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10 Tips to Break into Fashion

Fabien Baron, Pierre Rougier, Lucinda Chambers and more share their advice for starting a career in the fashion industry.
Source: Unsplash
  • BoF Team

LONDON, United Kingdom — For young talent entering the workforce, breaking into fashion is still a complex and confusing task. Despite the past decade of disruption, transparency around what working in the many facets of the industry actually entails continues to be elusive. What's more, the industry is more fluid than ever before — with fewer and fewer linear career trajectories capable of prescribing a path to the top.

In order to provide our community with advice on how to navigate increasingly flexible careers, BoF has interviewed 10 leaders in their field, from across the global fashion industry, to ask their advice on how to get ahead — and stay ahead.

Fabien Baron, art director, Baron & Baron

“I look for people that have their own point of view. That’s the most important thing. That’s the key, because if you can take a stand and have a place where you believe, ‘I like this, I like that, I don’t want this, I don’t want that,’ then number one, you can make decisions and number two, you can have a genuine opinion on fashion. I worked that out very early on. I was very specific about what I liked visually, on an image level, on a design level and on a graphic level. And I stuck with that.”

Lucinda Chambers, stylist

"Collaboration is absolutely key because what you’re doing right from the beginning is building your network. When you forge those collaborations that always inevitably turn, thank goodness, into friendships, then they’re the people that you keep by your side. And no, of course you don’t know how talented they’re going to turn out to be, but you get a sense, a nose for people, when you’re exchanging ideas, when you’re telling each other stories, about their vision. And even if it’s very, very different from yours, that’s a good thing. It’s always good to have different opinions. But you have to have the ability to listen.”

Jennifer Sunwoo, chief merchandising officer, Barneys New York

“You have to be so much more resourceful and entrepreneurially minded — the old business models are now irrelevant. To be a successful merchant, you have to be committed, show a high level of dedication and true passion. You have to continuously cultivate a unique point of view, discover new talent and secure exclusive brands to provide a strong point of difference for the customer.”

Nic Galway, senior vice president of global design, Adidas Group

"A great learning which has always stuck with me was the first time I met Stella McCartney. I prepared a presentation in the same way we would normally present within the brand, with quite structured computerised illustrations, and we all were very confident. Then I met with her and she didn't connect with it. She wasn't familiar with that way of working. It is important to get to know people during the collaboration process and to communicate with them in a way that makes sense to them rather than have them adhere to our processes."

Nick Sullivan, fashion director, Esquire

“Go anywhere you can get experience. It is stepping stones. As you change jobs, you accrue experience, and then more people know who you are. The broader your cultural interests are, the more useful it is. You need a big, broad filter to be able to talk specifics. You’ve got to pay your dues, to work on your reputation, and actually do something to earn a reputation. Having likes is not a reputation. It’s not going to make up for a lack of talent. You have to look and listen your way into a job. You’ve got to drink up as much as you can, even more now, since there are so many platforms to do it on.”

Christene Barberich, global editor-in-chief and co-founder, Refinery29

“Being a keen observer of everything happening around us is just as important as having accountability for important work. In digital publishing, curiosity and adaptability is key. Those who embrace change and seek out learning will thrive. It’s important to create content and share real-life experiences that have a sincere and worthwhile impact, and stories that reflect what people believe in, even if those beliefs aren’t quite defined yet.”

Pierre Rougier, founder, PR Consulting

“Enjoy the ride and provide what you can. If you do everything you’re being asked to do, it will be noticed. That’s the key. Doing a good job will get you to the next one, and the next one. If you want to work in the fashion division, the key is to be interested in designers, be interested in the business of fashion, and be interested in how the industry is evolving. You have to commit yourself to these projects and understand that you’re a part of it.”

Kate Lewis, chief content officer, Hearst Magazines

“You have to be driven — not in a casual way, but with a red-hot fever burning you up. You have to be up for anything and you have to create. The digital platform has encouraged publishers to come face-to-face with their audience so that we really hear them. Fashion media is now about so much more than fashion.”

Gabrielle Hackworthy, senior vice president of global brand communications and marketing, Jimmy Choo

“Know the fashion industry inside and out, and learn what you can about art history, design and photography, as these reference points will be your greatest tools. Do as much work experience and intern as often as you can. A strong fashion and styling sense can be learnt over time and the longer you do the job, the better you become.”

Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director, Bloomingdale’s

“A great thing about the fashion world, whether it’s men’s or women’s, is that it is constantly changing and there is always something to learn. A hunger for more is essential, and that can translate in many different ways. What is really appreciated at a junior level is showing a desire to work. That level of effort does not go unnoticed and can lead to more and different responsibilities, which will eventually lead to career growth.”

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