Rachel RoyThese days, it seems like everyone wants to work in fashion. But there's a lot more to it than scoring a spot on a reality TV show or training a digital camera on New York Fashion Week showgoers-or yourself-and uploading the results to Tumblr. Fashion is, after all, a billion dollar industry. Designing clothes or looking cute on a street-style blog are just a part of the equation. We've convened a panel of some of the biggest movers and shakers-including Fern Mallis, Kirna Zabête cofounder Sarah Easley, ELLE Fashion News Director Anne Slowey, and designer Chris Benz-to give you the lowdown on what it really takes to land this dream job.
THE ROLE MODEL: Fern Mallis, former executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and current fashion consultant and host of the Fashion Icons series at 92Y, where she chats up such luminaries as Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, and Suzy Menkes
JOB: Fashion Executive
THE TIP: "Have knowledge of everything that goes on in the industry," said Mallis. "And attend as many industry events as possible-especially if you're in NYC, where they are free and mostly accessible. It's always advisable meeting someone you'd like to work with face to face. You'd be surprised how many people are open about giving their business cards and following up!"
THE ROLE MODEL: Chris Benz, designer for his eponymous label
THE TIP: "Don't forget that fashion is also a business," Benz said. "I am obviously very fortunate to do what I do and I pinch myself every day, but it is really hard work and important to note that the fashion calendar is not considerate of summer vacations."
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THE ROLE MODEL: Lee Trimble, show producer
JOB: Show Producer
THE TIP: "I cannot recommend interning highly enough," said Trimble. "I worked as an intern, for free, for the first two years of my career while working other part-time jobs to make a living. It was a great way to meet people and gain recommendations and experience for future work. The keys to making an internship benefit your career are working hard, being reliable, and taking the internship as seriously as a paying job. Internships can lead to full-time paid jobs or recommendations, but it's necessary to stand out to employers by being useful and showing value to them."
THE ROLE MODEL: Sarah Easley, cofounder with Beth Buccini of the New York boutique Kirna Zabête and codesigner of the recently launched Kirna Zabête for Nine West footwear collection
THE TIP: "Few young entry level applicants have extensive career experience, so we look for personality: 'studied sculpting in Florence and speaks fluent Italian' or 'built churches and schools in Honduras with the Peace Corps,'" said Easley.
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THE ROLE MODEL: Anne Slowey, ELLE Fashion News Director
THE TIP: "I prefer to interview people who have studied at a liberal arts college because then I know they can place fashion in a greater cultural context," Slowey explained. "That said, it doesn't matter what degree you have. You can educate yourself to the history of fashion, music, movies, and politics. But you need to know history in order to appreciate the relevance of why something is important today."
THE ROLE MODEL: Rachna Shah, executive vice president of KCD PR and managing director of KCD Digital
THE TIP: "The candidate should make sure to express a passion for the exact job they are interviewing for," Shah said. "There have been so many times I've interviewed someone who has said, 'I would love to work in PR or editorial.' And immediately I am turned off; if the job is in PR, then say you want to work in PR."
THE ROLE MODEL: Denise Williamson, founder of Williamson PR and Showroom
JOB: Showroom Rep and Publicist
THE TIP: "One of my biggest mentors when I started in the fashion industry was my aunt, who became a very successful artist," said Williamson. "She taught me determination and to believe in yourself. The best way to find a mentor is through the people you meet and the companies you work for. If there is someone in the business you truly admire, get an internship with the company and work your way up so that you gain the opportunity of working and learning from that individual. I believe you can have more then one mentor and that they may change over time-sometimes they may not even be in the same industry.
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THE ROLE MODEL: Rachel Roy, designer for her eponymous label
THE TIP: "I'm looking for experience on a résumé, but also a true interest in the industry," Roy said. "I read cover letters. That's your opportunity to tell me your story, so I can look past just the words on a résumé and see who you are as a person. I've interviewed people who have had little experience, but a truly great story on their cover letter."
THE ROLE MODEL: Mary Alice Stephenson, style and beauty expert, TV fashion commentator, and founder of nonprofit fashion foundation GLAM4GOOD
THE TIP: "Research who you want to work with and then reach out to them directly," Stephenson said. "Nowadays, because of the Internet and social media, there is no excuse not to know every aspect of the business you want to get into and all about the person you are meeting with for a job. You can even reach out via Facebook and Twitter to someone you admire, instead of going through human resources. I regularly get approached via social media and end up using many of those people for internships. Also, in my career I have hired many young people who weren't the most fashionable ones that showed up for the interview. The most fashionable thing out there is drive, dedication, and heart. I want to see who you are more than any fancy label on your back!"