5 Industry Insiders Share How to Make It in Fashion

It’s no secret that the fashion industry is hard to break into. Sometimes it seems like passion, ambition, and even hard work aren’t enough. Jobs in this seemingly glamorous industry are highly coveted, but the good news is, there are different ways to get there. Five insiders shared their path with Mochi.

 

JON TANG, K-SWISS LEAD DESIGNER

What do you love about fashion?

Fashion is an ever-changing thing. I enjoy how fast-paced it is. There are many directions you can go with fashion. From commercial to concept, you really have a lot to play with. 

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What inspired you to work in fashion?

I’ve always loved sneakers. I grew up in the golden age of sneakers in the ‘90s—the era of Michael Jordan. I also played soccer growing up so cleats were always a big thing to me, especially in the ‘90s when cleats began to take a more conceptual form. Soccer athletes were also always stylish personas. I got acquainted at a young age with seeing style on people.

How did you get into this industry?

I first started out as a graphic design intern. After landing an internship at Puma, I slowly progressed in the company from full-time graphic designer to footwear designer. 

What are the pros and cons of your job?

The pros of the job are easy. I get to travel a lot internationally and really get inspired. I learn about the world in many ways and get to be inspired by wherever I go. It’s always interesting to think that I actually get paid to do it! But because I do travel so much, I don’t get a lot of time at home and I’m burnt out.

What’s your biggest failure?

I’m a workaholic. I’m constantly thinking about work and always trying to be on the “next big thing.” It’s hard to find time for myself because I always put work first. 

How do you contribute to fashion?

By creating, mixing, matching, and taking risk. I do all I can to create things with an organic purpose—a natural and purposeful way of developing a concept or idea. By the end of it, I hope the consumer feels like, ‘“Why was this never around before?”

What are some trends you hate?

I was never a big fan of trucker hats, but they definitely have a certain look to them. I’m sure they’ll come back sooner or later. But you sure won’t find me in one of those!

What keeps you going in this industry?

The amazing people I’ve met and worked with. They keep me on my feet and make me want to work with them and make new things. I would be nowhere without all the talented people around me. 

How do you keep up with this changing industry?

You have to do your homework. This means keeping up to date on what the industry pioneers are doing and what the general consumer is doing. Understanding both a high and low approach to the industry helps you gauge different areas of the business. It’s all related, each feeding off each other in different cycles. Society plays a big part as well. It’s important to always be conscious about what the world in general is doing.

What are some fashion must-reads?

Some of my favorite reads are HYPEBEASTSportswear InternationalSneaker FreakerWallpaperdwellI.D.Free & EasyInventoryKinfolkWaxpoeticsBlackRainbowFantastic ManGrindSense, and Popeye.

What are some words of advice for folks trying to make it in fashion?

Never stop learning and asking questions. Meet people and be real. Don’t ever fake the funk. If you don’t know something, ask and go learn it.

 

LANI NGUYEN, DJ & RACKED CHICHAGO EDITOR

What do you love about fashion?

I love the creativity and energy. It’s a dynamic space, always evolving and changing.

What inspired you to work in fashion?

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With such a strong passion for clothes and design, it only seemed natural to work in the industry at some point. Fashion is something that is always on my mind and always makes me light up.

How did you get into this industry?
I started blogging about shopping and personal style in New York, in 2008, with my friend Erin Lee. Our friends would ask us about our clothes, where we shopped, when the next big sales were happening, so we teamed up and started Sugar Rock Catwalk. Blogging and working with Erin, who worked in fashion professionally, exposed me to many aspects of the industry. Over time, that evolved into assistant styling work, in-store DJ gigs, guest blogging stints, and, most recently, a position with Racked.

What are the pros and cons of your job?

It’s incredibly fulfilling to write about the things I’m passionate about and connect with others who are also passionate about fashion, music, and writing. But writing can be very demanding. There’s pressure to produce content quickly because blogging is news-based and time sensitive, but content is worthless if it’s not high quality—ergo the struggle.

What’s your biggest failure?

I don’t know if I can answer this because I believe the biggest failure is not trying, and for better or worse, I’m always trying.

What trends do you love and hate?

I can’t get down with sweatpants or joggers. They look great on long, leggy models, but with my proportions, to avoid looking too frumpy I need to wear them with heels, which defeats the purpose of comfy sweats. I’m more comfortable in stretchy jeans and a nice pair of flats.

I love crop tops paired with high waisted bottoms. There’s a misconception that crop tops can only be worn by ladies with six packs, but short crop tops reveal the area between your waist and chest, which is the thinnest part of every woman’s body. And A-line skirts are forgiving since most women hold their weight below their belly button.

