I wasn't the average fashion hopeful. My awkward stages lasted longer than most (maybe I'm still in one?) including an odd obsession with Spongebob Squarepants well into my teens, a preppy period + teetering towards punk for a hot second. Throughout it all, the idea of not blending in with the rest of the world was the motivation behind it all and what led me to pursuing a creative career.
A recent run in with some aspiring young blood got me looking back and dwelling on some sage advice I could've used back in the day.
1. Pay attention in Textiles class
It’s kind of like memorizing your times table- it’s the foundation for a bunch of other stuff you’re going to learn. Before I started college, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a woven and a knit. Getting that down pat took a long time for me to wrap my head around. Having that basic knowledge can give you a baby jump start.
2. Pay attention in Business & Leadership classes
Turns out a lot of that stuff is actually super valuable if you ever end up going into business for yourself. Even if you end up hiring out most of those services, chances are that you’ll start out doing it all.
3. Basically just pay attention in general
Except for Phys Ed. You can even do like I did & get college credit for “Relaxation” & sleep through the entire thing. You’ll likely need some time devoted to the subject anyway.
4. A more definite idea of “my style/voice”
Now-a-days I look back at most of my projects & cringe. Maybe they were cool several years back (probably not). But I was still trying to figure out who I was as a designer and what I had to say with my work.
This one’s tricky, because it just takes time (& a lot of ugly phases) before most people figure it out. I just wish I had been a little bit closer. Make as much stuff as you can. Always be drawing & always be creating.
5. Put the time, effort & money in
College is expensive & chances are you’ll be poor, but there are some instances where putting a little more money towards the final project is just plain worth it. I’m talking senior collections & your portfolio- the things that will hopefully help you get a job.
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS start in muslin, not fashion fabric & don’t bother splurging on super fancy materials until your final year or until you’re absolutely confident in your vision.
BETTER YET- get good at making cheap stuff look expensive.
6. Pull all-nighters in the sewing lab
Just do it. Working in a vacuum sucks (pun not intended). Enjoy the camaraderie, learn to work with your fellow peers & take constructive criticism/feedback. It will make you a better designer.
7. It’s never too early to network
I avoided career days at all costs. That was dumb. Because I also failed nearly every interview I ever went to.
You’re going through the same program with a ton of other hopefuls hoping to score the same jobs. But if they score one first, they can tell their boss how great their fellow classmate is at X,Y & Z. Keep in touch with your connections/classmates. You never know how they can help you out later.
8. Spend some extra time getting “inspired”
I had the pleasure of studying in Europe for a semester where the whole idea of gathering inspiration is anything but fluff. It’s serious business.
We spent 5X as long on that portion of the design process than in the States. We filled sketchbooks with ideas and research and photos before even thinking about starting to sketch.
Dive into it, become immersed, really get into your muse.
9. STUDY ABROAD
If you have the means to do it- DO IT.
Get out of your comfort zone, see places you’ve dreamed of seeing, travel, travel, travel. All while learning, of course ;)
10. Really get to know your professors
They’re there because they know their stuff. Get to know them personally, too. Ask questions about their journey & experience. They’ve probably got some cool stories up their sleeves.
No need to go all teacher’s pet on ‘em, but they’ve probably got connections with prospective jobs, too.
11.You don’t know everything
With 3 seasons of Project Runway under my belt, I thought I could conquer the fashion world. I knew nothing. And a lot of times that hurt me.
Growing a thick skin is essential- there’s lots of tough love ahead. Take it and learn from it! The first few projects will be garbage-ish. You’ll be so proud of them, but there’s a learning curve. Keep at it and know that the harder you keep working, the more rewarding it is to compare those first pieces to your last.
Keep growing, keep learning, keep improving.