Mercer Island grad finds fashion career with Narciso Rodriguez

A sketch of a dress worn by Michelle Obama from the Resort 2009 Narciso Rodriguez Collection.  - Contributed image
A sketch of a dress worn by Michelle Obama from the Resort 2009 Narciso Rodriguez Collection.
— image credit: Contributed image

It started with the gift of a Crayola Fashion Design Kit. Lisa Muscatel was 12 years old, and the kit was a gift from her grandmother. A passion for sketching fashions was born, which would eventually lead to a fashion career in New York City with renowned designer Narciso Rodriguez.

“I was obsessed with [the kit] and was sketching outfits constantly. I knew from that time on it was what I wanted to do with my life,” said Muscatel, who went on to study fashion design and retail at Syracuse University and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts, after graduating in 1999 from Mercer Island High School.

“I think the culture of Mercer Island was great for cultivating my dream,” she said. “People never questioned what I wanted to be; they always supported it. I couldn’t ask for more supportive parents and siblings who never laughed or scoffed at what I wanted to be and always believed in me. While fashion is not always at the forefront in the Seattle area, I still find inspiration in the people around me.”

Muscatel landed an internship with Narciso Rodriguez, who has twice won the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Rodriguez’s dresses have also earned popularity with first lady Michelle Obama.

Now, six years later, Muscatel juggles a variety of tasks in addition to creating sketches and working beside Rodriguez himself: overseeing the design department and sample room work flow, doing fittings, research and managing cycles and special projects.

“I feel very lucky to be part of such a small but respected company, and working with Narciso is the most rewarding learning experience. He really is a creative genius, which can be surprisingly rare in this business. My job is hard work and not always so glamorous, but I always find my most rewarding moments come during a fashion show or seeing a dress we worked so hard to create on the red carpet,” Muscatel said.

Recent projects that Muscatel has been involved in have included partnering with E-Bay on a line that will be more accessible to the public, she said, as well as special projects involving celebrities, such as actress Claire Danes’ wedding dress. Actresses Rachel Weisz, Jessica Alba, Julianna Margulies and Sarah Jessica Parker are also clients of Narciso Rodriguez. As for first lady Michelle Obama: “Michelle is a big fan of Narciso’s, so it is great to see so much coverage of her in his clothes,” said Muscatel. “We are all very proud every time we see something of ours worn by her because she is such a strong and powerful figure to be associated with.”

Muscatel has also delved into independent designs apart from Narciso Rodriguez — mainly, friends’ wedding dresses and other smaller projects, she said. “The wedding dresses are truly special to create, and although extremely time-consuming, I feel so proud to see my friends looking so beautiful in something I created on my own.”

Though immersed in the culture of New York, Muscatel hasn’t forgotten Mercer Island and still visits frequently. “New York is an amazing city to be in, especially for fashion. It is so inspiring and constantly changing and evolving, and the people here are fearless when it comes to clothes,” she said. “It can be a tough city, but I am lucky enough to have amazing friends out here, many of them from Mercer Island, and we help support each other.”

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