Every year Teen Vogue’s Fashion U gives its readers a chance to meet the industry’s elite and gain insight from an insider perspective. This rare opportunity puts students face-to-face with editors, stars and designers like Michael Kors, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Jack McCollough & Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler and gives them a chance to ask pressing questions. This year’s attendees had plenty to query: how do you break into one of the world’s most competitive businesses, what does it take to last season after season, or how do you even get that first internship – crucial topics for anyone looking to get their start in fashion and the answers provided were surprising.
Teen Vogue’s stylish young editors – Shiona Turini, Jane Keltner de Valle, Danielle Nussbaum & Andrew Bevan
Q: What do you guys look for in your interns?
Gloria: The rules have really changed. You have to show how amazing you are. Within 3 minutes we can tell how an intern is by the way she responds and answers questions. You have to pay attention and do a little more than you’re asked to do in order to really shine.
Amy Astley: Do your homework so you have as much an understanding as you possibly can. If you go for an interview for an internship, you should spend some quality time on your computer googling and reading everything that comes up about this business. There is no excuse not to be well informed, you don’t even have to go to a library – it’s at your fingertips online. It makes me really happy when I meet someone who wants to intern and they start off talking about the covers they like, stories they enjoyed, or people on the staff whom they follow. That makes you think that they’re going to get it here, and they’re going to fit in.
Q: What advice would you give to college students who are on the verge of graduating and trying to enter the work force?
Danielle: I don’t cover fashion specifically, but something Amy mentions a lot to people is that it’s not just about being interested in fashion. It is about looking at art, museums and culture as well. Anything you learn in school is what you’re going to bring to the table. I went to school in Pennsylvania so there wasn’t any fashion, but I had other things to draw from. Blog and brand yourself, get people to notice you. When you come into the office, the first thing we are going to do is google you. It’s true, but your information is out there.
Andrew: Don’t underestimate the power of working in retail if you really want to go into fashion. The fundamental part of fashion is people buying clothes, so if you’re out there looking for a job – the mall can be a great place to gain experience. Pay attention while you’re there to what women are buying and how customers react to things. There is still a lot to learn about merchandising, clothes and the way things are put together.
Amy: Your generation is very digital and the older generation really isn’t up to speed. ‘Social media manager’ is a job that every company is looking to fill with someone right out of college. Keep an open mind – saying “I must work at a magazine” is fine, but you could get a job at a magazine and it might not be the magazine you want.
Designer Jason Wu’s talks to Teen Vogue’s Jane Keltner de Valle about his career
Q: How do you deal with disappointments and being in designing slumps?
Jason Wu: I mean, it happens and I think that everyone has a different way of working through something. I think it’s really good to have a good circle of friends. I still hang out with my high school friends that aren’t in fashion and I think it’s important to have balance between work and your personal life. It’s great to have a good personal support system. My family is super supportive of me and they hear my disappointments, my complaints, and my rants. It’s important for me to learn from these disappointments and to learn how to be better and succeed the next time. Sometimes you just have to get over it and do it better the next time.
Q: How long did it take you to figure who your crowd and customer were?
Jason Wu: My customer is usually someone who appreciates quality and the craft. It becomes more than an age thing or a body type thing, it becomes her perception of fashion. I go on the road a lot and go to the stores and trunk shows and meet all my customers. Whether they be a 20 something, a mother, or a father, I hear their feedback and how they felt wearing the clothes and all of that is really important to me on figuring out who she is. She may come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, from different countries, but she always appreciates my work, and she appreciates well-made clothes.
Q: Do you think about who is going to showcase your collection and if so, how do you choose your models?
Jason Wu: I kind of stuck with the group of models I grew up with. I think that not only are they showcasing my work, but that their personalities make the outfit sometimes. Sometimes I design an outfit and I know immediately who’s going to wear it, but sometimes when they wear it, it’s not exactly what I imagined. But that’s what I look for, personality, interest, and I’ve loved having people whom I’ve grown up with. Karlie Kloss, Jourdan Dunn, Abbey Lee, we’ve all kind of started at the same time. I work with a casting director, James Scully, who helps me whittle it down, but I look for personality mostly and that’s what I think makes it.
Teen Vogue Editor in Chief Amy Astley interviews Jack & Lazaro of Proenza Schouler
Q: I’m from Mexico and I was wondering what advice would you give people from different countries who are passionate about fashion?
Lazaro: It depends on what scale of fashion you want to work in. If you want to work on a more international level, it might be more difficult to do it in Mexico. I’m from Miami, I knew there was a fashion community in Miami, but I wanted to do something bigger than local so I moved to New York. You have to decide for yourself on what scale you want to work in.
Jack: Like Lazaro said, it depends on where you want to take it.
Q: How do you work together and keep a good dynamic?
Jack: We don’t always agree about how things should look, but having two ideas come together creates something new. Coming up with ideas is a joint effort.
Lazaro: We are really hard on ourselves on a creative level. We like to push ourselves and do the best thing we can possibly do. We like to keep it exciting. Running this business is like our baby, it’s what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years. It’s what we do. It’s what inspires us.
Q: How do you think the internet has changed for young and upcoming designers and have you faced any challenges dealing with that?
Jack: Everything moves a lot faster now, when we were in college we would wait till Saturday morning on CNN – there was fashion report where we kind of got our information. Now you guys have instant access to fashion and shows and blogs and street style. We care about what the established critics say, but we’re also interested in what the kids say and people on the street are talking about. So, after a show, we are curious to see how blogs react to the show and what people have to say.
Lazaro: Sometimes the bloggers approach reviews differently – it comes from a purer place.
Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo poses with Fashion U students.
Q: When you are traveling and going to shows do you ever take time to, say you’re in Paris, and go to new openings or exhibits?
Linda Fargo: Every time. It is an assignment and I put it on my schedule. I went to Paris and we had a little bit of lag time when shows were going. I went to see Hussein Chalayan’s exhibit in Paris, which blew me away. I had no idea how elaborate his work was and how much of a performance artist he really is.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is interested in window design or break into that area?
Linda Fargo: It’s a pretty specific field, it doesn’t exist everywhere. A lot of stores don’t invest in their windows like New York. It’s a very New York City thing. I lived in L.A. for awhile, and they didn’t seem to care. A lot of the kids who work with us come in as freelancers. If you have to sit and nail 5,000 pins in the wall, that’s what you do and you keep doing that. Try to get your foot in as a freelancer. Make a little portfolio of ideas. At home, set up something that looks like a window display, photograph it and say these are ideas I would have if this was a window. Make a friend of yours pose as if she was a model or don’t use one. Spill some clothes on the floor as if someone jumped out of her clothes and they wanted to go to bed. Make a fake portfolio so someone knows what your perspective is and share that with the world.