Dear Chris Benz,
I will be a freshman in high school next year and am interested in a career as a fashion designer. Because I live in a small town in Florida, there really aren't a lot of opportunities to intern or find a job that would prepare me for the fashion industry. The closest mall is in the town south of mine and has less than 30 apparel stores, many of which are closing or on the verge of closing. Boutiques and other such stores are virtually non-existent and/or cater to Florida's prominent senior citizen community. Without any real opportunities to explore a career in fashion design, it seems like the only thing I can do is to teach myself to sew, which I am currently doing. Also, I stay up-to-date with industry news and (try) to look at Style.com's runway slideshows as much as possible.
As a successful fashion designer with your own label, what do you recommend I do if I want to be a fashion designer?
Dear Fashion-Minded Floridian -
Where you grow up, your surroundings, and all of your experiences will inform your designs for the rest of your life! It may seem like you are completely isolated now, but your creative mind will be able to spin this frustration into something dazzling sooner or later.
It is great that you’re learning about sewing, construction, and staying up-to-date on the most recent collections. Use all of this research and personal growth to imagine your own woman, who she is, where she lives, eats, travels, and of course what she is wearing while doing all of it. Savor the time you have to experiment and compile your materials.
I have always been a fan of scrapbooks, of which I have volumes. Start one while you have the time with anything and everything that inspires you – tearsheets, scraps of fabric, little sketches, ideas and questions. These will be imperative tools on which you can reflect in the future. Unique patterns will emerge when you are able to look back on them. Colorstories, mood, and proportion are all things that are integral to fashion design, and will be invaluable when, as an adult, you are able to reflect on your younger, subconscious self’s work. These materials, too, will help showcase your design talent when applying for schools, getting design jobs, and the like. The more in-depth, thoughtful procedural work you are able to display, the better.
So many fashion designers started out on a completely different career path and many more have started very successful businesses in more isolated locations. In high school, I worked as a waiter at a café in my hometown, and it really helped me learn to be more outgoing, which in turn has helped in communication as a fashion designer. Working in any industry that is available to you will help you with life skills for your dreams. I can’t say that there is any ideal ‘preparation’ for the fashion industry - it is weird and wonderful and completely different for everyone. What I can say is that any experience you can get, anywhere, will help you.
No matter where you start, keep your sights focused squarely on where you want to end up, you will get there.
Got a question for Chris? Email him on firstname.lastname@example.org.