Fashion

The Biggest Misconceptions About My Fashion Job

About a month ago, a simple Twitter question got a whole slew of professionals excited: “What’s something that seems obvious within your profession, but the general public seems to misunderstand?” Everyone from archeologists to massage therapists to nurses to zookeepers weighed in on the now approximately 12,000-responses-long tweet. Of course, our minds went right to fashion.

As a fashion editor, on a fairly regular basis, I’ll get asked questions from non–fashion industry people such as, “Do you pay for your clothes?” There are gifts from time to time, but yes, I do. “Is it like The Devil Wears Prada?” Nope, but I do sympathize with Andy Sachs.

However, as careers in fashion run the gamut, I reached out to other women who work in a similar world with jobs that are completely different than my own. Each of them can relate that their fashion jobs aren’t exactly what they might appear to be or how one might assume.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a buyer or casting director or what it’s like to own a boutique or to be the person behind huge marketing campaigns like #RevolveAroundtheWorld? All the insiders fill us in below.

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Next, see what French women have to candidly say about “French style” in 2018.

WHO: Kai Avent-deLeon, owner and creative director of Sincerely Tommy, a Bed-Stuy-based boutique

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

I basically own the business but also do all of the buying, operations, merchandising, staffing, etc., for Sincerely Tommy. I wear all the hats.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

That it’s glamorous and I make a lot of money. Running a small business takes a lot of work, and things are constantly popping up. You have to deal with every component of the business 24-7.

WHO: Katie Sturino, entrepreneur, founder of Megababe Beauty and The 12ish Style, and dogager to Toast Meets World, Muppets Revenge, and Underpants the Dog

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

I’d describe my job as helping women of all sizes feel confident in their bodies and to specifically provide shopping options for women of larger sizes who have a difficult time locating outfits in their size.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

The biggest misconception about my fashion career is probably that I get everything for free and it’s all easy, and while it is easy in comparison to being a nurse, it comes with its own set of challenges that are definitely not desirable for most people to deal with.

WHO: Raissa Gerona, chief brand officer of Revolve, FWRD, and Alliance Apparel

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

I oversee the brand marketing team, which is the muscle behind our activations such as #RevolveAroundtheWorld, #RevolveFestival, and our newest initiative: #RevolveSummer. I’ve also led the launch of 14 portfolio brands with Revolve/Alliance Apparel, including the brands House of Harlow 1960 x Revolve with Nicole Richie and Chrissy Teigen x Revolve.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

The biggest misconception is that it wasn’t easy to get here—it took years and years in the making. It’s good to remember that just like in any other business, hard work is key! Another is that there are really nice, inclusive, humble, and hard-working people in fashion. It’s not like The Devil Wears Prada!

WHO: Astrid Boutrot, head of women’s buying at The Webster

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

Buying is about anticipating what the customer will want in six months before they even know it exists. It is a mixture of instinct, analytics, and understanding your customer. Every season, we look at all opportunities on the market that we think speaks to The Webster customer, viewing the collections of both established designers and niche brands. From there, we select what we think will be the future best-selling styles, curating a special selection that is in line with the DNA of The Webster while also accommodating the different customers in each of our five stores.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

I used to be on the other side (wholesale) and looked at buyers with envy. I thought they had the easiest job just looking at and choosing their favorite beautiful things! I think that is the greatest misconception actually. It isn’t easy, but I do think buying is one of the most interesting roles in the industry, as you use your brain in both a creative and a mathematical way. It is very analytical. Ah, also, be ready to pack at any time to go anywhere. It never stops!

WHO: Dana Hollar Schwartz, co-founder of The Hours, which represents brands such as Sea NY, Anine Bing, and Danielle Frankel

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

I run a PR and marketing agency that oversees communication strategies for brands. What is a communication strategy? It’s everything you as a brand put out into the world, aside from your product. We help brands figure out what to say, how to say it, and how to deliver it. The goal is always the same—brand awareness.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

PR is generally a little misunderstood, even for people in the industry. The Hours uses “creative communications” to describe what we do, as we take a more holistic forward approach. We have an ongoing role to educate clients and partners on what this means. Personally, I like the mystery of what we do and how we do it. The biggest misconception is the amount of strategy and thoughtfulness that goes into our work.

WHO: Anaa Saber, founder of Our Second Skin, a fashion media outlet–turned–creative service platform

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

Oh, god! Describing my career to someone is the most difficult and exhausting task. I like to consider myself a “slashie” freelance consultant/contributing editor/model/stylist and so forth.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

Coming from a South Asian background, I think the biggest misconception I get is that I’m a fashion designer. Careers in fashion aren’t very common in Pakistani/South Asian communities unless you design. Aside from your typical lawyer, doctor, or engineer, fashion isn’t a favored job description. I’m pretty much an anomaly, but I love when people challenge me and truly are interested in finding out what it is that I exactly do!

WHO: Gilleon Smith, casting director working in all mediums, including her ongoing collaboration with brands like Chromat

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

I always tell people that although we do have clients who work in the fashion industry, our company is not a fashion company—we work in any and all mediums. I am very clear to let people know that all, if not most jobs, “in fashion” are administrative roles. It’s a glorified desk job.

It’s a lot of data entry, dictating stats, people, names, phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses, etc. If one number or letter is off, it could potentially ruin the entire trajectory of your project. This is a very detail-oriented occupation and therefore requires intense concentration and accuracy.

I also tell people that it’s never a dull day! We are responsible for speaking to a plethora of people from various walks of life on a daily basis. We are the “people” people, and we bring everyone together. This high-paced environment ensures nonstop excitement.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

My number one deterrent from hiring an applicant is when someone tells me they want “to work in fashion.” Like, what does that even mean? Most people come to NYC thinking that working in the fashion industry feels like the backstage of a runway show every day or a whimsical episode of Sex and the City, and it’s just not the reality.

Most people don’t understand that because this field is so coveted and unrealistically glamorized, the industry is often taking advantage of the entry-level, unexperienced candidates because they can. Often employees are underpaid, overworked, and even abused verbally and physically, and it truly takes a lot of passion and resilience to become a success story. When I work with people, I know I’m speaking on behalf of most of my peers who own businesses, I can say that what it takes to be successful in this industry is to be reliable, hard-working, and dedicated to getting the job done no matter what it takes, which most certainly has nothing to do with a sense of fashion.

WHO: Noria Morales, senior director, creative collaborations and influencer marketing at Target

How would you describe your job to someone with no fashion experience whatsoever?

I help create partnerships—products, experiences, content, or a mix of all three—that inspire our guests (that’s what we call the individuals who shop with us) and help make Target a stronger brand.

What’s the biggest misconception about your fashion career?

My fashion career has evolved a lot since my days at Lucky and PopSugar, and I hesitate to even categorize my career today solely as a fashion career because my work crosses multiple categories like home, kids, and even food.

When I was an editor, people always thought it was just a glamorous, fairly frivolous job. Parts of it may have been, but the reality is fashion is a massive, complex business and is filled with some of the smartest, most hard-working, humble people and truly connects to people’s daily lives.

Today, they may hear about my role in marketing at Target and are surprised when they meet me to discover that I’m a deeply creative, totally human person who can speak fashion and design fluently but can also apply creative design thinking to a mass retail business, and I think it (pleasantly) surprises people.

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