Breaking in to Making it in the Fashion Industry
Do the names Lagerfeld, Valentino, Versace or Chanel ring a bell? Not only are these names important but they are classic in the world of fashion. Many people hear fashion and immediately think the glitz and glamour side of the industry; sure that’s a small part that comes with it, but not nearly as soon as one may think. There are many different steps to take and techniques to use when trying to find your place in this wonderful world. I’m no expert; like many I ‘m also trying to find my way as well. The best advice I can give to anyone in this field is persistence – know what you want right from the beginning, and then you proceed to take the steps to make your dream become a reality. However, if you’re still quite unsure, the best thing for you to do is maybe intern in various different areas until you come across a particular field that strongly interests you. Trust me you’ll be knocked down, tossed around and may even feel like giving up, but it comes with the territory. Stand back up, brush yourself off, and you not only try, but you try try and try again! Here are a few key tips in certain fields of fashion that may help those of you trying to get a jump start:
- Visual Merchandising/Styling: I know this a little TOO well, lol. As a merchandiser myself, I know just how coveted this position can be. Believe it or not, it’s definitely a field where you really have to market yourself. It’s not about what you say you can do, it’s about showing what you can do! Create a scrapbook of 5 people whose personal style influences you the most (my top five are Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, and Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively). In that scrapbook take notes of different designers you may like, new designers you come across, etc. Believe it or not, visual merchandising and styling go hand in hand. Mannequins and windows are being styled by individuals, just as a stylist styles a person. Mannequin styling can be perfect practice for styling on real individuals. Knowledge truly is key. Know what your talking about; and if you don’t, do your research. Subscribe to fashion magazines, check out exhibits and events, etc.
- Fashion Marketing/Public Relations: This is definitely a field where you really have to know what you are talking about.It’s not just about events and meeting influential people. Think about all the work that gets put into these fashion shows, parties, advertisements and billboards. (Fact: one subway ad costs 50,000 dollars to post! And that’s one of the smaller ads. The larger ones range anywhere from 75-150,000 dollars! A little advice – next time you see someone about to deface an ad, drop a little knowledge on them. Oh yeah, and shout out to Professor Dixon for my Ad class back in ’07). None of it is easy. It takes a lot of organization, research and knowledge to put all of these events together. Best advice for this field: Internships, Internships, Internships! I started an internship myself in the beginning of the year, and it’s lead me to a full time job! Not only have I witnessed the design and production part of fashion but the business side, which is a definite plus in any case. There are tons of job sites out there that are constantly looking for young fresh minds – Craigslist, Manhattan Jobs, Google, Yahoo Hot Jobs, Indeed Jobs – just to name a few.
- Fashion Buying/Selling: as stated in the previous section knowledge is key. For these fields, there is a lot of math involved so you really have to brush up on your formulas (i.e. open to buy and open to sell plans, both of course depending on which area you are in). A lot of relationships are established in this field as well, so networking (as in just about any field) is very important. Buyers and Sellers attend tons and tons of trade shows all year long, all over the world. Project NY andProject Vegas are some of the biggest trade shows. If you’re interested this field, knowing your trade shows, formulas, and the trends of the season are highly important.
- Fashion Design: Ahhhh, the beloved fashion design. This is by far, without a doubt, the most competitive field out there. Not only are there thousands of labels out there but this is a field where your creativity really counts! You always have to know what’s in and what’s not. People are also thieves (believe it or not) so be cautious of individuals for they may steal ideas or designs. Make sure you make copies of all your work and sign and date everything. Knowing your textiles and fabrics is highly important; quality is key. Be cautious when picking out fabric swatches for inspiration boards and designs; don’t be afraid to ask questions. A little advice – taking a class in your weak areas is a great help. If you’re not very knowledgeable on fabrics, take a textile class. I took one last Fall and it was by far one of the best classes I’ve taken for my field. Not only did I learn but I got to see and experience how different fabrics were made. Get business cards, show up at different events for new designers, find show rooms and go in there with samples of your stuff to show. The only way to get out there is by making an effort; sitting on your ass isn’t going to cut it (Pardon my French) so go out there and make yourself known.
- Modeling: This is probably the field where people get confused the most. First things first, anyone whose modeling and signs a contract with any agency SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY ANYTHING!!! I REPEAT YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO PAY! Hello. These people are profiting off of your look already. It’s the same concept in the entertainment business. When a record company signs an artist to a label, they don’t require them to pay a fee. Neither should models. Sadly there are a lot of con artists out there and this is a big time field in which it happens. You have to really market yourself in this field also, with recent photographs, comp cards etc. If this is something your very passionate about do your research! Know the hottest designers, models etc. The last thing you want to do is seem like you have no clue if you’re ever on an interview or a go-see. Try out for competitions, walk into agencies with your pictures, and don’t be afraid! So what if this agency doesn’t like you; go to the next one and so forth. You can’t succeed if you already set yourself up for failure.