Bright lights and the big city, we’re constantly told by popular culture and media that New York City is what dreams are made of. Every year, young hopefuls pack up their bags and move to the bustling metropolis that never sleeps. It’s no different in the fashion industry as most of the top players have flagship stores or headquarters stationed at prime addresses in The Big Apple. As Frank Sinatra once sang, “if you can make it there (New York), you’ll make it anywhere,” but what does it really take and how can one stand out from such a competitive pool of talent? FashionUnited asked five female executives in fashion to share what they’ve learned from their careers in New York City.
Never give up, get involved and be a good listener
Carmen Castiñeira, Communications Manager at Derek Lam:
“New York is a window to the world – most of the companies have an office here. Editors, photographers, stylists are based here; there is a continuous movement in the industry. At first glance, it may appear too hard. Look again, always look again. You will never know what you’re capable of if you never try. Those words helped me a lot when I first moved to New York City. It was difficult at the very beginning, but no doubt worth your very best shot.
When you are starting out, be a true participant: listen, ask questions, familiarize yourself with every fashion magazine, PR agency, editor, brand, digital influencer, designer, model, stylist, and photographer. Take advantage of any opportunity. Show an eagerness to take on new responsibilities and projects, be proactive. Intern and gain as much experience as you can; I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have those opportunities.”
Be passionate, extremely hard-working, respectful and a jack of all trades
Dora Fung, Interim Fashion Director at The Cut/NY Magazine, (previously the New York Editor for Vogue China):
“You have to be able to wear many different hats. Also, you must love fashion and really believe in the publication (company or brand) you work for. If you have all of those, then working all weekend and being away from home for weeks is never a chore. A good fashion director knows that the support of the team is key. The assistants work harder than anyone else. In addition, the market editor, the associate editors are all experts in their market. That's why working closely with the team and treating everyone with respect is one of the most important parts of the job.”
Become a better leader through self-awareness and humility
Johanna Ante, HR Business Partner at Calzedonia
“I enjoy the diversity of food, people and especially the fashion of New York City! On my walk to work, I’m always looking to see how women are dressing. I get most of my ideas from observing what people wear and then incorporating that into my own style.
Self-awareness and humility. I always talk about these together because practicing self-awareness is how leaders develop humility. I was fresh out of college when I began working as an HR Manager, granted I finished school a bit later in life. I did exactly what I shouldn’t have. I came off like a know-it-all who was ready to change the company culture. Within three months I was sitting in my boss’ office receiving the most difficult feedback I’d ever received. He said there were many complaints against me and that my job was in jeopardy. That was the most humbling criticism ever. With my mentor, I set out on a difficult journey to win back the respect of my peers. I became aware of my body language, my tone and my choice of words when speaking with the team. I stopped trying to justify myself. I acknowledged my opportunity, took accountability for it, asked my employees for help and most importantly I changed my behavior.”
Failure can be the best thing that can happen to you
Claudia Cividino, CEO of Loro Piana for North America
“(Leadership) It’s a process of maturing your own wisdom. I’m not the same leader I was even two years ago. I fail every day honestly. I’m ok with that. I was fired from my job a decade ago and for a long time didn’t speak to anyone about that because I had so much shame. I had fundamentally failed with a capital F. I thought my life was over, my career was over. It was the best thing that ever happened to me personally, professionally, as a leader. I wouldn’t have the insights now unless I had gone through that. I’m a big proponent of failure.”
Keep learning, try new things and make sure your job is enriching your self-development
Jackie Lewis, Sustainability Expert and Consultant at Alvanon:
“Gone is the age where you would train up and qualify from university, go straight into that role and do that for the rest of your life. Whether you are a university graduate or already in the industry-you have got to be constantly learning something.
Do your job because you want to learn. Be brave and try new things. The industry is moving so fast. You can very quickly become irrelevant. So it’s important to stay ahead of what’s new. If you are working for someone who isn’t enriching your learning and developing your skills, then it probably is not the business to be in.”
Photos: courtesy of Carmen Castiñeira, courtesy of Dora Fung, courtesy of Johanna Ante, courtesy of Alvanon, blogs.newschool.edu