For this two-part piece, 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 exclusively in luxury houses. The result is a celebration of the humanity that is often missing when discussing the big business of fashion.
Sharn Sandor, Compliance and Regulatory Affairs at Thinx Inc., formerly held positions at J Crew, PVH, Tommy Hilfiger Europe; BS Fashion Merchandising Marketing, Fashion Institute of Technology; MA Fashion and the Environment, London College of Fashion
In no particular order: Trust yourself and go with your gut instinct. Rather than stressing over what the future holds, have a sense of what you need to have in your career but also be open to new opportunities, things you may not have planned for may be the thing that makes your career. Be a genuine person and be kind. In the workplace you will encounter many types of personalities, I always try to lead by example and simply be nice to others. The fashion industry is small, you never know who you will bump into later in your career. Work abroad if you get the chance to. Don’t be scared, opportunities come your way and you need to grab them. If/when you get the chance to either travel or better yet live abroad, do it! The experiences you have in other countries outside of your comfort zone will enhance your life in the best possible ways.
Rafal Antos, Tokyo-based founder of ANTOS, previously designed for Giorgio Armani and Gap Europe; BA Fashion, Graphics, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam
I’d tell myself to be patient and have confidence in pursuing this career. Keep doing what you’re doing, perseverance is everything. What I wish I had known is to enjoy it more, be more present, and not to stress too much about the next best thing, but to give 200%. All opportunities, big or small are equally important experiences.
Léa Germano, graduated in 2015, spent a year at Marc Jacobs then moved to France, where she has been RTW designer at Balmain for two years alongside founding PAILLETTE, a platform which aims to create a new way of consuming fashion; BFA Fashion Design, Parsons School of Design, NYC
I always felt like I had to accomplish some sort of undercover mission within the fashion industry. I wanted to be a designer, but I didn’t want the guilt of it, knowing that true design can only be anchored in a world where resources are used wisely. Looking back to when I graduated, I wish I had known that it would take me years to understand what kind of roles I am longing to play. I would tell my graduating self that careers aren’t linear. They’re bumpy and unexpected. It’s the way you catch an opportunity or respond to a certain situation that will shape your path. I would also tell myself to immediately give up on the perfect image of what I should be doing, and pay attention to the things that make me vibrate.
Julie Peelo, Dublin-based founder Peelo accessories, formerly worked at Marni, John Galliano, Diane Von Furstenberg, Juicy Couture; BA Textile Design, National College of Art and Design, Dublin
The advice I would give my graduating self is to just keep working hard. Take the unpaid internship and work a part time job on the side, work hard, make the contacts and don’t think any job is beneath you. In my first job at John Rocha Dublin I helped out doing anything and everything and learnt so much in the process. It can be really hard to persevere but I really believe the success I’ve had in my career is down to being willing to get involved in everything, and the work contacts I’ve made have been invaluable.
Lone Jensen, Denmark-based interior designer at Society of Lifestyle, former Denim specialist for BCBG, Iceberg, Moschino; BA Fashion Design, Istituto Marangoni, Milan
If this is what you really want then go for it. Don't let anyone or anything stop you. If someone tells you that you can't do it, prove them wrong! I needed a change, but at the same time I wanted to use all my years of creative experience. Interior was a great choice. But I had to start almost from scratch, being a designer and not the one in charge.
Stacey Williams, London-based freelance childrenswear designer, formerly of Jigsaw, Paul Smith, Topshop; MA Womenswear, Central St Martins, London
When you're interviewed for a junior role, your lack of experience is your biggest hurdle. But there is something your youth and outsider status offers that beats this: your access to a cultural scene. You'll be interviewed by Design Managers and Creative Directors in their 30s, 40s, 50s who most likely don't go clubbing, to festivals so much, or underground bars etc. So to make this work for you, keep a visual diary. Take some photos, print them, put them in a sketchbook. Sure, they can get it off WGSN but the authenticity of being in the actual room can't be beaten. Having a good eye is a gift that can't be taught.
When you're looking for a job, and you're trying to get your resume to someone, and they say they've been too busy to look yet, very often that's actually true. Most people aren't lying to get rid of you. A few maybe, but not all. Most people actually want to encourage new talent, it makes them feel good. So don't get to five or seven rejections and give up, keep pestering, and working on your book. You only need one job offer.
Finally fashion attracts people with personality disorders, specifically Histrionic and Narcissistic. You will meet many of them, and the important thing is to not take it personally. The first time someone has a ludicrous overreaction to a minor fault, or displays a massively inflated sense of self-importance, just remind yourself it's them, not you. Unless it is you, in which case you'll go far!
Jeremy Brandrick, Hamptons-based bespoke bridalwear designer, formerly of Dolce & Gabbana, Nicole Farhi, Mulberry; MA Womenswear, Central St Martins
Overcome your own fears and get yourself out there. Work on your confidence or at least fake it. I would never have gone to Italy if I hadn’t done that or even come to the US. And trust me, neither were things in my comfort zone. I had butterflies constantly in my stomach thinking of what I needed to do to get where I wanted to be.
Also the first job is key. Once you have one job you can get another. But along with that try to make sure that first job gets you on the right path. Don’t take a kids wear job if you want to work in Paris women’s ready-to-wear!
Massimo Galmozzi, NYC-based luxury knitwear designer, formerly of Jil Sander, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Giorgio Armani; BA Fashion, IED Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan
It’s a kind of emotional question! I never thought about it. I would write…Dear Massimo, you can't even imagine where this passion will take you. You can't imagine how many incredible people you will get to know thanks to your work. Start this adventure without any fear of not being cool enough to work in this industry based on appearance. Remember that it is serious work and the only way to be successful is to be humble and to learn quickly from people around you. It doesn't matter if you were born in the fields of a small village. Beauty is a universal concept that will be recognized by a thousand eyes different from yours. You don't need special weapons, you don't need magic. Passion and talent are your winning cards. Always remember how lucky you are to do what you dreamed of as a child.
Catch “15 fashion pros offer key advice to younger selves Part 2” tomorrow.
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 Billie Grace Ward, 6 November 2017, Fashion Avenue, from Wikimedia Commons