As our mentor program continues to support graduates throughout the year, we asked consultants Tess Richards and Kat Radcliffe, their advice for success in the industry. From how to network for longevity to knowing your worth and measuring your success, we put the questions you all want to ask, to the consultants and creative directors. This is the first in our new series of advice from industry experts, when we’ll be putting the questions you want to ask, to varied experts in their fields, from trend forecasters to digital marketing managers, and everyone in between. Find out their professional advice and ideas for how to pursue a career that you love, below.
Our first recommendation for anyone starting within the fashion industry is to be warm and friendly, open to meeting all and respectful of the hierarchy which they can learn so much from. Don’t try and run before you can walk, mix and learn as much as you can!
The second thing we say to any of our mentoring clients or past Junior colleagues, is to set themselves up on LinkedIn and be sure to update their profile, connect to any industry contacts they meet and try and connect to aspirational contacts alongside.
We believe great things can often happen when you join forces. However, a simple rule would be that you have to be aligned with whomever you collaborate with. Ensure their ethos reflects your own otherwise it simply won’t work! We have worked with various clients on collaborations of all kinds – linking services, linking design projects, linking companies – there truly is power in numbers.
On being presentable…
The concept of being presentable, especially within the fashion industry, is an extremely subjective one! As we all know fashion and clothing is nonverbal communication so simply think about what you are communicating and to whom, and make sure its suitable! Your personal style may not be the style of the company or brand. It’s a fine line to project personal freedom whilst also respecting the ethos of any company so consider the balance carefully.
On knowing your worth…
A tricky one! Right now, we all know the fashion industry is going through immense changes from the High street to High fashion. Entry to the industry has never come with multiple pound signs but now more so than ever. However, the industry does have a tiered culture whereby some super salaries can be achieved so firstly keep the faith!
Secondly consider carefully all work offers and ensure there is SOME benefit even if it doesn’t come as a super monthly payout!
Unpaid or low paid experiences can set people up hugely for future growth such as Kat who actually secured her first job on the back of an unpaid work experience.
On the other hand, for people like me (Tess) I had to earn my rent money the very minute I left college, so I took a job I wasn’t passionate about at all and it was also on the lower salary level. However, I worked all I could to understand the industry and promotional routes and impress as much as I could to speed my journey there! It can be soul destroying to watch college colleagues working with top magazines or hosting their own catwalk shows whilst you are designing a stirrup polyester trouser, but it doesn’t have to stay that way; trust me!
Through our mentoring we work with clients to help them truly understand what role they want to be working on and the pathway to achieve it. Sometimes this route comes with helping them find suitable placements to embark on their chosen pathway, sometimes it involves industry networking to secure first job offers. Either way the candidate has the comfort of knowing it’s the path that they have chosen, and it gives them the confidence of knowing their worth as they commence.
On measuring your own success…
Personal success comes in many shapes and forms dependent on each individual. What is important is for any new graduate to have a personal target in their mind – what level and salary they want to achieve, what lifestyle they want to achieve, what travel they want to achieve, what company they want to work for or set up and so on. That can be their guiding light within the twists and turns of their career and Kat and I (Tess) work with clients on focusing in on that but also being open minded about how they achieve it and celebrate the successes on the way! As we always say; you have to remember life isn’t just about the destination, it’s about the journey to get there.
The interesting part of success is that the boundaries move all the time. We have both personally celebrated successes over our careers, but these lead to new targets evermore!
On staying relevant in the industry…
The fashion industry is relatively close knit and moves fast! You can miss a season and feel out of the loop but when you start again it’s as if you’ve never been away so just keep on networking and keep on working!
We would also say don’t fall out with people as they will 100% come back in your future career in some shape or form! We pride ourselves on being friendly and approachable within our work and that can help more than anything. Fashion can be a hostile place at times and an amiable person will definitely find it easier to navigate the sometimes rocky terrain!
Words and interview by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins