Designing in Paradise

by Erika Togashi July 02, 2018 3 min read

Interview with designer & business owner of SEPTEMBER - ERIKA SEIKO TOGASHI


Profession / Business / Title: 

Designer & Business Owner of SEPTEMBER – sustainable surf & swimwear

Jane of All Trades


List of brands designed for: 


The North Face


Deus Ex Machina


How long have you been in your profession? 

15 years


Woman standing on beach holding a surfboard under her arm wearing the Malibu One piece surf swimsuit in Ivory

Ivy wears the Malibu One Piece in Ivory


Real talk- PROS vs CONS in your profession? 

It’s never what you think it’s going to be. 



The people.  I’ve met some of my closest friends through work.  I wouldn’t be where I am now in my career if it weren’t for the amazing mentors and role models I’ve met throughout the years.  I’ve been so fortunate that at all the companies I’ve worked for, the level of respect, encouragement and compassion towards each other in the design department has been next level.  I know there are many companies where that is not the case.

Being creative and seeing your vision come to life.   There is a great joy and feeling of accomplishment when you see people appreciate and love your designs.

Being able to travel to all parts of the world for work; seeing and experiencing other cultures and exploring many parts of the world were all opened to me through my jobs.   Having the opportunity to product test the gear I was designing for pro athletes let me also snowboard, climb and mt. bike to some amazing places on earth.  These opportunities are unique to working in the Outdoor Industry and I didn’t have them when I worked for fashion brands – but the work life balance that is highly encouraged and a big part of each companies’ culture. I didn’t appreciate it until I no longer had it!



You only really design about 10% of the time.  The rest is dealing with the backend of design ie: dealing with factories, ordering fabric, fitting samples, reviewing patterns, QC and the list goes on…

POLITICS of the game.  In the Outdoor Industry it is still very much a boy's club and well, if you’re not a boy, the uphill climb is that much more difficult.  In the fashion world, it’s all about who you know, what you wear, & where you went and if you don't want to play that game…well….you’re most likely going to be on the outside circle.    


Camo printed boardshorts on top of a old wooden bike in the forest

Boardshort designs for Deus Ex Machina 

Best moment in your career? 

When I was hired to design for J.Crew Men’s after everyone said it would be nearly impossible to move from designing in the Outdoor Industry to designing in the fashion industry without a design degree.  Right now is another best moment in my career, after 1.5years of product testing, I launched my own surf & swimwear brand – SEPTEMBER.


Most challenging moment in your career? 

Taking that final leap and really committing to SEPTEMBER 100%.  Everything associated with SEPTEMBER is me – my heart and soul and putting it out in the world can be really challenging. I no longer can hide my designs behind the mask of another brand. 


Woman surfing in the eden surf bikini top and lucky high waisted surf bikini bottom in ivory

Ivy wears the Eden Top and Lucky Bottom in Ivory.


What advice can you offer potential designers? 

It’s never as glamorous as it looks from the outside, but it’s way more rewarding than you can ever imagine.  Listen, learn, be patient and earn your dues.  Hustle, put in the long, late hours and understand that there is so much more to learn about being a designer than what you learned in school.   Respect everyone you work with regardless of what department they work in.  Trim development or QC testing might not sound as ‘glamourous’ as being a designer, but it’s a team effort and without everyone collectively working and respecting each other – the product will always suffer.


Your thoughts on diversity and/or inclusivity in the design industry? 

It’s been over 4 years since working for a US-based brand and I hope things have changed since then, but the majority, if not all, brands I’ve designed for have been led by white males and it was a real exclusive ‘boy’s club” and if you are of a different race or gender – it could be real isolating.   From what I hear and read, that’s changing – but I wouldn’t be able to tell you first hand.  I’m a little out of touch living in Bali.   


Favorite inspirational quote? 

You don’t need a lot of things, you just need the right things. 



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