We all know that with hard, deceptive work and a good dose of moxie it’s possible to get over on the world, at least temporarily. The New York Times ‘The City’ section article “No Invitation? No Problem!” reveals a whole industry of such hard workers where gate crashing is an art you can learn in a course at The Learning Annex (how New Age to offer a curriculum ranging from gate crashing to Deepak Chopra, everything you need for this life and after.) I almost admire this kind of cleverness and drive as long as it is motivated by some true purpose: true purpose may be to serve your own career but it should also contribute something to the industry. The career gatecrashers are disturbing when they only take and never give back, there for themselves and not the industry.
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Ultimately it is our works that carry us through and if your work does not legitimately give you reason to be there, then you are taking the place of someone who does. But that’s the rub. Let’s say you are the next Marc Jacobs, young, talented, charming. Or a budding Guy Trebay, Alexander Fury, Vanessa Friedman, Michelle Leed, Robin Givhan with bon mots bursting in your brain. Or the next Anna Wintour, Aimee Song, or Imran Amed. But you have no connections and no idea how to get them. You want to get IN, into the industry, into the fashion shows. How do you do it? Below is a guide, a kind of “how to.” But be ready to back up your endeavor with hard work, talent and time. All others need not apply. This is not an overnight miracle. BUT, hook up with the right guardian angels and you may find yourself in some pretty magical places.
GET A JOB:
Perhaps it sounds silly but the first step is, get a job, any kind of job. Whatever area of the fashion business you are interested in, find work as close to that dream as possible. Do not limit yourself in what you do. Persevere. Work in the industry is a foot in the door. And with that foot in the door you meet people, make connections, learn about the business, discover mentors, hear about other job opportunities — even get invitations to fashion shows and parties. Andre Leon Talley started his career sweeping the floors of Andy Warhol’s Interview offices. Marc Jacobs worked at the once influential fashion boutique Charivari while attending high school. Anna Wintour worked as a fashion editor’s assistant at Harper’s Bazaar.
If you can, find a company with growth potential. A low level job can turn into a high level career with that same company. Admire Prada, Rodarte, Calvin Klein, Ralph Rucci, Alexander Wang, but cannot get work in the design room? Get a job in one of their stores. Want to be a stylist? Find a photographer and develop imagery together to build a portfolio from which you can get paying work. Or assist another stylist from whom you can learn. Want to be a photographer? Go to school. If you can’t afford a full course load then take classes. And use YouTube.
Photographers I know, working photographers, use YouTube videos to learn how to use software like Photoshop. Then shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Offer model agencies new-model test-shoots to help build their and your portfolios. Try and borrow clothes from young designers who then can use the photographs for their own promotion. Be there at the ground level and perhaps you can become part of the team as success comes to you all. There are many different areas in the industry; work in one may lead to work in another. Become friends with fashion industry folks using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s “not about mainstream thinking” says Mary Loving a more than thirty year veteran of the fashion and public relations industry. “To be successful you have to be creative and bring a new ingredient to the business.” That new ingredient may very well be, your Self.
INTERN OR VOLUNTEER:
If finding a job is difficult and a paid internship is not available then find an unpaid internship. Use job sites like Indeed.com, Glassdoor. LinkedIn or dedicated intern sites like Internship.com. Google internships and see what comes up. Interested in media? Try mediabistro.com. Cold call. Especially in the months immediately prior to Fashion Week, there may be a need for extra help. Interested in Public Relations and Marketing? Try PR companies. Interested in design try fashion houses. Production? Talk to the companies who put on the shows and serve as backstage support. Offer your services as a volunteer. Be a dresser backstage. Even though you are offering up your services for no pay, make sure you have an up-to-date resume and any work samples to show why you should be selected. And if there is nothing available now, they will have something to keep on file for future. Follow up, to keep those connections alive, by checking in or sending updated information and work samples. Stay on their radar. Work hard, be responsible, be reliable, and what was for no pay can turn into a paid job.
START A BLOG:
Start your own project. If you write, create your own website or fashion blog. Publish your pieces on LinkedIn, Medium or pitch them to the Huffington Post Daily Beast or Yahoo. Use site services such as WordPress or BlogSpot or Tumblr or Pinterest. With a blog you can join with other fashion blogs and gain industry exposure through the group, contributing content to such network sites as Independent Fashion Bloggers. If you don’t write particularly well make it visual. Take your own photographs or hook up with a similarly ambitious, talented, young photographer and share the images on Instagram. Make videos and create a YouTube channel (YouTube is second only to Google in search engine popularity.) Promote on your social networks, especially those with the largest audience and engagement Facebook, and Instagram. Learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and hashtags to gain a wider audience. Create inspired by what you love and put your heart, passion and hard work into it.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA:
Well-established personalities and influencers who have sat front row at major fashion shows, landed high-profile advertising campaigns and magazine covers and launched multi-million dollar businesses have been born from blogging. Some have morphed from “blog” to full-fledged media entities as The Business of Fashion has. Others simply begin with social media. All ultimately use social media as leverage, posting, pinning, sharing, tweeting and Snapchatting their way to greater audience, influence and notice. You can emulate any one of them if you have the talent (every year major fashion sites including Fashionista and Elle do their most influential blogger roundups.) If you are not as creative, you can curate the work of others, industry news, favorite photographs to build an online social media following and gain the attention of the infuencers. Follow and connect with them. Like, retweet, regram, and share their work. Comment and engage with them. Join groups on LinkedIn and participate in their discussions. Build your network in whatever way you can.
