I was recently contacted by fashion industry professional and author, Natalie Gowans, about her first book, Memoirs of a Fashion Industry Failure, Vol. I. Natalie used to work in fashion in a variety of roles, including Designer, Pattern Cutter, Sample Machinist and Dogsbody. She hopes that this book might prove useful to other aspiring fashion industry newbies (or at least give them a bit of a chuckle at her expense).
Natalie describes the book as honest and heart-warmingly funny; a story which tells the true tale of an unlikely novice’s journey deep into the strange world of the British fashion industry. It is packed with insights from behind the scenes of major fashion houses including Vivienne Westwood, Giles, and Matthew Williamson, and first hand advice from top industry personalities like Amanda Wakeley, Zandra Rhodes and Tim Walker.
She has agreed to give NextinFashion a few sneak peaks of the book throughout this month as well as chances for you readers to win an e-copy of the book!
A stone cold dose of the real facts about starting your career in fashion, and illegal internships, doled out by hardened PR girl Emma Crosby (the woman responsible for launching the Miss Sixty brand in the UK), and Ross Perlin, author of scary bed- time read for any graduate: ‘Intern Nation’. In two parts.
‘Part 1. Facing Reality
“New designers often don’t realize how expensive and difficult it is to promote a new business,” said Emma Crosby, Managing Director of London a la Mode showrooms and the UK representative of Triba Space (the international online showroom for emerging designers).
She had agreed to share a few words with me after speaking at a PR workshop in June 2011. (Also, we were at the pub. It’s the best place to be when facing the harsh reality of things.)
“Promotion is something you really have to factor into your budget,” she explained. “You have to work out how much you can afford to invest each month – how much product will you have to sell to make each marketing investment worthwhile? It needs to be part of your business plan from the start.”
“I started selling back when the economy was strong,” she explained, “and there is a LOT more competition now. New designers have really got to have business skills.”
She went on to talk about some of the nitty gritty aspects of starting your own design label:
“The truth is, it usually takes designers a long time to make money. They might have to get another job to keep them going. People aren’t always prepared for that.”
“Designers are also sometimes intimidated by the grim reality of running their own business – working 15 hour days etc. I think it is unfortunate that universities don’t prepare design students more for these things. It’s good that they encourage them, of course, but there should also be a point where they say “this is the reality” and give them case studies of creative people who haven’t made it, and why, and vice versa.”
“You have to remember, it is not all about fantastic designs. It has got to be about practical concerns as well.”
It certainly has. But then, making it on your own in any field is always going to be hard work. Perhaps the simpler route is to get your foot on the ladder at a bigger company and work your way up? Well…’
For the truth about THAT, you’ll have to wait until my next extract installment: Excerpts Part 2 – The Internship Problem. (Although, of course, if you can’t wait, you could always buy the book…)
And to all the aspiring young designers out there – good luck!
Natalie Gowans – Author, Memoirs of a Fashion Industry Failure, Vol. I
To find out more, please visit: www.MemoirsofaFashionIndustryFailure.com