how i got my job in fashion
Frank and Oak shirt / Helmut Lang jeans / Axel Arigato sneakers / The 5th sunglasses / Rag and Bone bucket bag
A few days ago I reached out to my lovely IG followers and asked what kind of post they would like to read. Overwhelmingly you wanted to read about 'baby no.2' and 'how I got my job in fashion'. So clearly I'm going to have to write about both, but today it's all about how I started working in fashion.
It sounds kinda cliche but I was born to work in fashion. My grandma Emma was a seamstress in Paris during the second world war. She met my grandpa Stanley and they moved to Australia to set up a life with my Dad & uncle Pinky. It was in Melbourne that they started a very successful childrenswear business. They made stunning little duffle coats and sold them to high-end department stores.
My Dad, Josef grew up in the family business and started helping out as young as 8 years old. In the 70's my grandpa won a contract to start manufacturing childrenswear for Target Australia. It was then that my Dad officially joined the company, heading up sales and design. Both my grandpa and dad would jet off to Europe, purchase the latest release of designer kids clothes and travel back to Melbourne to re-create them - with an Aussie twist of course. In 1973 they started offshore production in Hong Kong. Back then it wasn't so common to find a 'made in Hong Kong' or 'made in China' label on clothing, but the inevitable shift to producing offshore had begun. My Dad tells me that one of the most popular styles they made was the embroidered flare jeans. In 1975 my grandpa passed away and my Dad and his brother decided to go separate ways pursuing their own careers.
The funny thing is, I don't remember saying 'I want to work in fashion' when I was young. And even up until the end of high school, I didn't really know what kind of job I wanted. I knew that I didn't have the ambition to be a fashion designer, but I had no idea that the 'business' side of fashion was an option for me.
I remember so clearly one day when we were going to visit one of my Dads old 'rag trade' friends. Both of them were trying to convince me not to get into the business as it's a never-ending struggle (in their words). I ended up doing a two-year advanced diploma in advertising at RMIT University in Melbourne, and looking back now I think... why!? Not that it was a complete waste of time, but sometimes you have to do something you don't like, to realise what you actually really do love. I remember very clearly a moment during my advertising internship, sitting at a desk in one of Melbourne's most elite ad agencies. I was supposed to be doing market research for some cat food brand, but all I wanted to do was read fashion magazines and trade journals. Something in that moment didn't feel right for me deep down in my gut. I needed another option.
Shortly after finishing my diploma I looked into further study options. I knew that I didn't want to study fashion design or the more technical side of things. Finally, I came across another RMIT degree about 'Merchandising'. I would be learning about fabric compositions, how to do visual window displays, how to create range sheets, work out a margin, everything regarding fashion marketing and supply chain logistics. Ahhhhh.. this was my hallelujah moment. At last, I'd found something right up my alley.
I completed my three-year degree with distinction and loved every moment of my studies. I was now ready to enter the workforce (if only it was that easy). My RMIT teachers helped arrange an internship with Bardot (Australian fast fashion brand) which allowed me to see first-hand how things worked in practice, instead of just reading about things in theory.
It was at this point that my husband (then boyfriend) and I decided to pack up everything and move to Canada. He got a great job offer that brought us over and knowing that I could pretty much work in fashion, in any major city in the world - we jumped at the chance! One week after leaving Australia I received an email from the Merchandising Manager at Bardot about coming in for a chat about a full-time role. Dang, I was kicking myself thinking, have I just blown my first proper job opportunity and moved to a country where I had no guarantee that I'll be able to find something similar?
Make or break
At this point, I knew I had to get my hustle on and get myself a job. Within that first week of landing in freezing Vancouver (probably the coldest January since I've lived here), I sent out about 25 resumes to no avail. At that point I knew I just had to get out there and start networking. I was walking down Robson street and came across a store called Aritzia. I liked the clothes they were selling and the look and feel of the store - so I asked to speak to the manager to inquire whether they were hiring. I was given a job on the spot and asked if I could start the following week. I worked on the shop floor, getting to know the product and understanding what Vancouver shoppers are like. A month or so in, I was approached by the District manager and was basically told that they were fast-tracking me to the head office. And let me tell you this was not due to my selling skills - they had realised I had a Merchandising degree and ran a blog on the side.
