Here's my latest post for Fashion-Incubator, reposted here for my readers.
Hardly anyone I know is self-taught. When I say “self-taught”, I mean someone who took some fabric and tools, bought some clothes at a store they want to sell at, and started messing around until they “got it”. Now, there’s “self-educated”, those who read books and surfed the web. There’s the “schooled”, those who took several classes, or even went on to get an AA. And then there are what I call the “baffers”, those girls who went through a four-year program and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at a prestigious design school.
No method is better than the other. (Do you hear that? That’s the sound of my alma mater’s collective screeching.) There’s a right method for you, and it all depends on your learning style and what your goals are.
Let’s look at our career options, shall we? Warning: I’m diabetic. I don’t sugarcoat.
A. You want to start working at an established fashion house. You figure you can start off as an assistant designer somewhere and work your way up to a bigger design position.
Go baffer. Go to school and go to a good one. Go to one with a name everyone knows. Kick some major butt at your senior show. Be on good terms with your department admins, especially your career services office.
B. You want to work for an established fashion house and you hate school. You’re willing to start from the very bottom if you have to, but the thought of more school makes you want to grind my bones to make your bread.
Look for an internship somewhere. Offer yourself up as a free slave willing to do nothing but clip loose threads for year if they’ll give you a chance. In all seriousness, they will take you, but you have to be willing to work for free or bare bones minimum wage for a while. Even then there is no guarantee that they’ll eventually hire you with a real salary.
C. You want to start your own company. You want to something small, you’re not interested in getting involved with the slick and slosh of the fashion industry, but you want to design and produce clothes for a particular niche market, in Anytown, USA.
Read lots of books on various aspects of the industry, especially in regards to professional manufacturing processes. You can take a lot of technical classes for garment construction, or apprentice somewhere. You can also go the baffer route, but they won’t teach you about what to do when you can’t find anyone who’ll do your pathetically small quantities. Prestige of your alma mater means nothing. If you want to go to school, you need to find one that suits your needs.
D. You want to start your own company. It’ll be fantaaaabulous, dahling. You’re going to be the next Alexander McQueen!
The baffer route is a good choice. The baffer route with some experience working for someone else works better. If you don’t go the baffer route, you had better have some amazing PR people backing you up, and they don’t come cheap. No baffer cred, you have to have background work history cred. Or, have none of the above, but have someone bankroll you.
While I’m on the subject, I want to take a few moments to dispel some stereotypes and myths out there.
1. Not all non-baffers are lazy, not talented enough to get accepted into a prestigious school, or too geeky and dowdy to mingle with the fashionistas. They aren’t less dedicated to the work, they aren’t lesser designers. They just opted for a different way.
2. Not all designers bankrolled by Daddy, or those who inherited the business through family are shiftless, lazy, designer wannabes. Yes, a lot of them are, but not all of them. I used to work for a designer bankrolled by Daddy and if I worked 12 hours a day, she worked 13. No one worked harder for the success of that company than she did. Mocking people because they have more money than you is also a form of bigotry.
3. Don’t ever say “oh, she got that job cuz she’s from X school.” Maybe that’s true. Most likely, it was because she was she displayed the skills she learned in school. Yes, famous schools have better PR engines, but nothing is more powerful than word of mouth from alumni and the vast majority of alumni are honest when asked about their school experience. In this country, getting into a school is lot easier than actually completing a degree. It takes drive, money, major life reprioritizing, and energy.
4. Celebrity endorsement of your line guarantees nothing. It’s what you do with that extra PR is what matters. I work for a company that used to clothe the Grateful Dead, President Clinton, and Joe Montana. No one remembers this today.
5. Just because you’re a baffer doesn’t mean the world is going to bow down to you. It will open doors for you, but it’s up to you to keep those doors open.
I can also write a follow-up post detailing my experiences at my alma mater if there is enough interest. Please let me know in the comments section.
I'm so completely embarrassed that I forgot the lovely Jill of fiftyrx3 from my shout-outs post. I have no excuses. Please accept my sincerest apologies. It was great meeting you (twice, even, so that makes me even stupider) and I hope you weren't too offended by my forgetfulness.
