Career Advice from Cynthia Rowley, Alexis Bittar, Lori Goldstein, and More

Cynthia Rowley, Alexis Bittar, Lori Goldstein

















Fashion giants shared early career anecdotes and advice with over a hundred scholars at the Fashion Institute of Technology last night, where the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) hosted a panel featuring designers Cynthia Rowley, Alexis Bittar, and Michael Bastian along with stylist Lori Goldstein and Saks Fifth Avenue's and NBC's Fashion Star buyer Terron Schaefer. The event was the last of a career-focused series for recipients of scholarships from YMA FSF, a national non-profit association providing over $800,000 to students studying fashion arts.


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Students and YMA FSF donors enjoyed cocktails provided by Vikingfjord before proceeding to the informal discussion, moderated by Paper magazine's rambunctious editorial director, Mickey Boardman. Topics ranged from first jobs-Rowley bartended while Bittar dropped out of school to be a street vendor-to unconventional starts, including when Shaefer was hired by Bloomingdale's on the basis of him "knowing nothing about retail" and Bastian's business school education. A highlight, however, were the panelists' thoughts on the fashion industry's current atmosphere compared to when they started.



"I think for designers, it's a very difficult time now because the Internet has made it so difficult to have your own voice and maintain that, because so much is available to get knocked off by larger companies," Bittar said. "I think that's become a real disadvantage for young designers; but that being said, I think there's always a need for a new voice."



Boardman agreed on the Internet as a major force in this generation. "When I was a kid we'd watch Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN," he recalled. "Now any kid in any place in the world with a computer can go online and see the Dior Couture show the day after it happens. Anyone can have a blog, be an overnight success, and be as important as long-established fashion editors. The downside is you don't have to go through the ranks and learn the ropes the way they used to."


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Goldstein claimed that when she moved to New York, "there was no industry like this. I didn't know there was [such a thing as] a 'stylist,' so we kind of just formed our own jobs in a way. Now, with this great industry out there, you can learn from so many people." That being said, Bastian warned hopefuls in the audience to beware of a rampant sense of entitlement. "In order to be a good number one, you have to be a good number two," he stated. "Our industry is littered with these people who think they have to be a star right away, but it's a damn long path."


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Among the queries of eager scholars, roles reversed when Rowley herself posed a question about fashion's future, particularly on whether or not runway shows felt outdated. "I think the ultimate end product is a photograph that we see on all of these outlets, and it seems crazy to me that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a set and a whole production," she noted. Boardman and Goldstein agreed on presentations warranting extra creativity and possibly posing a better option for future designers. Overall, the greatest takeaway for attendees came from Goldstein, "This is not an eight-hour day; this is our lives. And you do really have to love what you do. Whatever it is, that passion has to be there, and creativity is everywhere."


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