First of all I have to tell you I LOVE your designs. Probably every email you get starts off with that, and to each it is true. I have your collections all over my inspiration board.
So now for the advice seeking part.... I graduated in 2007 (with a degree in fashion design) when there were hardly any jobs, and mass layoffs everywhere. I luckily worked steadily since then, doing lingerie, evening wear, costume, and now private label sportswear. I have really taken everything I have been able to get, as jobs have been pretty scarce to come by. I can't even think about the amount of times I worked for free, not including interning during school.
Now I am at the point where I am still kind of young, but I have been getting seriously down about my job. I am a super, super, creative person and I feel like it's Groundhog Day and I am being slapped in the face with big shirt after big shirt from QVC. It is like a nightmare.
I have learned a lot in my experiences, but I need to move on. I am trying desperately to change this dismal future, into the dream that got me through my BFA in fashion design in the first place. I made a list of the top ten designer companies I admire most (in NY).
After work every night I have been coming home and creating projects specific to those companies to send out, sort of like my little own press kit or something. So my question is, am I wasting my time, do places like Chris Benz, or Marc Jacobs, look at things such as this? Is there any hope for someone who has experience but didn't start as intern with the company? I am at my wits end because all I do is live and dream about fashion design. And I feel like my talent is being wasted at a place whose design ethic is so far from my own. Please let me know what you think?
Dear Groundhog Day -
I get the impression that you’re a smart cookie, which is a terrific attribute to have in the dizzying world of fashion. Being able to observe yourself and constructive planning is key to your success. Enthusiasm and earnestness are equally as important.
With that said, it sounds like you’re making yourself a little crazy getting lost in the details. If you’re going to work someplace where you really connect with the vision of the collection, I wouldn’t present them your own version of their own collection. Does that make sense?
It’s best to demonstrate your skills and creative aptitude through examples culled from past experience and non-specific sketching and rendering. Since you have had so much work experience, there should be plenty of technical material with which to create a strong portfolio, and you can fill in some aesthetic fluff around the edges. In case you missed it in prior Q&A’s, I’m a sucker for seeing procedural sketching and inspirations in a portfolio. Often these are as interesting and communicative as a fully finished illustration.
After going for an initial interview, you may be asked to complete a very specific project as a prospective employee, but I wouldn’t present this right off the bat. You wouldn’t want to convey in any way that there is something wrong with the company you’d like to work for, and that you would be the solution to that problem.
Like Isaac Mizrahi recounted in Unzipped, “There’s only ONE star in a Helen Lawson production and that’s HELEN LAWSON, and that’s me, remember?”
Got a question for Chris? Email him on firstname.lastname@example.org!