There are not many words that can describe New York City better than a dream. Everything about it is magical. From the minute you step foot on the streets of Manhattan, you are thrown into a jungle of sights, smells and all kinds of sensations. The geometrical skyscrapers parallel the chic, clean urbanites strolling through Midtown on their way to work or out running errands. While not everyone is sporting Gucci or Gabbana, there is an innate sense of fashion that revolves around everyone living in the city.
About one week ago, I returned from New York after attending Teen Vogue’s annual Fashion University event in Manhattan. It was here that I was thrown into an even more style-oriented group as I was surrounded by renowned fashion professionals like Amy Astley, Erika Bearman, Phyllis Posnick and Alexa Chung who came to speak and enlighten us with their wealth of knowledge about the industry.
Yet competition was at its peak. Girls and boys from around the world fought over front-row seats let alone a spot in the conference itself. It was like being amongst a huge model casting with everyone dressed to par and ready to listen and work. I went into this weekend with a curious perspective and an open mind. I wondered, “What would it be like to work at a magazine?” This question along encouraged me to soak up as much information as possible and to really decide if New York was where I wanted to be and if this was a dream was truly worth my time and effort.
Here’s what I discovered:
You have to be hungry.
When an opportunity does arise in which you get to intern or work under someone in the industry, show them you really, really want it. Always be willing to learn, and always think one step ahead. Amy Astley emphasized the hard-working drive that has led to her success. She spoke of her time spent at her first job as the Editor-in-Chief of House & Garden, Nancy Novograd’s, assistant. Astley’s eagerness to help got her a job at Vogue because Charles Gandee recognized that she always went out of her way to help him. Erika Bearman, also known as Oscar PR Girl, also pushed on having a strong work ethic as well. She said to ask yourself, “Did I do everything I could do there? Could I have done one more thing to make it better? You have to be able to do something you can do, what you can change that has not been done.”
Stop focusing on who is paying attention to you!
Your voice will gain attention if you remain yourself and generate interesting and valid content. The Teen Vogue editors said their readers are consistently asking them how to separate themselves from others, and then explained that this was the wrong question to be asking. Instead, you should focus on yourself and ask what you can do to find something that not everyone can take or see. Teach yourself to be more aware. Be unique with your content—in addition to making it qualitative—and stop comparing yourself to others because in the end your opinion of yourself is all that matters.
Don’t put something on social media just for the sake of putting it up.
In a world where content is overflowing and nonstop, especially in regard to fashion, the last thing anyone needs to see is another “Mani Monday” Instagram photo. Be creative and create a digital brand and presence. Pour over every detail, whether it comes to writing, design or photography. In such a visually oriented industry, the little niceties that make up the greater whole are of upmost importance.
Bearman says, “In such a materialistic, superficial industry, it is really about an inner strength.” It is not about how much farther other people are getting in the industry. Everyone has their own path. Along that path, Bearman is adamant about learning from your mistakes. Bearman made it clear that she has had her fair share of missteps, including the accidental release of a Vogue magazine cover. However, at the same time, she learned from it and it has been a part of her history of success today. There are no exact answers when looking at your future, but there is definitely a lot to be learned along the way.
While there was so much to take in at TVFU, one of the most prominent themes was that not everything is laid out for you. You must create your own path, and unfortunately you may have to learn things the hard way. Personally, I learned not to let a waitress charge you for two separate meals when you order salmon pasta unless you want to pay $46 for an entire meal, and I also realized that you should probably read the subway signs so you don’t end up paying for a trip uptown when you should be going downtown. Sure, none of these lessons related to the conference in fashion terms, but they did prepare me for my next trip and potential stay in New York City; one in which I will hopefully have a little bit more of a backbone than I did this time around.