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Career Advice From 6 Fashion Professionals With a Decade of Experience

We spoke to designers, publicists and executives on how they’ve been making it in fashion for the past 10 years.
Nomia pieces at a CFDA Fashion Incubator presentation during Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week. Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Nomia pieces at a CFDA Fashion Incubator presentation during Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week. Photo: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.

It's not easy running a company or managing a team while excelling in your career and climbing the ranks of the fashion world at large, so we turned to designers, executives and publicists who have marked 2017 as their 10th anniversary of making it in fashion so far. Whether you've gained senior-status at your job or just started your search for a fashion job, read on to gain some useful career advice, tips and mantras to get you through the next decade and beyond.

Alison Levy, CMO of Launchmetrics

Her first fashion job: Before climbing the ranks to run marketing at Launchmetrics, Alison Levy's "in" to the fashion world was with an Italian accessories company called Zoppini as its PR coordinator. (Think Pandora bracelets, but small linkable square charms, says Levy.) Her most memorable moment on the job involves Beyoncé visiting the brand's gift suite at the Billboard Music Awards where the singer customized a charm bracelet with "B HEART JZ." (Aw!) The couple's relationship was still under wraps at the time, and Levy garnered her first-ever press hit with People Magazine.

Career advice for her 10-years-younger self: "Opportunity is everywhere, and young professionals are looking to get ahead faster than ever. This may mean endless possibilities as you grow your career, but it also means that money and fancy titles can easily detract from the opportunities to work under some of the industry's most brilliant talents. While internships and being someone's assistant may not feel very glamorous or rewarding, in the long term, it's the place where you learn some of the most invaluable lessons of your career."

Career mantra that's helped her power through the past decade: "People put a lot of pressure on themselves as they face the fate of keeping up with the Joneses, which can only drive you crazy. The most successful people in this world are those who can think beyond today. Find out what you're good at and how you can bring that passion to the needs of the industry as it continues to evolve and change."

Top tip for fashion industry newbies: "The relationships you make early in your career can lead you to your next job or your biggest opportunity. People like to do business with people they know and like, so remember that manners matter. You never know who the next Anna Wintour might be or if that ex-colleague you snubbed in your first job could someday be your boss. It's a small world out there."

Jacquie Aiche, Founder and Designer of Jacquie Aiche

Her first fashion job: Though Jacquie Aiche started her namesake jewelry line 10 years ago, she got her first glimpse into the fashion industry at 15 when she helped her friend's father with a trade show. "It was my introduction into the fast-paced and exciting world of fashion," remembers Aiche. "I knew that this was definitely the path I wanted for my future."

Career advice for her 10-years-younger self: "Get used to hard work, long hours and minimal cash flow in the beginning. Building a successful business is going to mean lots of reinvestments in yourself."

Career mantra that's helped her power through the past decade: "Patience pays and never let the small stuff affect you."

Top tip for fashion industry newbies: "Inspiration will always be highly regarded, but duplicates are never welcomed in this industry. Once you decide on the career path that is going to showcase you and your abilities, give it your all. There will be stumbling blocks, but don't let others get in your way of success, and never, ever lose confidence in yourself."

Yara Flinn, Founder and Designer of Nomia

Her first fashion job: Though not entirely fashion-related, Yara Flinn's first gig was assisting the director of Fondazione Prada, the Italian house's art foundation. "It was great. We mostly did events in New York in the store, like partnerships with Tribeca Film Festival and different cultural events," says Flinn. "My background is in art so it tied together with fashion in a way."

Career advice for her 10-years-younger self: "I started my company very young and very inexperienced. Having a few more years of experience, especially at a small label, would have helped me to navigate early challenges."

Career mantra that's helped her power through the past decade: "We're all having to adapt, and my mantra is to stay agile but definitely stay focused. I notice that when there's a new trend, like social media or e-commerce, everyone jumps on it, and I think you should make sure that you're not going to hop on something if it's not authentic to you."

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Top tip for fashion industry newbies: "You're going to be swayed into different directions, especially from a design point. It's really important to have a clear point of view that's unlike anybody else's and stay true to it.”

Danielle McGrory, Vice President of Digital at KCD

Her first fashion job: Danielle McGrory recalls her first fashion job from high school, working in retail at a local boutique, followed by a stint at Intermix while attending college in Boston. "Any job that forces you to interact with the public will teach you to be a better, more confident communicator," says McGrory, who now manages all things digital at KCD. "And it was really my first exposure to high fashion — it taught me about the brands, the designers, the fit and how to sell. That foundation still influences and informs me now."

Career advice for her 10-years-younger self: "Stay focused, continue to work hard and you will get where you deserve to be. Ten years ago, I was laid off from my first office job at a small accessories company when they relocated to Los Angeles. I was picking up random freelance jobs and had to go back into retail temporarily just to get a paycheck. It felt like a huge step back, but ultimately the trajectory that resulted from that change is what put me on my current career path. For most people, getting your dream job is not a linear journey."

Career mantra that's helped her power through the past decade “Be solutions-oriented. From daily challenges to huge career setbacks, there are so many factors out of your control. So rather than being derailed by challenges, always approach things methodically and look for the solutions. This is what I teach my team as well. I am happy for them to come to me with a problem, but I am even happier if they come to me with their solution."

Top tip for fashion industry newbies: "You are here to learn and here to help. The more you understand and embrace that, the more your superiors will appreciate you and help you excel. The more you put into an experience, the more you will get out of it, not the other way around."

Nicky Deam, Editorial Director of The Zoe Report

Her first fashion job: Though Nicky Deam runs the editorial side of The Zoe Report, her start in fashion was for the PR department at Stella McCartney. "I was dealing with stylists, editors, international PR offices, shoots and events," says Deam. "It was exhausting but I learned so much about thinking on my feet, multitasking and the importance of being incredibly organized."

Career advice for her 10-years-younger self: "Trust yourself. It's okay to not know everything but you need to have faith that you have the capacity to figure it out."

Career mantra that's helped her power through the past decade: "Get on with it. If you see a problem, fix it. If you see an opportunity, jump at it. The industry is changing at lightning speed, and you have to be willing to move just as quickly."

Top tip for fashion industry newbies: "Educate yourself constantly and be humble."

Adam Vanunu, Founder and Creative Director of Cotton Citizen

His first fashion job: Adam Vanunu grew up in his family's factory and got his first working job 10 years ago as his father's assistant at American Dye House. His duties — organizing samples and developments — may sound menial at first, but they’ve provided Vanunu with loads of insight about the team and their roles within the company, which later led to Vanunu overseeing day-to-day operations. He launched Cotton Citizen in 2012.

Career advice for his 10-years-younger self: "Be very organized and save all your test samples. I always want to review and reference previous work, and having a library full of developments, samples and production formulas is the best archive and resource for always pushing innovation."

Career mantra that's helped him power through the past decade: "Write it down. You never know when an idea will spark. When you're running a business, you're constantly multitasking, so writing things down let's you go back to that one idea later in the day or week to bring it to execution."

Top tip for fashion industry newbies: "Your first collection is never your best. Listen and learn from others but create your own path. Know the line between finding guidance or inspiration from a mentor and following someone else's trail."

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