Leslie BurkeComment

In Honor of Fashion Week

Leslie BurkeComment
In Honor of Fashion Week

NYFW started this week and in honor of the season, I thought I would share how my dream of working in fashion came true. In 2008 the economy was crumbling throughout the US and the world, banks were failing, people were losing their jobs and trying to bounce back from a layoff, I was determined to work in fashion. Obviously, in a struggling economic times people are lining up in drove to purchase the latest fashions. I didn't let that stop me and sent out cold emails to any brand I could find with an email address.

This strategy actually worked and I found myself working for free as an "intern" supporting the efforts of the CFO of a major fashion brand. I would analyze all the accounts receivable, analyze margins on various SKUs and oversee the customs paperwork to ensure the goods arrived on time. It was great - I was learning a lot and proving myself in hopes of obtaining full-time employment. After some time I was given the opportunity to support the brand manager as well and that's when I decided I wanted her job. She worked directly with the designer overseeing the photoshoots and e-commerce, partnerships and licenses as well as any brand collaborations. I was able to do everything from organize the sample sale (and get first dibs at great prices) to the ultimate dream - the backstage model wrangler for the fashion show! It's not as exciting as it sounds backstage - its months of work which culminates in 10 minutes of live show feeling extremely anti-climatic. Eventually these experiences paid off and while I did not land a job there, I started working at a major retailer. Fast forward nearly a year and I was miserable at this retailer. I discovered the brand manager was leaving my previous internship and guess who they wanted to take her place - me!

I started almost immediately and was in awe of the responsibility I was given. It was summer and soon our first show was around the corner. Immediately the cracks began to show themselves. The designer was borderline crazy. She changed her mind frequently, she had hours of time where she could not be disrupted as she was drawing BUT she insisted on being a part of every decision large and small. She strolled in late (I was used to being at work at 8:30 a.m.) however expected everyone to work late which meant many nights past 8pm. Then the weekends started - no one told me I had to work weekends! Where was my life? Did I love this industry this much?!?! She essentially started to treat me like a personal assistant. I drew the line when I was asked to clean the fridge and buy groceries for the design staff who were being forced to work day and night. I had never cleaned my own fridge and I wasn't going to start today. Slavery was over and I turned in my keys and quit on the spot. 

Looking back I wish I had not been as impulsive. I think there are always ways to communicate with a poor manager and draw boundaries, even at work. I learned a lot from that experience and have a better understanding of what I am willing to give up for what I want. I can tell you now that when asked about cracking the fashion industry I tell people, be careful what you dream about. A dream can quickly become a nightmare.

P.S. Photo taken in the bright lights of the city wearing Mary Katrantzou. This picture sums up what women 'think' working in fashion will be like.