Taking sartorial risks and not following other people is what makes you stand out.
– Zac Posen, American fashion designer (1980-present)
A few months ago, my school hosted a fashion entrepreneurship and networking event. In theory, this was a wonderful opportunity, but the actual event wasn’t as useful as advertised. However, I won’t deny that this event was somewhat helpful. I had the chance to talk to people in various parts of the fashion industry, ranging from entrepreneurship to PR to finance.
The panel members and guest speaker all repeated variations of the same sentiment in regard to working in fashion. Everyone said it is an extremely cutthroat and competitive field, though they were few lucky ones who were at the right place at the right moment. For them, this “coincidence” contributed greatly to their success, as well as their pride to return to their alma mater to talk about this.
I had an issue with their words because general statements like these are simply just useless pieces of advice for anyone, regardless of industry.
When asked what I want to be, I always say, “a successful fashion designer and businesswoman like Coco [Chanel].” Despite the wishful nature of my career goal, I have no reservations, nor do I have a starry look in my eyes that success will come easy to me, let alone launch my own fashion house. I am well-aware of my numerous disadvantages when trying to break into the fashion world, though it is a double-edge sword, as I do have some unique advantages.
My Bachelor of Science in Mathematics if very far off from the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, or other similar degrees that many notable fashion designers have. I do get the value in a fashion degree because there are things that you can only learn in school. Colleges teach students discipline, which include a good foundation in the basics of creating apparel and accessories.
Going to fashion school is also extremely beneficial beyond the classroom. It helps with creating connections in the fashion industry, as most fields, even finance and entertainment, are heavily reliant on a good word of mouth to get you the much-needed exposure towards achieving your dreams. Teachers and peers can help each other meet potential employees, like seamstresses who can work in-house to create your sample, or introduce you to fashion magazines that can do print work featuring your stuff.
While I haven’t reached the point where I have launched my fashion house or shown in New York Fashion Week, I wouldn’t call my college choices deal breakers to make it big in fashion. Interestingly, my choice in major has greatly contributed to my creativity, as well as my focus on detail – two skills that are valuable when designing. You may not believe me when I say this, but the most creative people in this world are those in love with understanding numbers.
Besides the creative aspect of a successful fashion line, it’s also important to understand that an atelier is also a business. It’s great when high fashion designers create covetable pieces that the cream of the crop (i.e. Hollywood actors and actresses, socialites, etc.) are fighting on line to wear. However, to sustain a brand in a world where you’re not the only talented designer creating desirable apparel, you have to keep in mind that you’re a business that also runs on generating revenue.
Looking at the business side of a fashion house, there are many things that go into running a good business. These include a good HR department, possibly a team of in-house lawyers, a marketing team, a finance department, as well as many more. Without these things, yes, you can make great clothes, but you can also rack up tons of lawsuits from employees and former employees that can drive you and your business to bankruptcy.
Thanks to my choice to attend an arts and science college, I get to meet lawyers who know about fashion law, experience the day in the life of startup businesses, as well as learn how to maximize on numbers, so as to generate sales that count. Obviously, a great deal of college is what you make of it. Through my choice, I was able to befriend lifelong friends of various majors who may possibly be future employees at my fashion house. I know that if I need an accountant to keep a close eye on funds, as well as a marketing expert who can bring in models and actresses as the brand representative, I have a plethora of friends to pick from (happy emoji).
In the end of the day, don’t get too bogged down when you have trouble achieving your dreams. Not going down a traditional route to realize those dreams may actually be a blessing in disguise. And don’t be afraid of asking questions or grabbing opportunities just because you’re scared of rejection. You’re bound to get rejected, regardless of your career path. It’s never too early to become acquainted to the bitter taste of rejection, so that you can truly understand the determination it takes to make things work. While it would be nice to have a smooth sailing from the day you created your dream to the day it’s finally realized, that’s not how life works, unless you have a genie.
the girl who’s going to create a successful atelier like how the tortoise won the race