I get letters from young people all the time, asking for tips on Breaking into Fashion and getting ahead in the industry.
Many fashion hopefuls believe that the industry is all about glamour, nice shoes, Fashion Weeks, and preening for photographers, not realizing the tremendous amount of work the people you admire put into honing their craft. Most people in fashion won’t tell you the ‘secret’ and to be honest, most of you won’t listen. But consider this my gift to you: 5 tips you need to get ahead in Fashion and in Life:
1. Don’t do it for the money.
Of course we all want to be wealthy and live a better life! Of course we all want shopping sprees at Barney’s, champagne laced lunches, and yacht filled vacations (just me? OK). You can get there one day…but first you have to work. Sometimes you have to work for free. Sometimes you have to work for minimum wage or less than what you think you deserve. But you should really be doing it because you love to do it and would gladly do it for free if you had to. I’ve had writers who told me they would write better articles if they got paid more. WRONG ATTITUDE. You should do your best work at all times, and once you have thoroughly impressed your boss, readers, and everyone around you, you get more pay. Work harder, do better work, get paid more. Simple.
2. Go Over and Above.
I had a writer BEG me to fly them out to cover an event. We don’t have the budget just yet to fly multiple people out, so I told them we couldn’t; but if they really wanted to, they could make it happen for themselves and we could get them access. The writer found their way down to the event, but then proceeded to take pictures, have fun, and not submit any reports from the event! Again, it comes down to proving yourself. If you really want to go to something on behalf of the company, get to work. If you’re going to an event for the company, go to the event, and show out! Provide the best coverage possible. Then maybe you won’t have to beg to go next year.
When I worked for Italian Vogue, flying to Milan, Paris, and London, I didn’t ask them to fly me there or pay for my hotel, food, taxis, or anything because I was grateful for the experience. They got me show tickets and I found a way! I flew standby and stayed with friends, sometimes sleeping on their couch.
Winners make it work no matter what, losers are always looking for a hand out. Don’t be a loser. Use your resources. And once you’re there, do the work.
3. Network…within reason.
Parties and events are where you get to meet new people in your industry and make great connections. People get to see your face and feel comfortable with you. Maybe one day you’ll work together on a project! But realize that though it looks like a party…it’s not a party. It’s a work event. Have a cocktail or two…but don’t get drunk. Dance…but don’t dance like you’re at home with your homegirls. Keep it classy! Lastly, there are some people in the industry who are at every open bar in town. Don’t be that person. If you’re networking and turning up all the time, you don’t leave yourself much time to get to work.
4. Don’t Lie.
I had a writer tell me once that they couldn’t complete an assignment because they didn’t have Wifi. We live in America. Everywhere has Wifi. McDonalds, Starbucks, public parks…you get the point. You can even make a hotspot on your phone (I do it all the time in the backseat of taxis). Don’t lie. Most people you’re dealing with aren’t dumb. Also, keep the excuses to a minimum. Things do happen on rare occasions (food poisoning, sickness, etc). For everything else…chalk it up and get to work.
5. Know You Will Get There Eventually
I was going to write another ‘don’t’ but really wanted to end this on a positive note! We all make mistakes in our careers, but the true test of character is to make that mistake, get back up, learn from it, and keep going. Recognize that sometimes you stand in your own way…and once you get out of your way, you can flourish.
Know that even in my life…though everything looks glittery and polished..I still encounter setbacks and struggles (most time of my own doing). Every day and every moment is a minute to turn a new leaf and make a positive change.
I am far from perfect and have not even come close to achieving my goals (but will write a book once I get there!).
But if you have tips to offer industry hopefuls, leave ’em in the comments.
Love + Everlasting Light (Hallelujah!!)