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9 Great Pieces of Graduate Advice From the Fashion Industry

Even the biggest names in the industry had to start somewhere.

It's that time of year again: School's almost out for the summer and seniors everywhere are in the midst of their post-graduation "what am I going to do with my life???" freak outs. If this describes your current state of mind, don't worry, we've all been there—even some of the most accomplished people in the industry.

This week, we had the opportunity to pick the brains of some true fashion success stories, including legendary designers, buyers, educators and editors, as well as some newcomers who are up for this year's prestigious CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear. Read on to find out their advice for recent graduates who are looking to find their way in the fashion business, as well as what they wish a mentor had told them when they were finishing school.

And to all of our readers who are graduating this week, we wish you all the best!

Simon Collins, Dean of Fashion, Parsons: "Be nice and never give up—because there will be a lot of people who are not nice and do give up and that’s good news for you!"

Wes Gordon: “I know this is something that everyone gets sick of hearing, but internships are so important. I see it now from the other side, people who think they’re ‘career interns,’ and you just have to remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. See every internship as a stepping stone to the next place, so when you’re standing in line at FedEx it doesn’t feel so depressing. It’s about knowing where you want to be in 10 years and working backwards.”

Jason Wu: “It’s always about using all of the resources that you can find, whether it’s calling a friend or a factory or knocking on every door until you find the right source. It’s about being dedicated and persuasive and uncompromising.” 

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Nina Garcia, Marie Claire: “Do your homework before going into that interview. Be very prepared—know everything about the company, know everything about the person that you’re meeting. When I interview somebody for a job, that’s what impresses me—when they know about the magazine and about how we work.”

Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman: This sounds so Pollyanna, but really, really follow your dream. It’s almost better not to know what lies ahead, it’s good enough to really want something. Also, don’t think that anything comes easy, you have to be ready to work.”

Anna Sui: “Learn your craft. That’s how you create your art—you have to know how to drape, you have to know how to sew…all of those things are important. You don’t have to be the best at it, but you have to understand it.”

Donna Karan: “Don’t go to work immediately. What I say to the students right now is to get out there and see the world, see what’s happening—open your mind to what’s around us from a philanthropic and conscious consumer point of view. There’s so much work that has to be done out there. Teach yourself, because then you can see everything from different perspectives.”

Chris Peters, Creatures of the Wind: “I would highly recommend to work for somebody else, more than anything. Because I totally didn’t do that and it made things really difficult for me. Interning, doing whatever—just getting a real sense of the industry across the board. The more you learn about different areas, the more capable you’ll be when you start working.”

Shane Gabier, Creatures of the Wind: “I’d suggest working starting off by working for someone really small, where you have a lot of responsibilities. Also, be nice to everyone, because they’re the same people you’re going to be working with until the day you die. It’s the smallest community of people on the planet, so be mindful of that. Don’t be a dick.”