As far as designer origin stories go, Lubov Azria's is pretty good.
When the chief creative officer of BCBG Max Azria was just another teenager in Los Angeles, her bus dropped her off in the wrong place — incidentally, in front of a department store, where she saw a gorgeous dress in the window. Smitten, she went inside and tried it on, only to realize that the price tag was $3,000. In 1986.
"As I was looking at myself in the mirror, this pain hit me. The pain was that I’m not good enough. That people like me don’t wear clothes like that. That I don’t deserve it," Azria says. "I was crying and I pulled myself together and looked into the mirror and said: 'If I ever, ever become a designer, I will never make clothes that are that expensive. I will never make any woman feel this pain. Ever.'"
Had Azria chosen to drop the mic at any point in her onstage interview with Fashionista's Lauren Indvik at our "How To Make It In Fashion" conference on Friday, that would have been an appropriate moment.
While the clothing market is full of mid-price brands today, the landscape was much more polarized when Azria got her start. When she arrived at BCBG in 1991, two years after her now-husband Max Azria founded the company, the brand was carving out a new space for itself at the contemporary price point.
"I didn’t understand how you couldn’t have [the price] down," Azria says. "You can make a really beautiful dress, you can sew French seams into it. You can get beautiful fabrics. It’s just [about] the quantity you buy and the attention to detail. We pay attention to detail to make sure the customer is the one who gets the most."
Since that time, the brand has grown from an 18-man team to a 13,000-person operation, and Azria says she has hopes to expand the business to lifestyle and home products. After 23 years at the creative helm of BCBG, the designer also has a lot of wisdom to dispense on how to get your foot in the door — especially when it comes to interviewing. We suggest you take notes; this lady has done a lot of hiring.
Do: Go the extra mile
"A candidate said, 'I'll do floors, windows and get you coffee.' She was amazing."
Don't: Get ahead of yourself
"There are so many events you can go to as a student and volunteer at. There are seminars. At L.A. Fashion Week alone there are so many people you can meet. But don’t pitch yourself too hard. I get turned off when someone says, 'I’m a designer!' No, you're learning to be a designer."
Do: Look the part
"If you already had the job, what would you be wearing? If you’re working in fashion, look like a designer. Wash your hair."
Don't: Act nervous
"The thing that turns me off is when people don’t have eye contact or say yes before you even finish because they’re nervous. That gets me more on edge."
Do: Ask for more details about the position
"If there's no job description, ask. They want you to actually do this. Make sure that there's clarity of communication. Most people don't succeed because they don't know what their job description is."
Don't: Take any old job
"Design your future. Figure out the companies you want to work for. Don't just get a job because there's an opening. That's the worst thing you can do. Literally, figure out the top companies you want to work for and write them letters. Send your resumé. And put down that you'll do floors, windows and bring them coffee in the morning."