Ambitious from a young age, Fernanda Campuzano (better known as Furnanda) has always had a clear vision of who she wanted to be –– a fashion designer and model. This week is the full realization of just that –– with the launch of her collection, SHEIN X FURNANDA in collaboration with billion-dollar women’s fast fashion enterprise, Shein.
The collection features sexy and fashion-forward cocktail dresses and evening gowns in a variety of colors – perfect for a night out on the town. The designs are in tune with the latest trends, geared toward women from the ages of 18-35.
She was on a fast track to reaching her goals and with this, she convinced her parents to let her leave high school at the age of 16 and graduated independently through an ulterior solution.
Furnanda moved to Los Angeles at the young age of 18, without any family or friends –– fueled with a dream and perseverance. Throughout the years she propelled forward in the fashion industry, graduating from FIDM with a Fashion Design degree, producing fashion shows for select designers, modeling, and designing for major retailers. After over 10 years of designing for other brands, this is the first time she is at the forefront with her name as part of the label of her designs. Her work ethic and dedication to her craft are admirable qualities not often found in this city of glitz and glamour. Although this is just the beginning of her career as a designer in this context, it’s a great step into the limelight and provides a glimpse of the design collaborations yet to come her way.
There is substance and a rich story to how she came to be where she is today. Here we dive into the journey of how her career began and lead her to where she is today.
Furnanda: I’m from Mexico City, I was born and raised there. My parents have always been very supportive of whatever I wanted to do, which is probably the most important thing for me, in order to find out what my passions were in life, and also to pursue those passions, which I know I’m very lucky to have. And even some of my followers have told me before,“Hey, I also wanted to be a designer, but I just didn’t have that support that you have.”
I also grew up with a fashion design mom. So I’m a fourth generation fashion designer. And my mom always had me around patterns and fabrics. She taught me how to sew when I was four. That was another big influence that determined what I wanted to do later in life. We would go fabric shopping when I was four or five, and she had me pick out patterns for my own clothes.
My mom went to fashion school in Mexico City. Then she was designing for a company and then she had her own atelier. She would do custom nightgowns for women. I got to see her whole process of how she would turn her ideas or her clients ideas into reality.
My dad is a civil engineer. My granddad started a construction company, which he and his brothers ran.
Furnanda: My parents love that I’m doing what I’m passionate about. And they’re also very proud. They just want me to be happy and do whatever makes me happy. As years go by, they are still supportive and they’re still my number one fans.
Shout out to my dad, because he’s the only one that can take credit for any of my success. Because when I was young, he told me that I could go study anywhere in the world that I wanted and that I could study whatever I wanted. I chose LA because I wanted to model as well as design. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to model in New York, Paris, London or Milan.
Furnanda: Well, we’re gonna backtrack a little because in Mexico City growing up, I attended private school since I was a baby. So that meant to me that I was living in a little bubble where everybody was very rich. Everybody that I knew, their families were millionaires. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I have wanted to work since I was 13 when I decided I wanted to become a model. My parents didn’t let me because they told me, “Hey, you’re a student, you’re too young, and you’re supposed to be focused on your studies.”
I feel like I had it good growing up, I had two maids and a chauffeur, my dad gave me a BMW when I was 16 and my family had tigers as pets. Regardless of this, I still felt like everybody else that I went to school with had way wealthier parents than mine. But the main reason why I always wanted to become independent is because I felt like my life was already planned for me. In Mexico City, everybody knows each other. I saw the same thing happening over and over again, where we would all go to the same schools, and then we would go to the same college, and then we would all get married.
All a woman wanted was to find a well off man to take care of them. Then they would just be at home taking care of the kids. But the thing that really threw me off was the fact that I saw examples of a lot of marriages where the wife would get cheated on, abused or controlled, and I was not into that. I’ve always been a feminist since I was four years old.
So I was like, I honestly don’t want to depend on a man and I don’t want a man to be able to tell me what I can and cannot do. And I don’t want to feel trapped into a marriage that is not out of love. I don’t want to be married because oh, he has money, his family name is great. I didn’t want to become a housewife, which I understand, that’s a goal for a lot of people, which is fine, but it was never the goal for me.
GROWING UP FEELING DIFFERENT
Furnanda: I remember that in high school, I would dress up differently because I would follow trends. In Mexico, people were more conservative. They would all make fun of me and be like, Why are you wearing feathers? Now everybody’s wearing feathers again, right? Why are you wearing animal prints? And I was like because it’s the trend? Have you read Vogue magazine? I knew the trends. I think it’s funny, now I’m the one telling the people that were making fun of me what to wear.
FINISHING EARLY & TAKING THE LEAP OF FAITH
Furnanda: When I was 16, I felt like I was wasting my time because I couldn’t relate to all my classmates, they weren’t that interested in school or in doing anything because they’re well off. I felt like I was wasting my time going to school, because I already knew what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to move to LA. I knew I wanted to be a model and I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. Because I was already ready to go and start doing that, I convinced my parents, after a year of debating with them, to let me drop out of high school.
I finished high school on a program that is called Open High School in Mexico. So it’s kind of like getting a GED here. But this is more like you do your own thing. And you have to get tested on each subject. I finished the last two years of high school I had pending in six months.
Something that I promised to myself and to my parents. I told them if you let me do this watch, I’m gonna graduate two years early from high school because I know I’m wasting my time because I’m smart. And I’m smarter than any of my classmates. So they’re just dragging me down when I’m already ready to do the next thing.
START IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY
Tricia Love Vargas: Where did you start your career as a fashion designer?
