When people say they don’t know what they want to ‘be’ when they grow up, I think that’s because they don’t know how to talk to themselves yet, or ask the right questions.
All the answers that inform the decisions we make, no matter what, come from within. Nobody else is going to be able to answer your bigger life questions for you.
I think this is a good lesson for anyone trying to figure out a career path, too. Your mum can’t really tell you what to do, or speak to your soul the way that you can speak to your own soul. Your favourite teacher, or whoever you’ve decided is a mentor to you — your best friend, your heroes – can help guide you. They can ask all the smart questions, but the answers can only come from deep within you.
So, here are the 2 questions that will help you find those answers and what you need to ask yourself before you start a career in fashion.
Question 1: Why Do You Want To Work In Fashion?
The most important thing to think about before you head into a career in fashion is WHY you want to work in fashion.
Why? because this will become what drives you and what helps you make the decisions you will make in your career, and potentially in your life too. The fashion industry is fast paced, exciting and full of creativity – all amazing reasons to want to join and be part of it – but what is it for you?
What is it about working in the fashion industry that excites YOU? What is it that fascinates you, inspires you, challenges you about the industry? Why do you want to be part of it and what kind of impact do you want to make? Do you want to help change the industry? Or lead the industry into new ways? What positive impact could you make that …?
These are all key questions to start asking yourself, as your answers will start to form a purpose to the work you will do and the work you will enjoy doing. And could help you achieve longevity in your career, and help create a following, a tribe, that all believe in what you are doing and who will support, collaborate and help you achieve your goals.
(You might want to go grab a piece of paper now so you can start to write some ideas down when you have finished reading this.)
I wanted to work in fashion because I wanted to make a difference. Being a shy and insecure teenager, clothes were the only real thing that helped give me confidence and express who I really was and how I was really feeling. I didn’t want to dress like everyone else because I didn’t feel like I was like everyone else, there were all connected, the same, and I always felt different. So rather than conform, I made my own clothes. And gave myself my own identity. My own armour of confidence. People could then judge my clothes and not me. And as designer, I wanted to create this same feeling for others. For me, it was about designing beautiful clothes that made people feel amazing. I could help someone to feel the best version of themselves. How amazing was that.
So take a step back and think “What could a career in fashion look like for me?”
Who do I want to inspire? Who do I want to help with the work I do? And how can I help them? Do you want to raise awareness of a social issue or something that you feel really passionate about? If the answer is yes – then how are you going to do that? How are you going to communicate that message and what is it that you want to say? And how will you communicate that message – will it be as a designer, a journalist, a stylist, or a photographer?
For you, it could be as simple as wanting to walk into Topshop or Selfridges and see your designs hanging in-store for people to buy. Maybe it’s seeing your creative and visionary photo-shoot in the glossy pages of Elle magazine. Or maybe it’s having your article printed in Cosmopolitan magazine about a social issue that has created a stir in the fashion world and people are sitting up and taking note of this new journalist. Or maybe you aspire to take over from Anna Wintour and become the new fashion authority on the block.
Either way, working out where your skills and talents best fit and what kind of lifestyle you want should go hand-in-hand to building yourself a successful career in fashion.
Question 2: Who Do You Want To Be?
I fell in love with the fashion industry as soon as I did my internship with a British fashion designer at 20 years old. It felt like home. I loved the people, the studio, the atmosphere. The idea of having an idea and seeing it created into something new and unique was so amazing to me. To hear people gasp and clap when your new creations walked down the catwalk. I decided then that this was where I wanted to be. Right in the middle of the buzz, where the magic happened. The first breath of new ideas and where creativity was born. That for me was where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be.
And I found my tribe. People who were like me, thought like me, behaved like me. They were my inspiration and my why to getting up and going into work everyday. And this is a really important one and not something we really think about when are just starting out. We spend most of our time with the people we work with, so you’ve got to love what you do and love who you work with. So what is it for you?
Who is that you want to be? How do you want to be remembered? Who are you and what do you stand for?
And who are you designing for, styling for, taking photographs for, writing for? Can you give them a voice that they don’t have the strength to do for themselves? And how do you want to make them feel, look, act, sense? Because the power of fashion is much more than clothes and product – its how you make people feel. How you connect, inspire, show you care.
Think about some of the people that you admire or that inspire you (it doesn’t even have to be someone in the fashion industry) what is it about them that you love? Why do you admire them? What is it about them that sets them apart from others, what do they do differently? What inspires or drives them? What impact have they had on you, their career, the fashion industry or the world as a whole?
Alexander McQueen’s biggest passion was to make us think. With his shows, he wanted to create a response, to push our thinking and to push our boundaries of what we thought possible. Even if you loved or hated his show or his clothes, he wanted you to have an opinion. To think about what’s possible. And he did this so brilliantly. He was so far ahead of his time in raising awareness through his work. And he stood for something.
So what is it for you? What do you stand for?
Because we all have something. We all have our own unique set of talents and gifts that we need to share with the world. And it’s knowing that we ALL have the opportunity to share these with the world, and we need to share these with the world. Sometimes we just need to learn how we can do that. It sometimes takes a while to work out what our own gifts and talents are. So looking at the bigger picture as to WHY you want to work in fashion will really help you gain some clarity and insight into what your gift and legacy to the fashion industry will be.
Asking a friend in this situation is great if you are not sure what yours are yet. Most of us spend so much of our time focusing on what we are not good at rather than what we are. So ask your friend or your mum or your teacher what they think the 3 things are that you are good at, or something that they think comes naturally to you. They might say “oh you do this thing and your just so brilliant at it.” And take some time to think about their answers, because there is a fashion career that matches those traits or skills perfectly.
I always ask fashion students and graduates this question too – what is it that is going to get you up every morning, even if you didn’t get paid for it, for 365 days of the year, for the next 20 years of your life, what would that be? Because that is the job that you are looking for. And it’s not just taking a job or maybe just fitting in and saying “do you know what, thats where my skills lie.” It’s about thinking about it for yourself, what kind of life do you want.
These questions might be something you’ve never really thought about before, or put down onto paper. But I guarantee it will make a difference.