What keeps you going in this industry?

My passion and strong work ethic.

What are some fashion must-reads?

RackedRefinery 29The Cut, Style.com, Lucky Magazine (because I love Eva Chen).

What is a typical day like in fashion for you?

Wake up early because I’m in CST, scan my inbox and social media feeds for news, write for Racked Chicago until the afternoon, then shift gears to music until the end of the day.

What are some words of advice for folks trying to make it in fashion?

Working hard, and being persistent and nice to others, will all pay off.

 

ANJNI RAOL, ILLUSTRATOR / GRAPHIC APPAREL DESIGNER

What do you love about fashion?

I enjoy the creative process and seeing projects come to fruition.

What inspired you to work in fashion?

I like to call it a planned accident. I dreamed about it as a kid, but wanted to get into marketing and advertising. Fashion is one of the only industries that can have such emotional and powerful engagement with its customer. Think about your favorite tee or favorite shoes and all of the wonderful moments you’ve had in them!

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How did you get into this industry?

I saw an ad for this company in Brooklyn I liked and noticed they were looking for a design assistant. I applied on a whim because I was close to finishing school. I knew Photoshop and Illustrator and fit in well with their team, so they offered me the job. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing and wasn’t sure if I should even be doing it, but I just decided to go with it.

What are the pros and cons of your job?

The pros are the incredibly talented and amazing people you meet along the way. People can also be the con because you encounter so many challenging personalities.

How do you contribute to fashion?

At the end of the day, it’s all about making people feel good about themselves, or at least brightening their day. Career-wise, I’m looking to work on projects that contribute to different charities and organizations.

What are some trends you love and hate?

I dislike high waisted shredded denim shorts–and now, living in LA, I have to see this all the time. But you know, different coasts, different folks! I like all the stuff that’s happening in active and performance wear right now, from the Fitbit and Flyknit Nikes to performance treated fabrics. There are some amazing stuff happening in fabric technology and I can’t wait to see what gets released next.

What keeps you going in this industry?

Different opportunities and the change that’s happening with technology has been a great source of motivation. I’m inspired all the time by new products and designs. It’s a great time for fashion right now.

Who is your muse?

I love strong, intelligent females who motivate and help each other (e.g., Arianna Huffington in media, Marissa Mayer in technology, Hillary Clinton in politics, Ronda Rousey in sport, and Diane von Furstenberg in fashion). One of my biggest inspirations is my brother because he helps me to think outside the box and to always be hungry to learn.

What are some fashion must-reads?

I love Japanese fashion magazines and I gravitate towards a lot of business sites as well. All hail Pinterest, Tumblr, Stylecaster, and, of course, Instagram.

What is a typical day like in fashion for you?

As of recently, not one day has been like the other, which I’m enjoying because I’ve been working and living out of LA, New York, and South Jersey. I’ve been freelancing for some New York clients and working on my own projects, so it’s been exhausting but great to enjoy the energy of New York for the summer.

What are some words of advice for folks trying to make it in fashion?

Be hungry! Have the drive to learn, to grow, and to be a better you. Be open to people and take the time to learn from and listen to them. Have confidence and believe in yourself! It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged, so I highly advise reaching out to your family and friends for support once in a while.

 

JANE KIM, LAUREN RALPH LAUREN DIVISION KNIT DESIGNER

What do you love about fashion?

Fashion allows you to express your personality. Sometimes it influences your behavior, and sometimes it can  be misunderstood, but it’s still something you can claim and call yours.

What inspired you to work in fashion?

Fashion inspires me to know and learn more about people and what people want, and how I can make people happy with their outfits. Each person and customer inspires me every day to keep designing for a mass market.

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How did you get into this industry?

To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was younger. I started out through my brother. He is a filmmaker and was working on a short film and needed costumes made, so I created the outfits using basic solid fabric following his creative direction. My mother then recommended that I go to fashion school, and that’s how it all started. I studied fashion in Seoul and then quickly moved to New York City to attend Parsons.

What are the pros and cons of your job?

Pros are the rewards of people’s reactions to my designs and when the product sells. Cons are the late hours.

What’s your biggest failure?

I applied to be on Project Runway, but unfortunately wasn’t selected after a long interview process. It was still a great experience in terms of the steps that took me to that point—just another reminder that I tried my best.

What keeps you going in this industry?

My design team keeps me motivated. Everyone I work with is absolutely amazing. There’s nothing better than spending 90 percent of your day with a team that you can also call family.

How do you keep up with this changing industry?

