Fashion is one of the more misunderstood industries, with a shroud of mystery surrounding it, particularly when looking from the outside in. With a huge array of jobs in styling, designing, modelling, photography, editing, blogging, writing, creative directing and producing, buying, retail, visual merchandising, marketing and PR, customer service, content creating, and so much more, there are endless opportunities when it comes to working in fashion. And while we’ve been to our fair share of events and runways and may or may not spend a dime or two on our wardrobes, the things we have picked up along the way are far more valuable than any glam experience or material piece (well, unless it’s vintage Chanel).
The team at Australian Style Institute are sharing the most valuable lessons we have learnt while working in fashion.
Lauren Di Bartolo, Australian Style Institue Founder
The most important lesson that I’ve learned working in fashion would be that creativity means business and fashion is a serious industry. So, there is absolutely a financial gain, but fashion is also an industry that allows you to cross boundaries and different career pathways. A stylist can become a creative director or an editor from a traditional publishing background could be the hottest stylist.
If you’re really talented, it’s ageless. I think that’s really big because people associate fashion with age. But some of the most talented people in fashion right now are at extreme ends of the age spectrum. There are people in their teens or early 20s, take Tyler Mitchell for example. He’s 23, and he’s the photographer Beyonce just commissioned for Vogue. Then you have Miuccia Prada who was with her mother at the helm of Prada. This luxury brand has reinvented itself time and time again, and is still a family affair.
Also, when kick-starting a career in fashion, listen to where your drive is and don’t get caught up in people telling you that it’s not possible. Fashion of the last 10 to 20 years is very different from what fashion will look like in the future. So, if you’re willing to work hard, and think outside the box, pay your dues. Expose yourself to really creative people and add value everywhere you go, whatever you’re doing. There is absolutely nothing that should stop you in fashion.
There is no Illuminati in my opinion that will hold you back from your definition of success whether that’s creative, commercial, financial or simply to have your name up in lights.
Jordan Drummond, Marketing and Communications Manager
I love being able to combine business with pleasure when it comes to working in fashion. My job means that I get to be creative and across all the beautiful things, while also have a strong business mind. The flexibility in my work wardrobe is also a perk! I’m not sure if I could ever switch to a corporate wardrobe now.
Fashion isn’t scary. A big part of the industry actually revolves around building relationships, so if you go into it with the wrong attitude you won’t get very far. Always showing gratitude and treating people as you expect to be treated is so important. Our industry is small (and only getting smaller) and you never know when you might come across someone again. I feel very privileged to work with the people I work with and have the opportunity to access.
You’ve got to walk the walk and talk the talk. Being your own brand, always, is really important. Fashion being a visual industry means that we do need to represent ourselves in a way that demonstrates who we are. First impressions are made within three seconds of meeting someone, so showing polish and consideration in your look is key.
Dalton Graham, Mentor
People’s perceptions can change about what they can wear. That’s one of my favourite things I’ve learnt. You put an idea out there, it could be an outfit, a business idea, whatever it is, the thing I get a lot of satisfaction out of is seeing people’s perceptions or chain of thought change right in front of you, based on something so simple.
Even people that are stylish have those moments when you wack something together for them, and they end up wanting to buy it. I’ve had that happen over the years with The Tailored Man, a lot of the people I’m dressing are very fashionable people but they just haven’t thought to style something or seen something put together in a particular way. So my favourite thing is that we can change the perceptions people have of themselves in an instant, just by styling from a different point of view.
Penny Votzourakis, National Course Advisor
Fashion is so much more than clothes; it’s how you feel when you put on a garment. Your size and age are not relevant. Find garments that make you look and feel amazing, and most importantly, walk with confidence. A stylist plays an integral role in helping you find your best style and how you want to be perceived.
I see first hand the difference that an ASI stylist can make and that’s because they not only have the tools, skills and language of empowerment. The stylists in the industry that are the most successful are the ones that stay relevant in the marketplace the ones that understand they need the right education, network and support. The word “self-taught” is no longer enough in this thriving industry clients want more.
Rachel Mantinieks, Administration and Events Assistant
Coming from a non-fashion background, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned since working in fashion is just all the different ways people can express themselves through their style. There’s really no right or wrong when it comes to fashion and individual style.
This has allowed me to more confidently express myself through fashion and really play around with different styles and colours. Every job I’ve been in had a uniform. I got to dress up and play around on the weekends but, never really during the week. But being around people that appreciate fashion and understand it allows me to be a bit freer with my style. I’m not just conforming to the jeans and t-shirt, black and white sort of thing like I used to.
My wardrobe has expanded, there are a lot of things in there now that aren’t things I usually would have bought. But, a lot of people that I work with now appreciate and understand my style. I’ve also learnt so much from all the students here and how they dress. I just never realised how many different ways there were for people to express themselves through fashion.
Mikyla Rampling, Student Development Assistant and Wardrobe Stylist, Network Ten
The main thing I have learned would be I’m in the right place! In anything you do, if you surround yourself with like-minded people who hold the same values and passions, you will grow.
Being humble and building good relationships is really important, as this can lead you to other jobs. So make sure you network, ask questions and listen. You can learn something from everyone that you come in contact with.
Other learnings would be, it’s not as scary as some may think. But it’s also not always as glamorous as some may think either. There is never a dull moment. The industry is ever-changing, recycling and innovating. So grow with it, be flexible.
Stylists work really hard, this something a lot of people don’t realise. Remember that fashion isn’t just clothes. It’s how we are communicating to the world and how they see us. There are so many things that influence fashion from around us – culture, art, design, film, music, travel etc
Oh, and obviously something I’ve learnt, and continue to learn is that it’s really easy to spend your pay.
Kaitlyn Wilson, Communications Intern
Working in fashion is not Devil Wears Prada. Everyone I have ever worked with in fashion has been nothing but supportive and helpful. It is a competitive industry, yes, but it’s not bitchy, people want you to succeed.
Also, not everyone who works in fashion would consider themselves a very trendy person. Individual style, and being comfortable in what you’re wearing is far more important than following the latest trends. I think that’s important for anyone starting out in the fashion industry who may be feeling the pressure to look a certain way. Most people in the industry appreciate personal style and substance over a person who has mimicked what they see on Instagram. Being yourself, as cliche as it sounds, is very important.
But what matters even more than your clothes is your attitude. Most photographers will tell you they’d rather work with a less well-known model who is lovely to be around, then a top model with a bad attitude. This applies to almost every area of fashion. In reality, the fashion world is more about the people in it than clothes. Another cliche, be it slightly adjusted, people will forget what you wore, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Also, doing your research, knowing your fashion history and how ingrained fashion is in our behaviours, is very important. Being able to contribute to the conversation in a fresh, creative and well-articulated way will set you apart.
Tarrah Burns, Social Media Intern
One of the aspects of working in fashion I have learnt to be very important is to stay open-minded. In an ever-changing industry, you have to be adaptable to new discoveries, styles and opinions.
Here at ASI, we work in such a supportive environment where we all encourage each other and can bounce around ideas without judgement. Listening is the key to being open-minded, as it allows you to filter new information and adjust accordingly.