Introduction: The Big Break? 4
Fashion Designer 8
Textile Designer 16
Costume Designer 24
Fashion Buyer 40
Fashion Writer 47
Fashion Stylist 54
Fashion Photographer 61
Interview with a Textile Designer 69
Other Jobs in the Fashion Industry 73
Picture Credits 79
About the Author 80
While the most celebrated fashion careers are in fashion and costume design, the fashion industry includes many other careers. For example, textile designers design the patterns on fabric, milliners design hats, and other designers work with jewelry and handbags. Other careers include assistants who help designers, fashion photographers, and fashion magazine editors; assistants shop for supplies and help these professionals in various other ways. It takes many people to successfully manage a fashion show or a photo shoot, for example. In addition, fashion is a retail business, and there are many careers that are involved in making it successful. Buyers, merchandisers, retailers, and sales assistants all contribute to the sale of fashions.
Many careers in fashion seem to be very similar to other careers that rely on raw artistic talent and being in the right place at the right time. Successful people in fashion tell similar stories to those told by well-known actors, painters, and musicians. While all might be talented and work hard, most describe a moment when they were able to get that fi rst big break that allowed them to enter this extremely competitive industry. Fashion designer Rachel Roy, for example, describes on the Teen Vogue website the day in 2006 when her big break occurred, bringing her in contact with well-known fashion designers. “André Leon Talley came in unexpectedly during a sales market to view my collection. Upon seeing it, he suggested Anna Wintour see it, too.” Roy continues, “Th e next thing I knew, I was at the Vogue offi ces presenting my collection on two models.” Th e story seems to be repeated over and over—budding designers, photographers, or bloggers have a brush with fame and the next thing they know, they’ve hit it big.
Years of Hard Work
Th ese stories can be discouraging for someone who wants to start out in fashion because they seem to suggest that you can only make it if you know someone infl uential in the industry. But those who investigate further will fi nd that these are not the only stories. For most people, breaking into fashion takes years of hard work, determination, and a lot of rejection. On the Teen Vogue website, Steven Kolb, the CEO of Fashion Designers of America, argues that the years of hard work are the reality: “Th ere are no big breaks. It is little cracks along the way that further a person’s career. Every little success you have is added to the next success.” In other words, wannabe fashionistas who follow their passion, who do not settle for anything less, who put in time and eff ort will eventually land their dream career.
Many fashion industry insiders are willing to impart advice about how to enter their fi eld. Th eir stories are as varied as any other artistic profession. Many did not, for example, go to a fashion school; rather, they opted for a liberal arts degree. Fashion designer Whitney Port describes her fashion journey on Teen Vogue’s website this way: I knew I wanted to attend USC, but they didn’t off er a fashion major. I decided to focus on gender studies so I could learn more about the history of how men and women have worked together and separately to create equality. As a female designer and businesswoman, the studies helped me realize how important women’s empowerment is. I feel that the balance between what I learned through my jobs and internships in the fashion world paired with the studies and knowledge I gained from USC was a great base to help me in my career and my designs.
Some College Is Recommended
While some fashion professionals, such as designers Ralph Lauren and Steve Madden, did not attend any college, most fashion professionals recommend at least some college. Port, for instance, later went to art college and pursued sculpture and other visual arts. Because technical skills and knowledge form the basis of many fashion industry jobs, most in the industry emphasize the importance of learning those essential skills and developing a knowledge base. Photographers, for instance, need to have strong knowledge of digital cameras and software techniques. Designers need to understand sewing, construction, and fabric. Style writer Andrew Bevan chose a traditional route—journalism—to enter his writing career, as he described in another story on the Teen Vogue website:
I think my college education prepared me a lot for my career in fashion journalism. I got great basic writing skills from my teachers who were working journalists, and studying both narrative and documentary fi lms really helped me become a more visual person. My internships at Ralph Lauren and Charlie Rose’s talk show really gave me hands-on experience. And last but not least, I worked a lot of retail when I was in college and I always say to anyone interested in getting into the fashion industry: never underestimate the power of working in retail. It’s the best way to understand how people shop and what clothes they are drawn to, and it’s great training to become a people person.
People in the industry frequently talk about passion—passion for fashion, fabric, clothing, images—a passion that grows with them from a very early age. Th ese artistic people fi nd something deeply satisfying in their work with fashion and a connection with the people they meet in the fashion world. Many in the industry say that they simply could not—and would not—do anything else. Passionate about fashion? Th e careers highlighted in this book capture just a few of the many ways you can turn that enthusiasm into a satisfying career.