How to Get Started in the Fashion Industry
December 20, 2013
•IADT General, Fashion Design
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What does it take to become a successful fashion designer in a world with so many talented people looking for their big break? If you are seeking to become a noted designer, look to famous fashion designers to learn how to get started in the fashion industry.
Consider the advice of New York City native Donna Karan, who sold her company in 2001 for what biography.com reports was "nearly $650 million." She even got to stay on as the brand's designer. In an online video, Karan says the one piece of advice she would give a design student is to work in retail to learn what consumers like. And, of course, you need to work hard. "You've got to do the work, it's really hard," she says.
Like Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, who sold his company in 2006 for $1.6 billion, told The Epoch Times, "You'll learn that every customer has different requests; they have different color preferences, fit preferences, fabric preferences." Hilfiger, one of nine children born to a poor family, had his first job at age 11. He says that despite the many obstacles he faced, like not having rent money, he never gave up on his dream of being a designer.
You would get the same advice from Lubov Azria, the design half of the married team behind BCBG Max Azria Group (a global fashion house with more than 20 brands). In an interview on Refinery29, she urges students to follow their dreams and never give up, no matter what. "Stay true, learn, be open-minded, and have a great follow through," she says. "Remember, it's not about you at the end of the day." Azria adds that fashion is a service. "You are serving the customer. Always understand that."
And then there is Rebecca Minkoff, an industry leader in accessible luxury handbags. She says that to get started in the fashion industry you need to be unique, know your price point, and listen and respond. To differentiate yourself from others out there, Minkoff says you need a product that will fill a need and stand out; it's not enough to "piggyback" on existing products. She connects with her customers via Twitter (where she has more than 160,000 followers, including Britney Spears and Kristin Chenoweth) and Facebook, where she has more than 330,000 "likes." In 2009, she launched Minkette, an online forum where customers can talk about her products. "My customers know I'm listening and responding," she said in an Entrepreneur article.
Designer Betsey Johnson gives very different advice on how to get started in the fashion industry. Clad in a bright red-and-black striped outfit with a Mickey Mouse print sweater, she told a group of students at New York City's High School of Fashion Industries: "Basically, just go out and buy yourself a big old horseshoe and carry it in your back pocket." She told them that most of her life has been simply "crazy luck." She does encourage aspiring fashion design stars to blog and tweet, saying that that is the most important part of her own company.
How to get started in the fashion industry is one thing, but as these successful designers demonstrate, making it to the top takes lots of hard work, education, communication skills, never-say-die perseverance and a dash of being in the right place at the right time.