In our new series, “How to Get a Job With Me,” we talk with the industry’s top execs about what it takes to get hired—or at least an interview.
Born in El Salvador, and raised in Miami, Carmen Borgonovo spent 10 years in New York working at Vogue and WWD before heading over to Europe for roles at Hogan, Harper's Bazaar, and now, MyWardrobe.com, the London-based e-commerce site that bills itself as "everyday luxury."
One could say that My Wardrobe's approach to fashion is grounded in glamorous function. Currently, the site is spotlighting luxe-comfy slippers by CB Made in Italy, and easy summer party dresses. It's practical stuff that fills a fashion urge, too.
Borgonovo, too, is glamorous but practical. And she looks for similar qualities in the people she hires, from interns to buyers.
Fashionista: First off, let's talk about logistics. You started at My Wardrobe in January 2013, and you're also a consulting editor on Elle Accessories. How do you balance both gigs? Carmen Borgonovo: I'm lucky that My Wardrobe's CEO has been so supportive of my consulting with Elle. The editorial side very much complements the buying side. When you're working for a magazine, you get so much exposure to new designers. It's great for when I'm thinking about who we're going to pick up next season.
What are your day-to-day duties at My Wardrobe? I'm in charge of the fashion direction of the site, and also the buy. So I spend a lot of time going on buying appointments, deciding which designers we carry, which pieces. I'm essentially responsible for every piece of clothing we have on the site. I hope to be able to do a shoot here and there for our editorial team as well—I used to style—but I'm very focused on the buy.
What's your interviewing style? I've been in this industry for 20 years, and I'd say that you sort of know the moment you meet someone whether or not you want to hire them. It's almost an instinctual thing. Obviously sometimes you can be disappointed, but usually I find that my instinct are right. I was lucky that when I got to My Wardrobe, there was already a great team in place. But I did get to hire one buying assistant. I just knew she was right. I found her extremely intelligent, down to earth, a hard worker, mature for her age, interested in fashion but also interested other things. I'm always more drawn to someone that might have a world outside of fashion. Other interests lend a certain stability. It's important that fashion is not the only thing in their life, that they bring other things to the table. It's not healthy otherwise.
What else do you look for in an employee? Dedication and a love of fashion. Someone who appreciates where we are and what we're doing. I might be old fashioned, but I really appreciate good manners. You can never be too proper in an email. And just overall respect for the industry. I really don’t like it when people call me babe or hunny, which has happened before. I want to work with people are very serious about it, and understand that we are professionals.
What about interns. Any tips on how to behave during your internship? I hired an intern that was very good, had very good manners. She sent me a thank you card, and kept in touch with me afterward, asking me my opinion on certain internships. This girl is actually really interested in the industry and cares about her career, and she's only a sophomore or junior in college. I love that she's had to the confidence to keep up with me. I don't think, at that age, I had the guts or security to contact an editor. I find that young people today do actually seek help and ask for people's opinions. It's more competitive than ever before, and it was great that she approached the industry like an adult. I've since helped her get more internships in New York.
People talk a lot about networking and connections, but what if you're a newbie to fashion and don't have any? How can you get your foot in the door? It's really hard. I think it's very important to write a very good email and cover letter. I find time to read cover letters. It's about being persistent, but not pushy. Introduce yourself to an editor's assistant, ask her if you can meet for coffee. If you like a certain stylist's work, email her and say that. Try to be creative with your resume. People are always looking for assistants, and they do read resumes. Even if they don't call you immediately, they might file your info away for the future. I always keep a file of resumes that have impressed me.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give to someone who's trying to land a job? Always understand that in order to be successful you have to work hard. A lot of people these days think fashion is glamour and fun. You have to realize that in order to make it, you have to be dedicated to the job and be passionate about it.