shayne Watson and he’s here to tell us why it’s important to adapt to the fashion world and why he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
NATIVE MAX: When did you become an assistant to designer Shayne Watson?

RYAN GRASS: I have always has a strong passion for my culture and heritage. I was never brought up around the traditional customs but I lived my life on the reservation to know that our indigenous tradition/culture, values, and beliefs are something to hold on to. Education has always been a priority and something my family continues to push on me. I strongly believe that education is an essential part of life and with knowledge comes power. I have always heard the saying “Find something you love, because when you do the thing that you love, you never work a day in your life.” So to be able to become an Event Coordinator/Fashion Designer’s assistant combined with my love for my Indigenous Nation, I was able to find my passion with Northern Arizona University, pursuing my degree in Applied Indigenous Studies and Communication. I was able to balance both worlds without sacrifice.

What are your jobs as a fashion designer’s assistant?
My job is basically to make Shayne’s life easier or as organized as possible, from scheduling meets/appointments, travel arrangements, booking/advertising shows, organizing his work area and bringing him coffee. There is never a typical day working in the world of Shayne Watson Designs, especially when we are booked to do a Fashion Show. The fashion world is a chaotic one, you have to be able to adapt and be prepared for anything. Most cases, models back out, we have to do hair and make-up for our models, also some shows require us to create our own stage/runway and back drop, the list can go on. So it’s my obligation to make sure everything runs smoothly, while Shayne prepares his models for the show. There was a time at The National Aboriginal Fashion Show, where I was running thru the venue, searching for another model. I saw a young girl, on the runway, who was pretending to be a model, strutting her fierceness down the runway. I asked for a moment of her time, took her into the changing room and just like that, she was a part of the show. She was so excited to be part of the event and model for Shayne Watson Designs. She continued to express her appreciation from beginning to end of the event; the excitement she conveyed put a smile on my face, because I know that this moment would be with her for years to come.

What are some good days being an assistant? Bad days?
Each Fashion Show is never going to be the same and almost, always never going to go as planned, but I enjoy it and wouldn’t change it for the world. Shayne and I have the same work ethics. We have specific ways of doing things and truly enjoy each other’s company. Even through the stressful environment, we still have time to laugh, joke and goof off.

Please explain a day in the life of Shayne’s assistant.
Working for Shayne is an experience of its own, for him to understand my passion to get young, talented and creative indigenous individuals, such as himself involved with any event that I do makes my job so much more enjoyable. He understand my enthusiasm for teaching the youth that they can be successful and do the thing that they love, from photography, graphic design, event coordinating, public relations, to a fashion designer.

Pursing my degree in Applied Indigenous Studies and Communication, I’m able to share my story and bring understanding that my future is not limited, that I still have the ability to enjoy what I do; (Event Coordinating, Public Relations and Indigenous Studies) and apply it to being a Fashion Designer’s Assistant. There has been many trial and error in my life, as well as personal struggles, but my determination as well as the support of my family and friends, I continues to strive for that education and help others who have yet had the opportunity to share their story.

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