“Everyone Deserves to Look Their Best”: An Interview with Sequoia Sierra

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote: “You should dress in accordance with the demands of your social standing, your family background, your work… as your companions do, but to please God: eager to present a genuine and attractive image of true Christian living” (Friends of God, no. 122).

In this interview, the St. Josemaria Institute speaks with Sequoia Sierra about her professional experience in fashion and design, and how presenting a genuine and attractive image of true Christian living is a result of living and striving for holiness in everyday life.

Sequoia Sierra is an award winning stylist and a designer. She works in television and film,  does personal styling and online styling focusing on the average person rather than celebrities because she believes that “everyone deserves to look their best.” She represents and promotes various brands as a promotional marketer or as a brand ambassador.  And, in 2014, she launched a liturgical vestments studio where she designs, creates, and restores priests’ vestments and religious habits.

Q: Tells us about when and why you became interested in design and styling.

Sequoia: I have been interested in design and styling since I was a little girl. I started sketching my design ideas around age 5, and even before that I would create clothing for my dolls out of fabric scraps.  Growing up I was always very particular about the outfits I would wear as well. So it’s been there for as long as I can remember, it’s always been on my “radar” and something I’ve always thought about.

Q: As a stylist, you explain that “everyone deserves to look their best.” How do you help your clients and colleagues discover what that means for them and apply it in everyday life?

Sequoia: Yes, I believe that “everyone deserves to look their best” means and acknowledges that everyone has a need and desire to be authentically themselves in the best manner that they can be. Meaning that, they can dress in a manner that highlights their own natural beauty, while being personal to them and displaying their personality and style. To achieve this, I always start with teaching clients about their body shape and color palette, as that’s the basis, if clothing fits well and looks good on their bodies, then it’s easier for them to add their own personal flare and find their “style.”

Q: How did you become involved in the creation of liturgical vestments and religious habits? Tell us about the experience of running this business and your vision for its future.

Sequoia: It’s funny, but it never really crossed my mind as a real possibility until a nun, who is a friend of mine, needed the habits for their order remade and redesigned, and she said, “Sequoia, you’re a fashion designer and a Catholic, you could re-design our habits!” And it was sort of an epiphany that it was an actual, real possibility, and it just grew from there. I actually do more liturgical design than anything else, and it’s really the combination of all the things I love most, so I’m happy that we have steadily grown over the last 5-6 years that I’ve pursued it intentionally. Not only is there a need for good design in the Church, but there is a need for skilled artisans who really have the know how when it comes to designing and constructing garments. Just sewing alone doesn’t cut it. So I really think that has been my edge in this niche, since I came from a costume and fashion design background, and knew how to make garments for real people.

Q: How does your daily life of faith and prayer help you in your work and service to others? How has it helped you to discover and pursue your life’s mission and goals?

Sequoia: After working in the film industry with costume design, I realized that I did not want to work in that environment forever. I had to turn down projects that conflicted with my faith, and I really did not see it as a sustainable lifestyle or source of income when I had to decline so much to avoid doing things against my beliefs. So, when the opportunity to design for priests and nuns, and the beautification of the Church happened, it fulfilled all my top desires in one: Catholicism and design essentially. Also, a very big piece of my heart belongs to religious orders, as I was not only raised by nuns, but I am a lay order Norbertine. So this was a wonderful way to be able to apply my life as a lay Norbertine to my work more directly.

However, just designing for nuns and priests, while necessary, is somewhat containing what I can do to only the Church. So that is why I have also not only done private design work for various clients, but I have launched a women’s clothing line that focuses on designing to highlight their inherent dignity and femininity, without it being a “Catholic/Religious” line. It’s for any woman who resonates with a desire to tap into and highlight her inner beauty. So I do feel my efforts towards evangelization, are more clear in my private design and women’s clothing lines. And so my prayer life and work have informed each other.

Q: St. Josemaria Escriva wrote: “When I was a child, frequent communion was still not a widespread practice. I remember how people used to prepare to go to communion. Everything had to be just right, body and soul: the best clothes, hair well-combed – even physical cleanliness was important – maybe even a few drops of cologne… These were manifestations of love, full of finesse and refinement, on the part of many souls who knew how to repay Love with love” (Christ is Passing By, no. 91).

It seems that, in general, we have lost this sense of refinement that St. Josemaria describes, especially in the way that we prepare for church and to receive Christ in the Eucharist. Why do you believe it’s been lost? And, what can we do in our current culture to improve the way we prepare for Mass on Sunday (or daily)?

Sequoia: Well, it’s a loaded question, and there are a multitude of reasons, but beyond the current lack of authentic Catholic catechesis available, I would hone it down to two reasons in particular. But before we cover that, we must remember that we receive so much of life through our senses, we are awed by all that is beautiful and mysterious. And so this is the reason why I think a lack of understanding of the great Mystery of the Eucharist we are blessed to partake of, comes down to not only what we wear or do not wear to Mass, but also the lack of beauty and form in most churches. In general, most people do not “dress up” for church any longer as they do not feel the need to, like they would at a fancy wedding or a red carpet event. Since so many churches no longer have beautiful vestments, incense, reverence in the carrying out of the liturgy, etc., this has now informed people through their senses, that this is not an important event. If there is no formality and beauty about these things surrounding the liturgy, then why would they dress up for something that has in so many places become so banal and casual? I feel that a big part of the answer is to bring back beauty and reverence into the liturgy in order to point to the Mystery and the fact that we are in the True Presence, and get to receive Him. Even when the knowledge of the Faith is missing or not fully there, a soul can still be immersed and brought into prayer through beauty, then this in turn will inform them through their senses, and they will in turn dress for the occasion.

Q: What are some tips that you would recommend to someone looking to update or find his or her style – to help them develop their genuine and attractive image?

Sequoia: Study your body type, and find your color palette. This doesn’t mean people cannot wear colors outside their average palette, but if they’re not sure, it’s great to stick to these basic principles for a while until they are ready to branch out and add their own personal flair.

Q: Sequoia, thank you so much for your time and helpful insights. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us? Where can our readers learn more about your work and upcoming projects?

Sequoia: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure! I strongly encourage everyone to study and make beauty a focus in all aspects of their lives. From how they pray and attend Mass, to clothing, to how they cultivate friendships or even how they make or host meals, as it will motivate and uplift them when life gets dull or difficult. Life can and should be beautiful, and beauty is worth the struggle.

I am on pretty much every social media platform and very active on them, particularly on Facebook and Instagram (@sequoiaesierra and @theliturgicalco), so those are great places to find the day to day and upcoming happenings! More info can also be found at my websites: www.SequoiaSierra.com and www.TheLiturgicalCo.com.

St. Josemaria Institute St. Josemaria Institute

The St. Josemaria Institute was founded in 2006 to promote the life, teachings, and devotion to St. Josemaria Escriva among all men and women who desire to find meaning and happiness in their daily lives by growing closer to God. The St. Josemaria Institute produces and distributes digital and print media as a means to spread Christian values around the world and to help people navigate and live well in the digital age.

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