We catch up with home-grown gals working at some of style's biggest names.
Simone Rocha, Paul Costelloe, J.W. Anderson. When it comes to Ireland and fashion heavy hitters, the same, albeit majorly talented, names are rolled out again and again. Which is great: it’s fantastic that this little island off the coast of Europe is the breeding ground for pedigree creatives. But at the end of the day, we are this little island off the coast of Europe, and while our creative industry is thriving, not everyone with an interest in working in the industry can set up a eponymous label, and nor do they want to.
In fact, the international fashion industry is a hive of beyond impressive behind-the-scenes Irish workers. On the design side of things knitwear designer Honor Fitzsimons is currently working on the product development team at Burberry headquarters, and Alan Taylor is a senior menswear designer at COS. In Milan, NCAD graduates Fionn Mac Dubhaill and Carla Murphy are working at Gucci and Michael Power’s working in womenswear at Lanvin in Paris. But fashion is about more than what ends up on the runway. There’s catwalk show organising, advertising, website copywriting and getting the clothes into stores to contend with.
We talk to four Irish women working at major labels about their careers and the advice they’d give up-and-comers.
Career goals can change.
“I started off wanting to be a fashion designer – other routes weren’t explained.” After competing Grafton Academy’s diploma in Fashion Design and Pattern Cutting in the mid-noughties, Siobhan moved to London, working for two years as a studio assistant with Giles Deacon. “Then I decided I didn’t want to be a fashion designer.”
Don’t be afraid to start from scratch.
In 2012 she started at Rainbow Wave, an independent agency and showroom for brands which helps get stock into store. “I didn’t know anything about wholesale. I took a chance,” she recalls. It paid off: Siobhan worked on accounts such as Bella Freud and J.W. Anderson. Wholesale is a pretty rewarding gig. “It’s a mix of analytics and building relationships with buyers. You’re pitching brands and helping them move forward. It’s business but you’re also feeding back to designers what works commercially,” she explains.
Explore all avenues.
“Just keep at it. It’s fun, but it’s quite hard. Find the place that suits you. Corporate, luxe, high end, high street. There’s a place for everyone. You have to be the right fit,” Siobhan advises.
Not all writers write novels.
“I do content creation and strategy; it’s not just for the website. Everywhere there’s Monki and writing, on the website, in-store and on social media – that comes from the brand’s copywriters. You know Mad Men and Peggy? That’s what it’s like. It’s coming up with a story and finding a way to tell that story as many different ways as we have platforms.”
You don’t have to live in a ‘fashion capital’.
Megan lives in Monki’s HQ in Gothenberg, Sweden. The pace isn’t The Devil Wears Prada-esque and lots of holidays is a national policy. “Private life is respected. You’re encouraged to live outside your career. I love to be with my friends, I love travelling, seeing live music, hoola hooping, learning new languages and attempting to learn new instruments. And I’ve a particular weakness for podcasts.”
Work outside the box.
Not every experience is industry specific. Megan’s written copy for automotive brands too. “It was a really interesting project and got me more jobs,” she says. Instead of interning continuously, she sought CV building experience. “I tried to get as much writing done as I could, in many different forms.”
Live in the moment.
You’ll learn more that way. “Sweden is interesting,” Megan muses. “I’ve been trying to crack why the Swedes are so good at fashion. They’re nerdy people. They get really into things and crack a formula.”
Invest in a education.
Sharon consistently credits her masters at Smurfit with making her the professional she is. “It was one of the best foundations. It teaches you so much business acumen. I think having a masters means you have an advantage. Basic things like knowing how to present and write a professional email makes you stand out.”
Stick to your goals.
“I always wanted to work in fashion, I just didn’t know how to get there. I started reading as much as possible, I built up knowledge of the industry and went after solid experience. Then slowly things started to happen. During my masters I got an email from Vivienne Westwood asking me to come over to London for a week. A few months later they invited me to Milan for a show. Then I got a job with them.”
A job on the business end doesn’t mean you’re not in the fold. “Vivienne Westwood is one of the last independent fashion companies. Vivienne’s in the office every day. For every project I meet with designers to get moodboards. I don’t think there’s a department I don’t work with every week.”
Think about a business degree.
“It’s a great foundation for any kind of industry. I did internships in a law firm and a bank. Through them, I realised I wanted to work in a creative field.”
Think about a move.
“Especially at the start of your career, there are so many opportunities available in a bigger marketplace. I’d definitely advise considering a move to London, Paris or New York. Somewhere where there’s a big global HQ.” And if the call of home is too strong? “Bring that experience back with you.”
Make every job matter.
Your first job is important. Lizanne got a gig with a film company, and it reinforced her impression that fashion was the career path for her. “It was a fantastic entry into a commercial world with aesthetic view,” she says. “I’ve had a steep learning curve in every job I’ve accepted. Any job that doesn’t teach you a lot means that you’re missing a trick.”
Enjoy your work.
“Prove your work. It can be difficult to assess someone’s quality in a half hour interview,” she points out. “I love delivering a strong campaign throughout the season. It’s so satisfying to see those results. And the freebies.”
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s September issue. The November issue is on shelves now!
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