I ‘m always online researching and reading fashion magazines like WWD and Stylesight. The shopping and street style in New York also give you a good idea on what’s trending.

What is a typical day like in fashion for you?

My day starts at 9 a.m., responding to various emails from the factory, production, and merchandise departments, followed by fittings for two to three hours, then loads of meetings with the design and merchandise teams.

What are some words of advice for folks trying to make it in fashion?

Be passionate and eager to learn. As a designer, do not limit yourself to just design, but also know how to sell your designs. Great presentation skills go a long way.

 

ANNA SIAN, STAPLE PIGEON MARKETING DIRECTOR

What do you love about fashion?

What I love about fashion is that in its purest form, it is art that we can proudly show the world on our own human bodies. If you have something to say in this life, why not literally wear it on your sleeve?

What inspired you to work in fashion?

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My parents were both architects, and my father did all types of fine art as a hobby—painting, drawing, sculpture, photography. He would often sit under a lamp with a magnifying glass, an X-acto knife and carve an intricate shark or chain out of a piece of white classroom chalk. Early on as an only child, I learned from my father to express myself creatively by experimenting with different artistic media. I never really thought this hunger to create would lead me into fashion.

How did you get into this industry? What took you in this direction?

I graduated with a psychological and brain sciences degree from Dartmouth College and worked at a few different places since; Japanese restaurants, a photo magazine, a human rights book publisher, a trend forecasting agency, as a freelance photographer, at an engineering consulting firm, and now at a men’s street wear brand. My path wasn’t quite a straight shot, but I trusted that if I kept moving in a direction that felt right, I would end up in a good place. I feel lucky that it led me to where I am now.

What are the pros and cons of your job?

Pros: Meeting people, getting to work on creative projects, learning constantly, relatively relaxed environment, chill boss.

Cons: So much going on ALWAYS, with little time to breathe!

What’s your biggest failure?

Being a jack of all trades and sometimes wishing I had more time to dedicate to one specific skill.

How do you contribute to fashion?

By not really paying too much attention to hype. There are too many people who are afraid to be different or weird but that is how the best new ideas are born!

What are some trends you hate and/or think are innovative?

Hate: All black and white all the time with no exceptions, basketball slides with socks for fashion’s sake, leather in the summer and pretty much anything that makes you hot or uncomfortable. Innovative: Dressing up a casual outfit in new ways, playing with 3M and other fun materials, updating a classic silhouette.

What keeps you going in this industry?

What keeps me going is that I have the freedom to be myself. And that we get to work with some really interesting brands and people from all types of industries. The line is blurred between fashion, art, music, and even food. Most recently we got to work with the world famous burger brand, Shake Shack, on a product capsule and custom frozen custard flavor, and that was a dream of mine!

How do you keep up with this fast-changing industry?

I try to keep up with the industry by adapting and learning as much as I can about new technology and more efficient ways to work. The industry is full of young, talented people who are better than you at a bunch of things. As my mom says, “The only thing constant is change.” It’s important to keep yourself flexible and humble enough to roll with the punches.

Who is your muse? Your biggest inspiration? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My biggest muse has always been NYC herself. Growing up here, the city has been both my best friend, my lover, my therapist, and my enemy at times. It’s full of so much weirdness that I’ve tried to capture with photography and poetry—and somehow I can’t get it down on film or paper. There is just way too much weird, beautiful stuff in this city!

What are some fashion must-reads? What are your favorite magazines?

The most recent mags that I’ve read front to back lately have been Hypebeast, By Way Of Brooklyn, Street Dreams Mag, The Fader, Kinfolk and The New Yorker—all quite different, but all beautiful with fresh, smart, and engaging content.

What is a typical day like in fashion for you?

Each day is different but it usually starts with checking all my emails over an iced coffee. The goal of my job is to create stories around the products and collections that Staple creates, and to push them out into the world for everyone to see and enjoy. A lot of hard work goes into our projects, so it’s really important that they make an impact on the marketing side of the business.

What are some words of advice for folks trying to make it in fashion?

My advice for those in fashion is to really expand your world outside of just fashion. The world is so, so, so, vast. Unplug for a while. Take your eyes away from the screen to explore the things that you never knew were there, outside of Instagram, and stop being jealous of people’s lives and live your own. Yes, I love Instagram and hiding behind my camera sometimes, but it’s those things that you experience in real life that really inform whatever else you create, even if it does end up being a digital image or Vine video or something. Try new things and take a risk if it’s something that feels right to you, even when you’re not sure people around you will agree or be down with it. You’ll find that if you fail, you’ll only be learning and building the type of character you’ll need later on.