Global employment in the creative sectors is booming. In the EU, the cultural and creative industries employ more than 12 million people, according to the European Commission, while the Mayor of London’s office reports that the capital’s creative sector accounts for one in six jobs. The National Endowment for the Arts also estimates the arts employed 4.9 million workers in the US in 2018.
However, gaining entrance to the creative workforce is notoriously challenging, in whichever continent you reside and job function you wish to work. Here, BoF condenses advice and insight from creative professionals across the fashion industry on how to stand out when starting out.
Ask for Opportunities
Drew Elliot, co-owner of Paper Magazine.
“If you want to reach out to someone, it’s never going to happen if you don’t ask. It’s so important to have the confidence to know that someone’s going to pick it up. At the end of the day, everyone’s rooting for you. You just have to figure out the right route for you. Everyone asks me, ‘how should I get started?’ Just get started.”
Continuously Update Your Skill Base
Fabien Baron, art director and founder of Baron & Baron.
“Throughout my career, my point of view has remained very consistent, I’ve stuck with it all my life but what I have changed is what I can do. I learned other skills — photography, copywriting — a lot of other things that allowed me to have that point of view in different mediums. The more you know, the more you learn, the more knowledgeable you are, and the better able you are to resolve problems.”
Look Past the Glamour
Birgitta Toyoda, head of styling at Streeters.
“This is an exceptionally tough industry and, because it is seen as outwardly glamorous, there are a lot of people who want to work within it — it’s not; it’s a lot of hard work. You need to be prepared to work all day, every day. This job is not about being fabulous — I can’t stress that enough. It’s about having the responsibility to do your best for others.”
Pay Attention to the Details
Alan Prada, deputy editor of Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue.
“It’s good to be super creative, it’s important to have great ideas and to be capable of creating controversy when appropriate — but it’s also the method: how you approach your work. For example, someone [who] writes an email that is well done, with good punctuation — that’s valuable. The formal part is still important [because] from this, you can see the method that an individual will bring to all of their work.”
Network Vertically and Horizontally
Musa Tariq, head of marketing at Airbnb.
“The biggest mistake people make is [that] they try to network up. Take your time and play the long game — network across and below, because I bet you, in the long run, you’ll find it a lot more effective… The best time to build your network is when you don’t need something. It’s obvious when you’re the type of person who reaches out only when you need something.”
Find the Tools for Success
Joe La Puma, SVP of content strategy at Complex.
“If you have a medium, the tools are there for you to do it. Once you start your own thing or work at a company that fuels your passions, you can be prepared for it. When I was younger and trying to intern, I didn’t have those opportunities. Now you have the tools. You can really educate yourself on this culture.”
Trust Your Gut
Susanne Tide-Frater, brand and strategy director at Farfetch.
“A buyer will inevitably get it wrong at times because we’re not in the rocket science department here. It is about predicting, it’s about envisioning, it’s about knowledge that people have accumulated, but in the end it’s the gut that will steer them.”
Listen to Seniors and Juniors
Jodie Chan, director of marketing and communications at Altuzarra.
“You have to listen to other people’s perspective and respect their opinions, whether or not you agree with it. It’s about being open to collaboration and ideas, whether it’s from an intern or your boss. It’s very precious when someone shares an idea with you, so it’s important that you listen.
Demonstrate Creativity First
Christine Nagel, in-house perfumer for Hermès.
“Technical ability arrives with time, but the creativity is either within you or it’s not. Do not be afraid to dare… It’s OK to be wrong, and I would prefer to be wrong having been audacious than not be audacious and be right. ”
Prepare to Problem-Solve
Olu Michael Odukoya, art director and publisher.
“Creativity is largely about problem-solving. Your work becomes part of a long chain of responses — you take in the stimuli around you and you look for a way to solve the problems that they present to you, and then you create your own new propositions. The key is learning to express other people’s experiences in such a way that they feel they’re reliving them. It’s all about being a good communicator. And respect — both earning it and paying it.”