By Angelica Anderson
After 10 years of working in the fashion industry — from managing at Nordstrom to volunteering at NorthPark Fashion Week, I found myself here at SMU, continuing my education.
These past two years have been both challenging and fulfilling, but at least one part of my education brought me right back where I started: fashion.
Minoring in Fashion Media, I’ve rubbed shoulders with extraordinarily talented men and women. I am graduating this spring, and as a student who has paid some dues, I wanted to pass on advice from people who are succeeding in the fashion industry.
Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. At Nordstrom everyone had to start as a sales associate and work their way up to his or her desired position. This was a company policy. Even the Nordstrom brothers worked in the back stockroom before running the company. It amazed me how many people came to work at Nordstrom with a lot of experience and a degree, but started in the same place as everyone else. What I recognized about starting from the bottom is those who were passionate and willing to work hard succeeded while climbing the ladder quickly.
Whether you are running the back of house at a fashion show, styling a client or writing for a fashion magazine you must be willing to work hard. In the fashion industry there are late nights and busy weekends. The only way you will survive them is by loving what you do.
During the retail event Wednesday night at SMU Fashion Week, the panelists offered advice to those attending.
Designer and owner of Dallas-based Finley Shirts Finley Moll told the group: “You have to be prepared to work really hard and don’t do it unless you love it.”
Added Dallas designer Prashi Shah: “You have to realize it takes an enormous amount of hard work.”
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is you cannot do it on your own, especially in the fashion industry.
Lady Fuller, owner of the Blue Jean Bar, has successfully opened 14 retail stores and five mobile stores since 2004. Her advice to any student interested in a career in the fashion industry? “Be Humble,” she says. “Life is circular. Sometimes you are on top and sometimes at the bottom. It can change daily. It’s a small world and you will encounter the same people over and over. You may need their help one day, and everyone has long memories.”
Last year I had the opportunity to interview Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications for Neiman Marcus, as part of a class project. The one thing Reeder said that I will never forget: She acquired each job in her life through relationships she’d formed at other companies. “It is all about networking, staying connected and saying yes to opportunity.”
Stay true to you
When I was growing up, my mother would continually say: “Always be the person you are when you are in the comfort of your own home.”
It is hard not to get caught up in all the glitz and glamour of the fashion industry. And it is even harder not to conform to what you think others expect you to be. Staying true to who you are as a person is much harder than you may think.
Designer/entrepreneur Moll addressed this when she said: “You need to have our own vision and stay true to whom you are. Don’t be afraid to have your own point of view.”
I am reminded of how in The Devil Wears Prada, Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, must find a balance between the person she was and who she’s becoming. It is OK to change and adapt to your surroundings. This is a natural process of socialization — but we all have that inner voice telling us when we may have gone too far. Listen to it!
Remember: Always try to be the person you are when no one is looking.
Don’t be afraid to fail
Put yourself out there, and if you fail at least fail trying.
We have all heard the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again.” This statement is true on so many levels. It doesn’t particularly have anything to do with the fashion industry, but with your life.
We have trained ourselves to do only what we know we can succeed at, and this limits what we do with our lives. Sometimes we have to break out of what is comfortable in order to achieve our dreams.
As Fuller of the Blue Jeans Bar noted: “Don’t be afraid to make decisions. If you make the right one, great, and if you make the wrong one you learn something and move on.”