How to stand out in the fashion business

How to stand out in the fashion business

Above, the Duke Business Oriented Women’s Spring Business Conference was held at Penn Pavilion on Feb. 24. Photo by Amanda Nguyen.  Want a job in fashion — or just want to learn more about it from a professional community? I attended Duke Business Oriented Women’s Spring Business Conference on Feb. 24. All of the panelists offered great

Above, the Duke Business Oriented Women’s Spring Business Conference was held at Penn Pavilion on Feb. 24. Photo by Amanda Nguyen. 

Want a job in fashion — or just want to learn more about it from a professional community?

I attended Duke Business Oriented Women’s Spring Business Conference on Feb. 24. All of the panelists offered great words of wisdom for the women in the crowd. Here’s what stood out to me.

Pamela Edwards

“Show your shadow.” – Pamela Edwards, CFO of Victoria’s Secret

As a leader, people are watching you and look up to you to learn how you lead and what makes you successful. Because of this, it’s important to lead with good values and a good reputation, and teach people how to manage in difficult times. Leaders need to be aware that their actions create shadows and affect and influence those who follow. As an executive who leads more than 60 employees in the finance department for Victoria’s Secret, Edwards needs to set an example of how others should lead within the company. 

Whitney Beckett

“Internships are prolonged job interviews.” – Whitney Beckett, director of multichannel direct-to-consumer merchandising at Cole Haan

Beckett went to Northwestern University for her master’s degree and did a one-year internship abroad with the London bureau of Women’s Wear Daily magazine. When she first started her internship, her first assignment was to make copies, but she refused to accept mediocrity. She got the job done in two days (when they thought it’d take her two weeks) and looked for projects she could lead herself. The bureau didn’t have a menswear editor, so Beckett took on the role as a menswear reporter. She was then offered a full-time position at WWD learned more about the fashion industry until she moved to a director position at Cole Haan. Internships can turn into full-time positions if you make a great impression, show strong work ethic and establish strong relationships with coworkers. Once you get an internship, continue to network within the company and develop new skills, showing your willingness to learn.

Hillary France

“Go after what you’re passionate about and find a company that values that. Or go after your own dream and start something yourself.” – Hillary France, co-founder and CEO of Brand Assembly

France graduated college with visual arts and art history degrees, but she thought those fields weren’t the right fit for her. She had a passion for the fashion industry, so her first job out of college was in retail at Kate Spade. She then worked for Hecht’s as an assistant buyer. When Hecht’s got bought by Macy’s, it pushed her to move to New York City and work for the iconic fashion designer Diane von Fustenberg. From there, she discovered how new designers struggled and needed assistance getting into the industry. Using what she learned from her experience working with big-name designers, France had the idea with her business partner to launch Brand Assembly, a trade show where designers can show off their lines while getting financial and logistical help from France and her team .

Justin LeBlanc

“It’s all about branding and being able to identify yourself as a designer.” – Justin LeBlanc, Project Runway finalist and N.C. State professor

LeBlanc encourages his students to understand what their vision and goals are and then promote themselves on that. The concept of personal branding is not only important for brands, but for professionals in all industries. What do you want people to associate with you when they think of you? Like a brand, are you an expert in a certain subject or what are you personal characteristics? Justin LeBlanc is known for his designs with unique and often unconventional materials, including a dress he made on Project Runway out of pipettes. 

Interested in getting involved with a professional community ? Check out Duke BOW.

Amanda Nguyen
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