So Julie thinks I'm a barbarian. Go check out her article for Fashion Wire Daily and let me know what you think. Yes, I love the fact that she highlights me, but beyond that, I love the fact that Julie writes articles that reveals more than what celebrity was wearing who and gush about the superficial. Definitely worth a read and I'd be interested in my intelligent readers' opinions.
Out of fairness, I will list according to the order in which I met everyone, to the best of my recollection.
Julie of Almost Girl: Thanks so much for your Squirrel Action PR Maven ™ skills! And throwing such a great party! Your energy is limitless and truly astounding. Just call me Zonan the Barbarian, your Almost Muse.
Phil of Millionaire Socialite: Dear New Kid Brother, please swing by the zoloft so I can stuff you full of Korean BBQ and fatten you up some. And thanks again for the chair. And thank you for introducing us to the Best Coffeeshop Ever ™.
Danielle of Final Fashion: A true friend, I'm honored to be considered your peer in our adventures in this industry. Stay true to yourself and you will go as far as you want. Ray is a lucky, lucky man. Now when are you moving to SF, dammit???
Elke of The Beauty Newsletter: I'm still amazed at how beautifully you transformed me Thursday night. The boy couldn't stop gawking! I bow down to your mad skills. And hanging out with you was definitely one of the trip's highlights.
Joi of Stereoette: It's a pity you couldn't stay out with us longer! It was so great meeting you! I think you gave Danielle a celeb moment when you recognized her off the street.
Susan of Counterfeit Chic: I hate you. Apparently not only are you brainy as hell, but can sport red lipstick better than most style icons throughout history. And you're totally nice to boot. AND you've offered to kick legal ass of whoever copies my Gen Art designs. Argh!
Lesley of Fashiontribes: Lunch was so much fun! The hours seriously just whipped by. I love how you mix the high- and low-brow in one sentence. Judging from our conversation, it's no wonder you can tap into such different style tribes with equal aplomb.
Kim of I Am Pretty NYC: Your amazing makeup skills are written plainly on your beautiful face. Thanks for taking pictures at the party Thursday and thanks for much for the vicarious hugs.
If I forgot anyone, please send me hate mail. It was incredible to meet you guys. If you're ever in the Bay Area, pop me an email!
Last but not least, I'd like to thank all my readers for all your supportive emails and comments. Little ole VC is feeling very loved right now, which is helping with the overall exhaustion.
*Edit* Stupid me forgot to thank every single one of the fashion bloggers who wrote congratulatory posts on their own blogs! Thank you thank you thank you!
1. Getting ready for the Spring 07 tradeshows, which start in late July for us. Perfecting samples, mostly. It seems far away, but it really isn't.
2. Wrapping up the catalog. Photoshoot Day One was today, which went rather smoothly. We got to borrow some vintage motorcycles, which was an excellent touch for some of the shots. We hope to be printed and mailed out by early June.
3. For those of you who are new readers, I was recently invited by the amazing Kathleen of Fashion Incubator to be a co-blogger and have agreed to write a weekly post. At a reader's request, I will be writing a post on the pros and cons of formal fashion education.
4. Gen Art Perrier Competition Part Deux. This involves making one of the sketches and taking it to Miami for the Gen Art Fresh Faces Miami event. I will most likely be going to L.A. not this weekend, but the next, to buy materials, since I sourced them there. The outfit is tentatively due July 1, so I hope to have the muslin complete by then. Unless I get an overwhelming response to pick something else, I will be making the Dissolving Bows Dress.
Unfortunately, this means I'll once again have little to no social life, and no time to complete my coat collection that I've been sketching on the side. Oh well. There are worse things in life.
Here's the official photo from the event, by the GA photographer, of me, clutching onto the award for dear life, like if I dropped it, the whole thing would turn into a dream:
Click here for more official photos from the event.
Click here for photos from Kim at I Am Pretty NYC from the Coutorture/Congrats Zoe party on Thursday.