My first real job
Things moved pretty quickly from there as shortly after I was offered a job as an Associate Buyer in the head office. I assisted the Buyers/Buying Directors by running sales reports, looking into top-selling styles to reorder, analysing post-season sales, submitting PO's etc. I worked in that role for just over a year and learnt a great deal regarding working in a corporate setting and many organisational and strategic tools that stay with me to this day. Unfortunately one March morning, I was let go from the company along with 15 others. As much as the lay-off was "without cause" part of you still takes it on personally. Did I do something wrong? Did I need to do something different? Etc etc. Time away from that place made me come to understand that it wasn't the setting for me. I'm just not the type A personality that thrives in that kind of workplace. I love my job, but I don't need to bring it home with me every night, morning and weekend.
Next steps to job #2
I took a few months off and started reaching out to friends in Vancouver who might be able to hook me up with a job. One of my friends who had just left Artizia passed on my CV for a brand new start-up called Kit and Ace. I interviewed and was shortly after offered the job of Mens & Accessories Product Manager. This role took on both buying and merchandising functions. I would play a part in pre-season development, range assortment, buying and would read sales/feedback as soon as my styles were on the shop floor. I really enjoyed working for the company in the beginning days. It was so exciting to play a role in building something from the ground up. Unfortunately, sales and demand didn't pan out as expected. While I was away on my 1-year maternity leave, my job title was made redundant and the entire sub-department was eliminated. I was told that I was still technically an employee, but they weren't certain what job I could return to. I didn't feel bitter about how it played out. I feel like I enjoyed it in the moment and was ready for the next step.
My current job
So where to next? I started looking for work as Lily was coming up to her first birthday. Scrolling through jobs on Style Nine to Five, I came across an Operations role at a small business called VONBON. I applied and was called in for an interview with Jen shortly afterwards. I've spoken about it in a previous post but what really appealed to me about this company was the flexibility of the role. I was able to arrive 8:30 am and leave at 4:30 pm each day. There were no expectations to do crazy over-time hours and being a mother of two, my boss just gets it. In my current role I'm doing a bit of everything. Pre-season range development, assortment planning, colouring up the line, creating collection packages to send out to our wholesale accounts, ordering fabric, planning how many styles we need to cut for our own eCommerce business, creating care labels, putting together photoshoot looks, editing photos, building styles in our online store, creating marketing campaigns for new launches or promotions, reading sales and reacting with recuts and 100 other things. So yeah, it's pretty much everything but I love it as no day is the same. My boss treats me as her right hand and values all my suggestions. I feel 100% appreciated in this role. And it's super exciting to see the growth month-to-month. A few weeks back I had my one-year work anniversary pop up on Linked In. Where has that last year disappeared to.. I don't know, but I'm loving where I'm at.
My tips for breaking into/making it in the industry
1. Get yourself a blog. I can say, without doubt, that having a blog and social channels helped me secure most of my jobs. It's a visual portfolio of who you are as a person. CV's can only go so far these days and don't they say a picture says 1000 words? Well how about an Instagram feed full of images? Haha
2. If you have the opportunity to go to university/college.. do it. This helps build such a solid foundation for when you get into the workplace and really helped my career progress along.
3. Intern. There is so much to learn from interning at the right companies and often they turn into job opportunities. With that being said, know when to say 'no' as you can't work for free forever.
4. Get out there and meet like-minded people. I've made so many great industry contacts through my blog. It was actually one of the first things I did when moving to Vancouver. I shot out a few emails after a quick 'Vancouver Blogger' Google search. From there I came across Leonie from Noa Noir and by chance discovered that we actually lived in the same building. From there I met my good friend Randa and the rest is history. But in all seriousness, these girls are amazing and have supported me since day one. Get yourself a crew like that!
5. Follow-through. I read a great tip about interviews that I just have to share. When you're interview is coming to an end and you're all done with questions (always have a few questions up your sleeve btw) straight up ask for the job. "Thanks for telling me all about this job opportunity and I would love to be the person you hire" or "I feel my background and skills are a really good fit for this position, and I’m very interested. What are the next steps?". This makes such a difference and lets you know where you stand with your interviewer.
Well that might possibly be the longest post I've ever written so bravo if you've made it to the end. Let me know if you have any further questions about how I got my job or other tips for breaking into the industry.
Photography: Jeremy Wong