Furnanda: I went back to Mexico City for half a year and that’s where I had my first job out of school. Before that. I had an internship at Guess Inc, which I didn’t actually like. It was a good experience, I’m glad I did it because I had experience on my resume. I was also doing fashion shows on the rooftop of a highrise in downtown LA where I was living. I met some people that lived in my building and they asked “Do you want to collaborate and we can throw fashion shows together?” So I started producing fashion shows for LA Fashion Week.
I would cast models for the shows for the different designers. I was the liaison between the designers, the sponsors and the guests. I was looking for sponsors for food and beverages. I would communicate with all the designers to see what they needed. I also had to find hairstylists and makeup artists. During the event, I would have to run to the door and make sure that everything was running smoothly.
CAREER AS A FASHION DESIGNER
Furnanda: One of my first jobs was as a Junior fashion designer in Mexico City. I was designing for two womenswear lines, one being an outerwear company based out of London and I was also designing for Seven 7 Jeans. The company I worked for would buy license rights for different companies, and then they would mass produce it and distribute it to Latin America.
I was working at the first company for 6 months only, then I came back to LA and got a new job as a women’s denim designer. This whole thing started because my internship was at Guess. Even though I wasn’t designing denim for them, whenever somebody would see Guess on my resume, they would automatically assume, Oh, she knows how to design denim. That’s how I accidentally became a denim fashion designer, but it’s okay, because it’s a specialty. I got paid way more than a regular designer.
I was with them for one and a half years, I was hired as an assistant designer. After like two weeks, they made me an associate designer. Because they knew I was good. I had a lot of really cool opportunities at that job, I was only 21 and my designs were being picked by buyers at really big retailers like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Forever 21 and Bebe. I remember Forever21 would pick my designs and order massive amounts of units and ship them to all their locations worldwide. One time I saw a really big order from them and it was around 150,000 units of only one design, which was wild to me. I used to talk about selling my designs at these retailers when I was in school, so getting it done so fast after graduating was a huge deal to me.
After that, I switched jobs and went on to become the head designer of a denim manufacturer. I designed for 3 womenswear brands- junior, young contemporary and contemporary lines. I also designed private label for retailers like Stitch Fix, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Fashion Nova.
I would get there at nine, and was supposed to leave at six. But I was often unable to leave the office until around 8pm because I would start getting emails from our office in Vietnam at 6pm when everyone there was getting into their office. It was a lot, I would have three assistants and I had to make sure they had work to do as well as review it. I had three Patternmakers and sample makers and I would also make sure that they had enough work. Every day I had to design a lot of designs. Everybody had to stay busy, which was a lot of responsibility falling on me to be honest. Then I would also coordinate our fittings, we would have two or three fittings a week, with different models for the different lines. Not only that but I was also the production manager for the import lines, which is unheard of in the industry to have a designer also be the production manager. I wore a lot of hats. I would also run meetings with the sales team and the production team, just to make sure that our deadlines were being met.
LEAVING THE 9-5 FASHION DESIGN ROLE & PUTTING HER HEALTH FIRST
Furnanda: I left corporate fashion design in the summer of 2020. It became really stressful. I had been doing full-time fashion design for 10 years by this time, and not only that but I was also working as a part-time model. Eventually, I reached my limit, and I got burnt out. My body got really sick in 2020. I got shingles very close to my eye. I ended up in the ER and every doctor that would look at me, they would gasp and say, well, if this spreads, you’re gonna lose your eyesight on both eyes. I was freaking out. They would ask me Hey, what did you do for a living because it’s not normal that at your age you get this? Only people that have very low immune systems get this so what do you do? And I’m like, well, you’re gonna laugh. I’m a fashion designer. They said, actually we get a lot of people with stress symptoms that are in the fashion industry. That made me take a step back and realize that I was probably neglecting myself just because I’m so passionate about the work that I do. I took a lesson from that, it was a hard lesson. I told myself, I’m gonna take a break and I’m gonna try to balance out my life better, where it’s not all work and where I’m taking care of myself and my health. That’s when I decided to quit, thinking I would take a short break, but then it became permanent. Because of this, I also randomly decided to move to Paris in 2020, but destiny brought me back to LA.
Tricia Love Vargas: What are you doing today that’s different? –To take care of yourself, self care, self love? Like, are there routines you’ve required? Or what does that look like? That’s different today.
Furnanda: I do yoga almost every day, which is amazing. It’s something that I never had time to do. Because I’m a freelancer, now, I am able to work as much as I want or work as little as I want. I know I’m my own boss, which is also great. I feel like it balanced it out where I’m not working 30 days a month, seven days a week now. I definitely cut back, I’m working half of the month, which is like half of the amount of work that I used to do. But it’s amazing what my determination has done for me because I am able to still earn as much and even more money as I used to back when I was working full time for another person. Which is wild to me.
WORDS OF WISDOM: FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Furnanda: I would love to inspire other women to create their own paths and to follow their passions. They can do it. Don’t let your parents or your friends who are fake tell you that you can’t do it. If I can inspire at least one woman to follow her dreams, that would be awesome. That’s one of my dreams. That’s what I want to portray to other women. I get so many DMS from female followers on Instagram, telling me I want to be a model or I want to be a fashion designer, but I don’t know what to do or I don’t know where to start. My DMs are always open on my Instagram for free advice for women.
Sometimes you have to make mistakes, and you learn from them, but you just have to get up once more. Try it again and again. Sometimes the road will be so easy that you’ll be amazed and sometimes it will be hard. But it’s just part of life.
Connect with Furnanda on social media @furnandaofficial
Interview by Tricia Love Vargas