The multi-hyphenated career is all around us, it seems. Few of us are content to work through the day at our desks, waiting for the clock to strike 6 p.m. so that we can get down to the good stuff — eating, drinking, and Netflix-ing. Instead, we are looking for ways to exercise a creative need. And now more than ever, people are turning these creative ‘side-hustles’ into full-time careers. The big question is this: how do you make the jump?
I should say at this point that fashion was never a creative second-thought. I am one of the very lucky few who know what they want to do with their lives and have the capabilities to start the ball rolling straight out of the proverbial gate (in my case, the gates of Parsons — which helped). I still had to learn the sometimes difficult lesson of how to turn your passion into a career.
At this point I will join my voice with the millions of health, wellness and fashion masses and proclaim that 2016 is the year for change. It is the year for you to do something for yourself and take a stab at doing what you love. Here is what I wish I had known in the beginning.
Find a Support System
In my experience, barriers to creative excellence are often the result of my misguided feeling that everything has to come from within, and be mine entirely, from idea to concept. It wasn’t until I found people who had interesting, collaborative, inspiring ideas to throw around that I was able to take my own creativity to another level. Don’t get swallowed up in the idea that as an artist of your chosen medium, you have to guard your intellectual property like the gates of Mordor. Find people you trust who inspire you and put yourself out there.
My support system also includes mentors, whom I cannot praise enough. Having a mentor is like having someone cheer you on from the sidelines when you’re frustrated but never sugar coat things for you, ensuring that you grow as a human as well as a businessperson. Sometimes it feels like you are not both. Being a part of the CFDA Incubator class means that I have had and continue to have access to people like Norma Kamali, Roopal Patel, Susan Joy, Ramya Giangola and more — all of whom have helped me tremendously in different areas of my business. My advice to you in choosing someone to mentor you is this — be honest about your shortcomings. That way you will be able to pinpoint someone who can be of real, tangible help to you. That’s the best place to start.
Don’t Write-off School
Design skill and creativity may be inherent — but seeking guidance is a smart way to fill in the gaps. There are great continuing education courses or night classes that can help you narrow your focus and better prepare yourself to take the leap. The best part about Parsons was, for me, the teachers. They all had jobs in the industry, and were dishing out real-time experience with regards to what you may go through in a similar scenario. In addition to which, they can vet your 5 year old textbook for things that are almost immediately irrelevant in such a fast-paced industry. I also met a ton of people during my time at Parsons that I see on a regular basis now, whether at industry events or in a work environment. Which brings me to my next point — don’t be a mean girl. That life lesson is for free (you’re welcome) but also you never know who will rise to the top and have the power to make your career really take off, so be nice and use the classroom as practice for networking.
Take the Internship
Pretty straight forward. If you are in a position to take an internship, do it. Internships get a bad rap and while it’s true, they can be very humbling; they are usually invaluable in giving you real industry experience. Even just picking up on the language and understanding the jargon specific to the discipline will land you ahead of the curve.
I did three internships while I was at Parsons: Jenni Kayne, Stella McCartney, and The Lake & Stars. Each one reaffirmed my belief that I was on the right path, albeit in different ways. I pursued very different companies for the purpose of broadening my understanding of the stages of a business, which I highly recommend. Also, be a good intern. Just try your absolute best. And ask questions. Not ones that you could figure out if you actually paused to think about it, but ones that you really don’t know and want to learn. Don’t ask where the staples are, just find them. DO ask why you would choose a particular type of finish for specific fabrications.
Take the Leap
It’s time. It’s a big decision, I know, but life is short. And at the end of the day, you’ll know pretty quickly whether or not this is your dream and you really do want to pursue it.
Just shy of a year after graduating from Parsons, I launched my line with a show during fashion week. I have made more mistakes that I can count between then and now, but I also feel that I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. It’s the mistakes that shape you. Repeat that to yourself when in the low times, and just do it.
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