10 VALUABLE LESSONS FROM MY 15-YEAR CAREER AS AN APPAREL DESIGNER
1. Always do your best.
While still in college I did 3 internships. I tried to pick some diverse companies to spread my learning and to see what it really was like in the industry. As most internships I did some really basic boring things. But I tried to do my best, every day. Before I graduated from college, 2 of my internships offered me a job. My first job was as a design assistant, there too I had to do some very basic things but I was eager to get going and learned fast. Soon I started to design for real. And even today, all the styles I design are not so fun, some are even really boring entry price point stuff but it doesn’t matter. They are all equally important to the customer that buys that product. It’s my responsibility and my respect to the end consumer that is going to wear that piece that I need to think about. I don’t want to disappoint him/her. And I do want to be able to say of all my designs: I’m proud of what I did.
2. Never settle or get comfortable.
I have ”jumped” from company to company, the longest I’ve been with a company has been almost 4 years. You could argue that it’s a bad thing, or do as I do, see all the positive things it has given me. By switching companies you learn a lot of new things in a short period of time and it keeps you on your toes. Of course one of the big ”side effects” is also that you increase your salary in a positive way. You also accumulate knowledge of doing things in many ways and you just pick the one way you like and that suits you best. Your network is increased and you will forever have great contacts. I don’t even need to say this but you NEED to do a good job, the industry is a small pond and people and companies will find out that your an asshole and you will never ever have a job again. So back to getting comfortable, you can’t. You need to step up your game with every company you join. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and take risks, that way you will grow enormously as a person and as a creative.
3. Always trust you gut feeling.
No matter what you design you will always have your signature on it and you need to stand behind it 100%. There will always be some pieces that are less fun and interesting for you to design but the important thing is to give it all even when your not screaming Yeayyyy about it. In meetings you always have a choice, to give in and give up or stand behind your design and argue for it. If you feel strongly for something, a product, an idea, a decision, you need to speak up and let everyone know your opinion. You will not always be able to get every decision as you wish, but at least you have spoken your mind and people and yourself know where you stand.
4. There are no excuses.
Deadlines are deadlines and you know what needs to be done and by what time. There is never a good excuse for not delivering what you are supposed to deliver. If you need to stay up all night the night before, well, then shame on you for procrastinating but you do what you gotta to do ship. As with everything, your colleagues are expecting you to be a professional and do your job. If you miss a deadline, your trust is broken. You usually know beforehand at least a couple of days if you are able to deliver on time, otherwise you need to communicate you will be late and that’s fine, you won’t lose people’s time.
5. Keep friends even with the assholes.
As I have mentioned above, this industry is very small, and personal chemistry is tricky. You never know who is buddy buddy with whom, so you better keep friends with most of them. I’m not saying you need to lick ass, just stay neutral with the assholes, they might get you a job in the future.
6. Look outside your field for inspiration.
It’s so easy to get inspiration from your own field, everybody watches what everybody else is doing and it all kind of ends up looking the same. Sometimes the deadlines are tight and you haven’t been on any inspiration trips and you need to be done tomorrow, but I promise you, you will be so much more inspired and your work will be so much more original. Force yourself to look for inspiration in other fields.
7. Trust the process and say Yes.
If you feel you don’t really have the skills to tackle a project at that moment it’s fine, say Yes and you will figure it our along the way. You will force yourself to learn and solve the problem and in the end you will have learned something new and you will have pushed yourself. It might be really scary but you’ll be fine, so say yes to unexpected opportunities.
8. Enjoy the fun and the great people.
In the outdoor apparel world most people are outdoorsy and if I dare to say, pretty relaxed. Being a designer is fantastic, it’s very diverse, not one day is the same and not one collection is like the previous one. Working with the latest technologies is very inspiring. Traveling around the world to different suppliers and factories is fantastic and I never seem to get tired of it. So while you’re at it, enjoy it and thank yourself for choosing this job, you get paid to be creative and to travel the world, that’s quite sweet.
9. Ask for what you want!
Yes, it’s kind of simple but so many people don’t even know what they want, yet alone that they can ask for what they want. The only bad thing that can happen is that you get a no, the other 50% can turn into something amazing. So, think about what you want and ask for it.
10. Be you!
There is only one of you in the whole world. One amazing, fantastic, and incredible YOU. No one else is like you so why pretend to be someone else, copy someone else’s work, or why even want to be like someone else. Think about what makes you unique, cause you are your own brand, and bring those fantastic features to the surface. So no matter what, in any situations, stay true to yourself, your values and believes and be your awesome you. I know you’re supposed to fake it till you make it, but why not instead bring what’s best in you out there and using that, then faking it.