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Words of Advice: How to Break Into the Fashion Industry

Sometimes I get emails from people wanting to know how I started in the business, how I got to where I am, and how they can break in the fashion industry. As much as I would love to meet with everyone who asks, I just don’t have the time. However, when I get asked a series of well-thought out questions and have a few moments, I’ll happily answer.

Here are some great questions from Alison Duncan, who is studying Fashion Techniques and Design at George Brown and my answers, which I wrote surprisingly in under 15 minutes. I thought perhaps others might find them interesting or useful maybe.

1)  How did you get started in the fashion industry, and how did your career progress from there?  Where do you want it to evolve from where it is now?

I volunteered in high school coordinating fashion shows, designing costumes for theatre productions and immersed myself in as many magazines as possible to research (as well as FT of course) – this was all pre-internet. I went to Humber College and my first internship was with Armstrong Models in the men’s division. I was hired after 3 months as a booker. How I progressed my career was continuing to volunteer, getting out to events, letting people know what I did, but mostly letting people know what I *want* to do – that generally keeps you in people’s minds if an opportunity comes up. Also keeping an ear out and keeping in touch with as many people as possible.

2) Of all the training you received (school or otherwise), which would you say was the most important?

On the job, or volunteering. Practical experience is the best way to learn and connects you with others.

3) This is a busy, time-constrained industry – how do you find a work-life balance, especially as a woman?  What kind of sacrifices have you had to make in order to be successful?

Basically this is my life. But I do love it. My non-existent dating life is a testament to how much I’ve dedicated to my industry.

4) What would you say the most important thing is you see lacking from the newest generation of designers or aspiring business people in this industry? – i.e. what do you think is our biggest development need?

Humble nature. Everyone is so ego-driven. Many people also think they are owed something without showing they’ve worked for it or even having any talent. People need to look at who is actually working in the industry and remove themselves from the social media world of self-promoters and bloggers and really research who are moving the wheels of this industry – most are NOT on Twitter.

5) What does a typical day look like for you in your current position at Magnet Creative, and what are the best and worst parts?

Everyday is different. It’s non-stop and I am constantly juggling things. Worst parts are waiting for people to get back to me with time-constrained items. And people who don’t respect my time and expect me to be available 24/7. I work 9 – 5, Monday to Friday for clients. Even though I do work and catch up outside those hours people need to be respectful of my time. Also people sending me messages via Facebook or Twitter when it should be sent in the proper professional routes – emails or telephone.

6) What are your thoughts on the current state of the Canadian fashion industry – any complements or criticisms?

We’re growing and adapting. Canadian designers also should be thinking globally, not locally. And stop focusing on Holt Renfrew as the only place to sell their wares and also stop thinking that showing during LGFW is the pinnacle of their careers. Some of the most successful brands have never shown during Toronto Fashion Week.

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About Gail McInnes (296 Articles)
Originally from Glasgow, Scotland, Gail McInnes has made an indelible mark on the Canadian fashion and entertainment scenes; managing and guiding the careers of some of the country's most notable talents, including Lucian Matis, Hilary MacMillan, Stephen Amell (CW's Arrow), Natalie Brown (The Strain), Brad Goreski (E! Fashion Police), and more. Visit gailmcinnes.com for more information or email gailmcinnes@gmail.com.

1 Comment on Words of Advice: How to Break Into the Fashion Industry

  1. Re: Twitter

    I couldn’t agree more. If someone’s platform is 90% or solely based on word-of-mouth via social media, then it 9 times out of 10 results in a circle of congratulations for brands that often do not deserve the acclaim.

    I feel that Twitter has its merits (we all use it and we know what they are), but it can cheapen the market by saturating it with ho-hum offerings. With enough retweets and likes on Facebook, a bag of crap could look like a 4 star meal.

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