Whenever women with successful careers in fashion give interviews, there seems to be one thing we all want to know first: How did you get your start? While the path to success usually involves some combination of hard work, good timing, and luck, people's foot-in-the-door creation stories are often more varied—and more intriguing.
So we hunted down some of our favourite ladies in the fashion industry and asked them: How did you break into fashion? Their responses, as you can imagine, are endlessly fascinating and offer lessons we can all take home and learn from.
Keep scrolling to read how nine super-successful women first broke into fashion—and what they learned from those experiences.
I got into the fashion world through an internship I did in the features department of Marie Claire Australia in Sydney. It was the most amazing experience—one that made me certain I wanted to create fashion content. My direct boss, Lizzie Renkert, is a genius and someone I still admire and keep in touch with.
Persistence is key. When I decided I wanted to work at a fashion magazine back in 2004 (Teen Vogue and Elle Girl being my top choices), I emailed literally everyone on the masthead of both magazines. Only a couple of people responded (thanks, Jane Keltner!), but that’s all it took. One of those people happened to be the West Coast editor of Elle Girl (Crystal Meers), who was about to head to Daily Candy. I met with her and the editor in chief at the time, Brandon Holley, who brought me in to work for Elle and Elle Girl as the West Coast editor.
I actually got my start in fashion overseas. I opted for the unconventional route and moved to London instead of New York after college. I landed an assisting role at the Karla Otto PR agency, working with clients like Trussardi, Marni, and Givenchy. I learned a lot and quickly understood the importance of saying yes to everything when asked if you can perform a task. Going the extra mile will not only set you apart from an army of assistants, but your superiors will remember you years later.
This was the case when I had a serendipitous encounter with the my previous London supervisor at a New York coffee shop. She remembered my work ethic, invited me to an interview at the New York PR agency she had transferred to, and I eventually landed my first job in New York. From that moment on, I vowed never to give a job less than 110 per cent, as you never know what great opportunity awaits.
I was a busy mum of two working in marketing, but I wanted to launch my own business that combined my passions of fashion and digital in an entrepreneurial way. Vestiaire Collective was born in 2009 from those passions. Today, it's a booming global luxury fashion resale site that has captured the hearts of Europe and is currently entering the U.S. market.
Throughout it all, I learned that passion is key. I had never worked in the digital field before, but I had an incredible appetite to learn. I also had to learn that to be an entrepreneur you have to take risks—any kind of decision can have an impact on the business, both big and small. You have to have be very determined, and not be afraid to live on a rollercoaster.
I moved to New York with no job after college. Through a friend's recommendation—yes, networking is very helpful!—I interviewed for a one-week fashion internship at NYmag.com for New York Fashion Week. Soon, one week turned into two, turned into three, and I ended up staying for three years, eventually becoming the assistant fashion editor. It was a combination of good luck and good timing, but most of all hard work and an eagerness to learn. That's the lesson I take with me from that experience: Always learn as much as you can, not only about the subject you're reporting on, but how deals are made, things get done, and the people above you run a business. Knowing that really sets you apart.
I studied science in college but knew that I didn’t want a career in chemistry, when I received an email from a friend that Tod’s was looking for a part-time intern. The moment I secured an interview, a rush of emotions followed. I sat down with the only person I knew in fashion–Jeannie Lee, the owner of L.A. boutique Satine–and asked her all of the questions I didn’t feel I could ask anyone else.
I remember stuffing my flashcards in my purse as I walked into the building, continuing to go through them in my head. I got the job, and thus began my career in fashion. As my time at Tod’s came to an end, I moved on to handle press for Lanvin, Christian Lacroix, Brian Atwood, Helmut Lang, and more, before landing in my current role with Tory Burch. It’s here that I’ve truly experienced the best piece of advice that I’ve received to date: Don’t forget the big picture. We’re faced with challenges every day, but as long as we approach our jobs in an authentic manner, everything will unfold the way it should.
After graduating college with a legal studies degree, I assumed my career path was set: I would take the LSAT, become an attorney, and live happily ever after. However, after working in the field for a few years, I realised it was not what I had in mind for my life. I knew that somehow my next role needed to incorporate my creative energy and love for people. While looking for something to spark my interests, a friend referred me for a job at Tory Burch. After extensive work on the retail side, I slowly but surely moved from a commmitted intern to part-time assistant, and eventually to be the assistant to the Director of VIP Relations (above!).
Working for Tory Burch taught me to prioritise, follow up, check everything (then double-check it), and to dive in and fully dedicate myself to the brand. However, the most important things I took away from this position were the lasting relationships that I built within the fashion industry. In my current role at Sonix, I have full creative control and implement new strategies. I am lucky enough to work with an incredibly talented team who I now consider family. Being part of a company that is just on the cusp of entering the fashion industry allows me to strengthen my existing relationships, create new ones, and see my ideas come to life!
I have always been fascinated by the process that takes you through every endeavour. Each journey requires a tremendous amount of vision, and I know first-hand the bravado it takes to contact a potential employer and land a job interview. When I first moved to L.A., my dream was to work in fashion event production, but I was an amateur. My determination fuelled me—I had to figure out a way to get there. With limited resources, I researched any and all event firms in L.A. that produced fashion shows, and finally found one that would hire me as an intern, while I simultaneously maintained a full-time retail job. Sometimes I worked 15-hour days.
My enthusiasm, passion, and desire to apply what I learned led me directly into a leadership role the very first day. I was managing all of the interns and assisting the directors as well; where most people would have felt intimidated, I felt empowered. The company hired me in-house just one season later and within a year, I became a showroom manager at a nearby boutique PR firm. Now, I work at a worldwide fashion PR agency as a publicist. My current job encompasses virtually all of my passions. Working in fashion PR, I've learned that while each person must employ a unique strategy when paving his or her own career path, there are some steps that are crucial to everyone's success: Always have good intentions, never lose sight of your own integrity, and be patient. Be the best version of yourself, and serve as an example to others. Being a role model will propel you to work hard and enjoy constant progress. That feeling is irreplaceable.
I began my career at Halston during the Halston Heritage launch and Sarah Jessica Parker collaboration, when Marios Schwab was designing the main line. It was a time of great excitement and resurgence for the brand and also a lot of change. I was a low man on the totem pole, but was given the opportunity to learn firsthand.
I learned quickly that PR isn’t always glamorous. It’s all encompassing—from schlepping boxes, to late nights at the office, to helping produce fashion shows and attending events—but working those events, not enjoying them with your girlfriends. Sometimes your ego really has to take a backseat, and you just have to get the work done.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given? Tell us in the comments below!