#1774 The question of how to succeed in fashion

Photo: Haw-lin

Thank God for the untarnished innocence of youth. I just received this question on my Diary asking if it was possible to get ahead in fashion if you don’t go to the scene parties, or get your photo taken by the right people, with the right people, or take drugs; or if there was any way of avoiding all of the aforementioned? Here’s my honest answer: Who you know will often trump what you know. Fashion seems to be the industry that this applies to the most. A lot of it is shmoozing people you may not have been friends with otherwise because you all happen to work in the same industry, and about going to fashion/scene parties and getting your photograph taken. The more visible a person is at those fashion/scene parties, the cooler they are perceived to be. So with that in mind, how you look is also just about as important as who you know, which, let’s not forget, is ultimately more important than what you know. Therefore, it pays to be tall, thin, beautiful and young, with plenty of famous friends.

As for drugs and alcohol, I obviously don’t think that they’re necessary or conducive to creativity. And we’re lucky in New Zealand that our fashion industry does not have any drug culture to speak of. Alcohol, on the other hand, is consumed with gleeful voracity.

The most ironic thing about a lot of these people that everybody aspires to be (and bear in mind that I’m making a sweeping generalisation here), is that they’re just as unhappy as anybody else. There’s no joy in being liked for superficial reasons – because they’re beautiful or well-connected or they can get somebody into a party/magazine/fashion show.

Don’t forget that nothing is as glamorous as it seems from the outside. John Galliano’s recent fall from grace is testimony to that fact. Like Anja Rubik said, speaking about the exploitation of models, “I don’t think it will ever change because… There are too many girls who would do the job if you don’t do it, so I don’t think it’s possible to unite all of the girls say, ‘No, we want this and these conditions.’ I think that’s crazy, It’ll never happen. I think it’s mission impossible.”

The same goes for the industry as a whole. It’s a business based on selling an impossible ideal of beauty, happiness, coolness and, at the end of the day, clothing. If somebody takes a stand against it, there’ll always be a million people just waiting to take their place. The only way to stay sane is to take it all with a grain of salt. And to keep friends outside of the industry.

So to answer the question, is it possible to get ahead without becoming part of the scene? Sure it is – some people have done it. But they’re the exception, not the rule.


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  1. R says

    Nice to see that maybe there is a flame out there thats still burning; have you seen any development/progress in the New Zealand fashion industry in the last 10 years? No. Same people, same brands, same parties, same media, same shit design… pretty depressing if you stop and think about it; not that anyone does. Apparently they ‘can’t’…

  2. CB says

    I think the most valid point here is perception. Just because you see people in magazines, shows or at parties does not mean they are successful.
    What do you consider success to be?

  3. Jimmy says

    If you judge success as in popularity and press then no its not possible not to do the above and be “successful” . Making enough to live a nice life and raise a family from it, absolutely. ps. you never NEED drug and alcohol in your life.

  4. says

    I have been musing on this lately!

    After I graduated fashion school I had to start a completely new fashion education. I had my design ethos and work ethic nailed but learning about the different social, political and influencial circles/relationships that exist in the New Zealand industry was a little overwhelming as a baby grad!

    My advice: while you are studying/starting out NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK! And always be on time… and never show up with untied shoelaces… and be kind!


  5. hello says

    having your picture on Snap Star and The A List at these fashion parties does not make you look cool. Same people who just look like fashion groupies, who don’t have anything to do with fashion besides being another fan. They look like they have nothing else to do.

  6. anon says

    good on the person for asking, i know a lot of younger people feel like that, v.anxious and aware but also romanced into it. amen to friends outside the industry!!
    great answer isaac :) x

  7. Anon says

    There’s a sense of hierarchy at fashion events, and although it’s silly and superficial, and maybe it’s just me, but there is a definite feeling of inadequacy if you’re surrounded by people who are ‘cooler’ than you.

  8. Louise says

    Thank you so much for posting this – as someone who is determined to have a career in the fashion industry I would give anything to pick your brains on how to get started!

  9. Hmckellar says

    So what exactly is your stance on the whole thing? Do you feel like being seen with ‘cool’ young people, getting your picture taken and general superficial small talk/ass kissing is important to your success within the industry? Doesn’t it say something about the integrity of the industry or should we accept that it is par for the course?

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