Find out what’s going on. (Publisher’s note 9/2/2016) The bible of all bibles in the fashion world was the Fashion Calendar (Fashioncalendar.com.) Sadly it is now owned by the CFDA and is no longer what it once was when publisher and founder Ruth Finley owned it. Still, some events are listed on Fashion Calendar.com with contact names and numbers. The problem with the Calendar now is many events, especially high profile ones during fashion week, are not always posted along with many shows held at other venues. They do offer a special show calendar at a reduced price.
(Publisher’s note 9/2/2016) IMG NYFW The Shows The Shows also offers press credentials to their designers shows for members of the press and buyers if they think you qualify — for fees ranging from $80-$100. However, even a press credential is useless without also having a designer invite. A designer invite means you have no need of a credential! You do receive a designer contact list for your money and an official-looking badge — but that is about it. The credential is pretty much a waste of money except for the photographer’s credential which potentially gives access to show media risers.
If your budget is more limited lookonline offers good information in exchange asks for your support ($59 contribution for 1 year) — as well other features to keep you in the know. Supplement this with other sources. Fashionweekdaily.com, BusinessofFashion.com, New York Social Diary, Vogue.com, fashionista.com, WWD (now online only and will always contain fashion show calendars but not contact numbers,) New York Magazine, the New York Times, and other online fashion/blogger sites are among them.
Many events will be by invitation only. No invitation, no access. If you are a legitimate member of the press you can request coverage of the event but your access may still be limited according to your ranking in the media food chain. Legitimate means your work, writings, photos, and video footage appear regularly in a venue or several venues. It could be your own venue. If you are an employee of standing either in the retail, magazine, internet or television worlds, you may get an invitation but even this is no guarantee depending on space. If you are not “important” enough to be invited check with your fellow workers, your boss or your network of connections for an extra invitation.
The good news is oftentimes, especially at fashion shows, arriving early with an invitation can get you in. Be warned however, the more well-known designers may also have a list of names at the door. Sometimes they can even check for I.D. Launchmetrics (formerly FashionGPS) handles invites for many NYFW shows and may look to match photo I.D.s with names on invites. If you are not on the list you are not in the door, invitation or not. As a last resort you can go to the event. Extra invitations are hard to come by, you may even risk a reputation as a gate crasher but it is a good way to meet people in the industry. You might, during fashion week, find free passes to parties being held at clubs around town. This is the beginning of your networking.
Sometimes there is standing room access. If you are willing to wait in line for everyone else with invitations to be let in first, you might find there is room left over. First you have to get to the check-in table. If you can get in the door and get to the check-in table, make your case for why they should even give you standing room access. If you can make that happen, you may get in to see the show. Many times you would be surprised how many big shows you can get into if you are willing to just make the effort and show up! And finally, if you can spend an entire week at the shows you can try becoming a volunteer with IMG New York Fashion Week. They recruit quite a number of volunteers to help run the shows. Just don’t wait for the last minute!
Fortunately or unfortunately connections count for a lot in any world and especially the world of fashion. Make a powerful enough network for yourself however and it can even compensate a lack of talent. If you are not the daughter, son, niece, nephew, friend, you must make your own connections. If you are considering school attend a school in Manhattan, the capital of American fashion; F.I.T, Parson’s, Pratt, L.I.M., School of Visual Arts. Go out. If you have deep pockets, join the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT. Go to clubs, art openings, hot restaurants (even just for a drink at the bar,) parties, fashion shows, any industry functions you can get into. Meet people. Get yourself on mailing lists, become active on social networking sites frequented by industry leaders. Be seen enough and there are those who will invite you because they want you to be seen with them. Of course you must look fabulous, fabulous enough to stand out from the crowd. Make a statement; a fashion statement followed up with sincere hard work. It is the only true path to making your mark in this business.
– by Laurie Schechter
About Laurie: She created Rolling Stone’s first fashion section, pioneering its style, format, and publication schedule. Laurie is the first and only Vogue editor to successfully handle the “View” and “Living” sections simultaneously. Laurie Schechter has also reported and styled fashion stories for Allue, EIle, Interview, Conde Nast’s Traveler, Spin, Harper’s Bazaar, and Town and Country magazines. She has done trend forecasting for various major fashion retailers, footwear companies, and television programs.