My Mentor Moment

I receive quite a few requests from close friends to share or mentor an individual who is on the verge of graduating high school with aspirations of entering the fashion industry after college. So I decided to jot down a few things that I’ve learned throughout my collegiate experience that may point you or someone you know in the right direction. I may have to touch on this subject again as I am sure I’ll forget a thing or two.
So here goes Part 1 of “My Mentor Moment”:

Never pass up an internship in your field. Real life example: When I first started FIT I was afforded the opportunity to intern at MissSixty through a friend in the Marketing department. What a great way to break into the industry while I was still in college, right? Wrong. At the time I was completely obsessed with the idea of working as a Designer for a high-end clothing line, period. So when I heard ‘marketing’ the blood quickly drained from my brain and my mind dismissed the idea altogether. (big mistake!) Because of my narrow point of view at the time, my selective internship criteria became a hindrance to future opportunities and developed into a horrible case of tunnel vision.  Accepting ‘designer’ jobs only limited my ability of seeing the bigger picture. Working in the marketing department at a fashion company would have allowed me to develop my skill sets to parlay into another position and would have given me the ability to make great contacts. (It all worked out though…I got an internship later on at a media company that allowed me to be backstage during Fashion Week where I got to meet Oscar de la Renta yayyy!)
Market yourself. My next point pretty much reinforces my last note about passing up opportunities in your field. Always be willing to learn different facets of the fashion industry in order to become more marketable. So what if you’re an administrative assistant at your favourite fashion line. That is the best way of learning the in’s and out’s of a company regarding the chain of command, departments, and not to mention company perks. Working in an environment at your favourite retailer or clothing company allows you to meet various people in the positions that you may desire to be in one day. So as the old saying goes, dress for the job that you want in the event that a new position opens up or your input is needed on a project apart from your primary responsibilities.
Embrace the ‘Dora the Explorer’ in you. If you aren’t a native New Yorker, chances are you probably don’t understand the difference between uptown and downtown trains. I know, I know, this may seem like common sense to some… but just look at a map and by all means erase that ‘dazed-and-confused- tourist’ look on your face while looking for the next train. The best thing to do is to focus on the places that you’ve read about in magazines or places that you think you will visit most often. If you love fabrics then your days will be spent frolicking in the Garment District over beautiful fabrics to construct your extravagant design ideas. Everywhere is pretty exciting from SoHo to Times Square but regardless of where your travels take you, always carry a pen and a small note pad to jot down the address and cross streets of your favourite places to visit all over again.
Computer Love. Know the basic programs for commonly used applications in your field even if you normally use paper and pencils as your preferred medium for creativity. CAD is a pretty widely used program that can be learned by simply taking a class (even if it’s not required within your major it may prove beneficial). Photoshop and Illustrator basics are great programs to learn for your side projects if you decide to create a digital portfolio of your pieces. It is always best to learn corrective tools in order to touch up a photograph so that it looks as professional and clean as possible. Plus if you learn how to do it yourself you don’t have to wait for someone else to do your post editing. Even after graduating, I still take a course or two at a nearby community college to brush up on my computer skills. It has definitely helped me even out a photograph or touch up an out of place strand of hair on days when I decide to do an impromptu photo shoot of a dress that I made that day.
NO DIVING IN SHALLOW WATERS. Before diving head first into the industry of glamour and ‘perfection’ just remember, some people can be rather shallow when it comes to appearances. Don’t let someone else’s criticism sway you into a career change! So what if you can’t keep up with the Jones’ and afford that Gucci bag. Create an original piece that has your signature style all over it. (By the way if you can afford to purchase Gucci every season I hope you’ve paid your tuition first….in cash). But honestly, when you lack confidence because you are uncomfortable with yourself, it shows. Just remember to be yourself and to brush the comments under your stilettos or dress shoes. If you have a great sense of style and humor, allow those qualities to outshine the clouds of doubt in anyone’s mind.
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