Apparently, babbling nonsensically gets you places. WWD featured a piece on the Gen Art event and ended with:
Or, as new winner Hong pithily put it: “I’d like to give Gen Art mad props for existing for this exact purpose.”
I groaned. Danielle insisted that a soundbite was born. I hastily looked up "pithy", to ensure that it wasn't negative. According to Merriam-Webster, it means "having substance and point : tersely cogent". I can live with that. Tali at Gen Art says it was a great quote, so as long as I didn't offend anyone at GA, I'll live.
Here's the article, in case you don't have a subscription.
House of Styles
NEW YORK — Lightning struck twice for Bruno Grizzo at the 2006 Gen Art Styles event, held Tuesday at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The Brazilian designer picked up two of the evening’s six honors — a first in the history of the eight-year-old competition. “It’s not the first time that a designer has been a finalist in more than one category,” said Mary Gehlhar, Gen Art’s vice president and fashion director, “but it is the first time that someone has won in two. Bruno is amazing, and the best part is that he said the $10,000 will actually pay for his first season’s production.”
The event, hosted by Jessica Capshaw, was attended by about 1,500 guests, including “Project Runway” alum Jay McCarroll and actresses Lisa Edelstein and Lola Glaudini of “House, M.D.” and “Criminal Minds,” respectively. Twenty-four finalists — chosen by a committee from a field of 800 — competed for five different $5,000 Motorola Design Vision Awards in various market categories; five other designers vied for the $10,000 Perrier Bubbling Under Award for Design Concepts. The judges included Richard Lambertson of Lambertson Truex, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Vollbracht of Bill Blass, John Bartlett, Joseph Abboud, Rebecca Taylor, Nicole Miller, Mary Alice Stephenson and Parsons The New School for Design’s own chairman-cum-reality TV star Tim Gunn. “We reach for diversity,” noted Gehlhar, of the eclectic judging-table lineup.
The designer finalists themselves were equally diverse, ranging from New York Fashion Week regular Helena Fredriksson, of H Fredriksson, to newcomer Grizzo. The latter picked up awards in both women’s eveningwear and ready-to-wear with his simple, chic garments. A soigné silk faille evening coatdress, for example, was belted with a black snakeskin and grosgrain belt.
Still, there were other worthy competitors, too. Fredriksson’s printed silk georgette halter dress with a black wool coat and a gold brocade vest elicited plenty of applause, while Church & State’s Nathaniel Crissman and Rachel Turk delivered two sweetly Mod-ish cream-colored frocks. In the avant-garde category, Yusuke Amatsu took home the prize for his sculptural white cotton dresses made of tuxedo shirt collars and cuffs. Other winners included Nylo by Brian Wang for men’s wear and Zoe Hong, whose idea of “throwing opposites together” under the assigned theme of “Sparkle” garnered her the Perrier Bubbling Under Award. Meanwhile, accessories duo Ryan Wither and Paul Lewin of Tivi won for their distinctively sleek, streamlined stainless steel and zebrawood cuff and clutch.
“We voted for all the winners!” exclaimed von Furstenberg at the end of the night, proud of the choices she and Taylor had made.
“This was a much better show compared to last year,” noted Miller. “There were at least two people that I liked in each category.” Taylor, a Gen Art grad herself, recognized the role the organization plays in helping launch careers. “It’s really amazing,” she said. “I know what these designers are going through, and it’s exciting.”
Or, as new winner Hong pithily put it: “I’d like to give Gen Art mad props for existing for this exact purpose.”
Hi kids. Did you miss me?
It's not yet 6am Monday morning and I'm up earlier than usual because today is Day One of the photoshoot for the catalog at work. I'm not usually a coffee drinker, but today my body is screaming for caffeine. We missed our flight Saturday afternoon because of major traffic jams en route to the airport, had to spend half a night at a sleazy airport motel and wake up at 4am for the next flight in to SFO.
New York was great. The boy and I had a great time. Overall exhaustion keeps my usual witticisms at bay at the moment, but once I have the energy, I'll be posting thank-yous, New York happenings, what's next for me in regards to Gen Art and the general aftermath of all of this. Stay tuned.