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FAST Alumni Interview with Dominic Sondag and s.k. manor hill


FAST Alumni Interview: Dominic Sondag

The FUA Alumni Association caught up with former Fashion student Dominic Sondag. Living in Florence’s rich artisanal culture, Sondag was inspired by Italians’ appreciation of fashion, art, history, and craft. Sondag initiated his fashion design career in Europe, working on the design team at London’s Chucs Dive & Mountain Shop.  In 2012, he relocated to New York City to work with Engineered Garments’ production and design/development teams. Sondag currently works for one of New York City’s premier clothing factories, where he developed and launched his first collection under the brand s.k. manor hill.


Tell us a bit about your past - where you're from, how you got into fashion design?


I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. As early as I can remember I have been interested in fashion and art. I worked in retail starting at the age of 16 because of my fondness for shoes and apparel. I majored in Graphic Design in college but I never seriously pursued fashion design because I didn’t think it was a realistic career option. In my last semester of college, I decided to study abroad at FUA. There, I realized that I wouldn’t be happy pursuing any other profession – that I was meant for a career in fashion design.


Why did you decide to study Fashion in Florence?


I chose Graphic Design as my major because I thought it was a practical field to pursue in the arts realm. For my last semester of college in Fall 2009, I only needed elective credits to graduate and my family encouraged me to study abroad.


I was interested in studying in Florence because of its rich history in fashion and arts. After completing my first semester at FUA, I had satisfied my college graduation requirements but more importantly, along the way I had found my life focus. I took a second semester so that I could complete the FUA Fashion certificate. I can’t remember all my course titles; perhaps the school has a record of the exact names. I believe I took an Intro to fashion course, draping, CAD pattern making, and sewing.


What technical or creative skills did you hone here at FUA that are most useful to you in your current career?


Flat illustration is a technical skill that I use frequently during my career. I use it to show pattern makers, sewers, and buyers a clear 2-D depiction of a garment. One of my teachers helped me improve my drawing skills which was initially very helpful. Now I do all my illustrations on Adobe Illustrator. My FUA instructor also taught me about designing cohesive collections with a theme and the concept of seasons. While this may seem like a fairly basic concept, I hadn’t ever really thought about it, having grown up in San Francisco where the weather is really season-less.


And speaking of your current career - What are you up to now? Tell us about s.k. manor hill - how you got started and what are your main goals or tenets.


After satisfying requirements for a certificate in Fashion Design from FUA in Spring 2010, I returned home for a brief period before returning to Europe, taking on a design internship at Chuc’s in London in 2011. I moved to New York in 2012 to intern with Engineered Garments (a Japanese brand designed and made in NY), with designer Daiki Suzuki.


I also started interning with a clothing manufacturer in New York’s garment district which provided an excellent opportunity to learn about the production and development. I am currently working on developing my 5th season – Spring/Summer 2018. My first collection was Spring/Summer 2016. I have been able to grow my wholesale business each season, domestically and internationally.


I have also grown my direct to consumer business each season with my online store www.skmanorhill.com. My long term goal is to build a well-known, respected global brand.


What elements of Italian and Florentine style, culture, and fashion have most influenced your own style and look as a designer? 


Living in Florence provided me with the opportunity to see men wearing suits in a stylish yet casual manner. I didn’t have that experience in the US growing up in San Francisco. There, the people who wear suits seem to just be wearing a uniform to go to work in and they do not reflect personal taste or style. I believe people in Italy have a greater appreciation of fashion than we do in the US.


The concepts of Creativity, Tradition and Innovation go hand in hand (in hand), especially in the fashion industry. What aspect(s) of your work would you consider "innovative"? What sets you apart from other menswear designers?


My clothing is very detailed oriented. I think I have a particular taste and an eye that is unique to me. I like to mix traditional and vintage styles from around the world making something timeless yet contemporary.


An integral part of studying abroad is discovery - discovering places, languages, other people, ourselves. What was one of things you discovered during your time in Italy?


I discovered an appreciation for travel itself. While I was able to experience a number of different cultures as a child traveling internationally with my parents, I was never especially interested in travel myself until I studied abroad on my own in Italy. I instantly fell in love with Florence and the variety of experiences that it offered. This fueled my desire to explore more locations in Italy, Europe and throughout the world.


What artist or designer do you consider to have had the most influence on your career?


My favorite designers are Issey Miyake, Dries Van Noten, and Daiki Suzuki. I like Issey because his clothes are very unique and innovative but still wearable, Dries for his beautiful fabrics and styles, and Daiki for his attention to detail. I try to embody all these elements in my designs.


If you could give one piece of advice to our current and future fashion students, what would it be? 


Pursue what you’re passionate about and be prepared to put in the time and work.


If you’re interested in getting in touch with Dominic, please write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Photograph courtesy of Dominic Sondag.


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