So you want to work in fashion? You love clothes. Every morning you wake up giddy with excitement because you get another opportunity to showcase your unique sense of style. A two-hour lecture that allows laptops means two blissful hours of online shopping. You live for the day when the mailman delivers this month’s thick, glossy issue of Vogue. You also have one tiny problem – you go to the University of Michigan. We take pride in calling ourselves students of this fine university. We are the victors valiant, the conquering heroes, the leaders and the best. But for those of us who also hope to one day find our place in the fashion industry, we also find ourselves asking the question– where do I fit in? With little to no relevant coursework in sight, the University’s curriculum fails to adequately satisfy the throngs of fashion-hungry students seeking to deepen their understanding of the industry, its history, and business practices. If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve found organizations like SHEI to satisfy your fashion cravings but for students Jordan Gavens, a member of MACS, and Jilly Richman, our very own Literary Editor, this just wasn’t enough. So, for the first time ever this past Tuesday, November 18th, University of Michigan students and the general public were invited to attend “Fashion Speaks”, the University’s first ever fashion forum featuring keynote speakers in the industry and student fashion panelists.
Many of the speakers, all Michigan grads, recalled similar feelings of uncertainty. Some found their place in student organizations. Marly Graubard, now the Executive Director of Fashion and Beauty at W Magazine, spent many of her days at Michigan working for the Michigan Daily, learning for the very first time the skills necessary to do the job she still does today. Celeste Northern, currently a Retail Events Assistant Manager at David Yurman, became involved in MACS and NOIR to both deepen her study of communications and satisfy her fashion cravings. On the other hand, several of the speakers found themselves exploring quite different fields of study. Matthew Guthartz, now President of Steve Madden, earned a degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan and found himself working in the shoe business after college for lack of another alternative. Lindsey Kilbride, currently Head of Sales for Trunk Club, an online and in-person men’s styling service, graduated from the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering with a concentration in Industrial and Operational Engineering. Jamie Sztoser, Staffing Manager in charge of Fashion and Media for Choice Associates, a boutique recruitment firm in New York City, earned a degree in Communication Studies.
But regardless of their path, some more straightforward than others, each of the speakers stressed the same thing to their fashion-hungry audience. First, relish the journey. The road to success is never simple. Take advantage of each and every opportunity along the way, no matter how unconventional, to learn as much as you can about not only fashion but other industries as well. Be open to opportunity and unafraid to take risks. Second, remember the people you meet along the way. Creating lasting relationships with the people you meet not only here at Michigan, but also in the future are crucial to your individual growth and success. Most importantly, find a career path that truly encompasses your life passions. Work will never feel like work if you’re doing something that truly makes you happy.
At the end of the day, our hoMe may be missing a few fashion courses here and there but having witnessed Fashion speak we at SHEI feel a little bit more confident that students at this university will be able to forge their own unique paths toward any destination their imagination and wardrobe take them.
Photos by: Courtney Evans, Alex Holmes, and Melissa Freeland