Fashion

15 fashion pros offer key advice to younger selves Part 2

The second in a two-part piece for which FashionUnited went behind the
wheels of industry to ask a cross-section of fashion’s hard-working
professionals what advice they would give their graduating selves or what
they wish they’d known back at the launch of their careers. We’ve harvested
the wisdom of these experts with international resumes who are based all
over the world. Some studied in the most elite fashion schools, others did
not, a few are in their mid-20s just a handful of years out of school,
while others are senior decision makers with decades of experience, some
have worked entirely in corporate while others only in luxury houses. The
result is a celebration of the humanity that is often missing when
discussing the big business of fashion.

Alanna Lizun, Assistant Sweater Designer, Michael Kors, 2018 BFA
Fashion Design Kent State University

My advice to my graduating self would be to know that you are not only
the job you have or the job title you possess. Coming into the industry you
are told to work as hard as you can and as long as you can so you can make
a strong impression. With the current job market and global pandemic, it is
important not to take your job as the only important thing in your life.
Being able to work from home for the past few months has taught me that
while getting work done in a timely manner matters, it is just as important
to make time for yourself. A good work life balance is just as important as
knowing who you are as a designer.

Another tip I have learned along the process of applying for jobs is to
not let the opinions of others define you. While it is important to
understand how to receive constructive feedback, do not take people’s
labels of you or your work as your own personal truth. The interview
process is hard; don’t believe everything the interviewer says about your
work. Don’t take it all personal!

Amy Troni, Product Developer/Merchant specializing in intimates and
sport apparel, has held positions at Hanes, Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren and
Calvin Klein; BS Marketing Merchandising Management, Fashion Institute of
Technology

It’s the same advice I still give myself today. Never give up and be
persistent. Make a list of all of the companies you are interested in and
reach out to explore possible opportunities, network through LinkedIn,
reach out to people––people like myself for guidance! Most people are happy
to help. Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself, if one door closes, another
one will always open, anything is possible. And most importantly, make it
happen!

Karen McCausland, Boston-based Knitwear consultant, formerly at
Anthropologie, White House Black Market, Moschino, Fuzzi; BA Textiles,
Glasgow School of Art, Scotland; MA Fashion,Royal College of Art,
London

It was actually really interesting thinking about this, in general I was
very fortunate to land in Italy and have all the experiences from so many
different aspects of my career. I was also pretty lucky to have great
mentors at college who guided me so much and I really owe them a lot for
seeing what I couldn’t at the time. Don’t sweat it, enjoy the ride! I spent
so much time stressing. Maintain the bonds with your fellow students. They
will become the design directors in important fashion brands––networking
from the get-go is one of the key components to landing the job of your
dreams! I really wish I had done more hands-on internships as a student or
immediately after graduation, that would have given me more insight into
the day-to-day workings of a full collection. I feel that when I landed my
first job I did not really know where to start, the first year was a huge
struggle.

Peter McLaughlin, currently pursuing MA in Sustainability at Harvard,
formerly designer at Tommy Hilfiger Europe, Versace; BA Womenswear,
University of Ulster, Belfast

It’s very tempting to take the first job you’re offered but be aware
that this can affect your next job and where you ideally want to be. In
saying that, my first job, after studying womenswear was menswear for
retail group Arcadia, but when they made 170 people redundant, I went to
Milan and worked at Krizia, then Versace, doing both mens and womens so the
first experience was very handy. However I don’t know if those high-end
labels would have considered me if I’d spent 5 years at Arcadia.

Know and research the market you’d like to work in. Ask former tutors
and reach out to anyone to make an educated decision. They’re more likely
to help than not. If you want to work in Paris, start taking French
lessons. If you want to work in America then go early so you can be trained
in the way the industry there functions and work your way up. Going later
can be jarring, and suddenly entering the corporate structure can be a big
leap only to find out it’s not the environment for you. Corporate hirers
are more focused on your resume and the names/brands on it than on your
portfolio.

In school there are always those who are divas who think it’s very
“fashion” and makes them fabulous. It’s not. In industry you just come
across as unprofessional, difficult, and unpleasant to work with. Fashion
is a small world, even internationally, so you don’t want to get a
reputation. People will ask your ex-colleagues if they would recommend you.
So build a reputation as being dedicated, having initiative, open to
learning and willing to go the extra mile. Then you will become invaluable
and easy to recommend. It’s a cliché but true, “your attitude determines
your altitude.”

Tamsin Rasor, NYC-based bespoke jewelry designer and VP Merchandising &
Development, formerly of Capelli and Arcadia; BA Fashion Design, University
of Westminster, London

When I was graduating in 2001, the job market wasn’t great as the world
was in a recession following the dot com bubble. Having just spent all my
savings on my final collection I had no money and needed a job, any job!
After spending my very last 5 dollars cash on a tube ticket to a job interview I
didn’t get because I wasn’t built like a supermodel, even though the job
was in ‘Buying’ and I was 100 percent qualified, I ended up taking a temp job in
facilities management at a Kodak factory. I worked there for 18 months,
going from temp to perm which seemed to cement the fact I would never, ever
get a job in fashion. But I kept trying, and even ended up telling my boss
that I desperately wanted to move into fashion and he was 100% supportive
any time I needed to go to an interview––and eventually it happened. I got
a job as a buyer’s administrative assistant with the second largest
retailer in the UK at the time, Arcadia. When I look back at my time at the
Kodak factory, I learned so much about people and the world, completely
unexpectedly, even though at the time it felt like my hopes and dreams were
dying on the vine. So I would tell my graduating self, persevere, trust in
yourself and the skills you have trained in. But even if you need to take a
detour, don’t be disheartened. Find learning in everything you are exposed
to and everything you do because it will benefit you in ways you cannot
understand until later in life.

Deborah Latouche, London-based Fashion Stylist and Creative Director of
new Modestwear brand, SABIRAH; BA Fashion Design, London College of
Fashion

Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid. Go for it. Research. Everyone has
an opinion and that’s fine, but not everyone has to like your work. If you
are excited by it and have worked to the best of your ability, then love it
and be proud of your achievements.

David Wyatt, Barcelona-based freelance designer, worked with Bally,
Kenzo, Fendi; BA Fashion Design, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Communication! Yes, you’ve got great ideas, great taste, you’re a
fashion maverick and genuine original. But unless your surname is
Windsor/Jenner/Rothschild or you’ve had a number one album, no one is going
to automatically let you head up a fashion brand––you’re going to need to
convince them to give you a chance.

The fashion system is in constant flux and methods of communication
change but we designers will always need to express the ideas bouncing
around in our brains to the world at large if we want them to become a
reality, clothes, accessories, presentations, whatever. So work on your
illustration, photography, draping, pattern cutting, Photoshop,
Illustrator, even learning languages so you can speak with manufacturers.
There are so many ways to get your ideas across and being able to do so
will keep you employed much more than those without these skills. Take the
time to become proficient with any tool that allows you to communicate your
ideas. Clear, precise, even inspiring methods of communication are always
powerful, they can even sell a half-baked idea. And there are so many ways
to learn them. It’s an arm in your arsenal and will always make you stand
out from the crowd.

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Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for
the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photo FashionUnited

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