I can definitely say that I did not follow the traditional route to get into the fashion industry. Coming from a university mainly known for business education with the focus on the graduating population flowing into the corporate finance, pharmaceutical, well, basically everything but fashion, I was a bit of a crossroads. With my bachelors degree in hand, I found myself begging every fashion brand for the simple opportunity of interning and was repeatedly turned down with the response being “We’d prefer someone who went to a fashion focused school”. Fine, I thought. I’ll find my own way into this business.
I graduated in 2006 (OH NO, I’VE JUST DATED MYSELF BUT WHATEVER) which happened to be on the cusp of the recession; giving companies even more of a reason to turn you down for a full time position or make you work for nearly free (and in some cases, FREE). At that time, it cost more for me to get to an internship than I was compensated but just like the stubborn mule that I am I was going to do it anyway.
After months of application submissions, rejections and even considering completely changing career paths I got a phone call. The woman on the other line was Benita Sedoc, a tough as nails but phenomenally experienced sales director who needed interns and called me in for a quick interview for an intern position. FINALLY! I had my toe in the door and I was going to be damned if anyone was going to shut it on me. See with Benita, she is one tough nut to crack- something she’ll even attest to as I’m sure she’s giggling at that description of her as we speak. I am a six foot tall woman and with the presence she has you’d believe she’s just as imposing, but in fact she’s a petite woman that still managed to scare me to death and you better believe I did whatever she asked at anytime. Truthfully, after spending about a half hour with her on my first day all I could think of was “If I just hold onto this internship as long as possible and learn from her I will be prepared for anything and anyone”.
I also feel it is my duty to let anyone know who is reading this and thinking of getting into fashion that if you are not ready to work, I mean really work, not just merchandise and dress cute and say you work at a fashion company, you really should switch careers. This industry has this fantastic facade that has yet to be truly unmasked which makes the world believe that we all play dress up and live in a world of sheer glitz and glamour. Hate to break it to everyone, but there is only about 3 days a YEAR where that actually happens. Every other day consists of running around in the middle of July in heels looking for the EXACT leather or zipper the designer needs or dragging duffle bags full of product in 110 degree heat for a trunk show, dealing with shipping (oh no, UPS doesn’t do that for you- you pack those boxes yourself and then carrying them down the stairs debating on whether or not the box will be damaged beyond repair if you just kick it down and let gravity take it’s course), among a number of other unglamorous tasks that go along with being in this business and if you’d like more examples I’d be more than happy to provide. Just email me:)
It wasn’t until nearly three months into my internship that I finally earned the respect of Benita. After a particularly physically demanding afternoon in August which involved taking all our showroom products to our warehouse in Long Island City with not even so much as a fan in our space to find it had been ransacked by someone, I spent the entire day in that warehouse reorganizing, inventorying and just because I am super anal retentive, came back to the office and spent the rest of the evening putting it in excel format so that we would hopefully avoid this situation again. That little bit of extra effort I put in had been the task that FINALLY EARNED BENITA’S RESPECT. Funny thing is, I wasn’t even trying to kiss up or win her over or anything really. I just wanted to do a good job; something I always knew I was capable of but all I needed was the opportunity which she gave me in more ways than one.
Shortly after that, Benita left that position to move on to better opportunities and a few months after that I left that company as well. Immediately after leaving our positions, we developed an invaluable friendship that I could’ve never foreseen coming as a green intern.
Fast forward a few years and Benita has not only been my greatest mentor, supporter, advisor and inspiration, but also one of my closest friends and I hate to kill the image but she’s a massive teddy bear with a heart of gold. Just as another testament to who she is, a few years ago I had heart surgery myself and Benita called me every single day for nearly a month to check up on me and has been an amazing friend to me in ways I choose to keep in my heart and not fully divulge to you blog readers out there (I have to keep some things to myself, no?).
So to wrap this story up I’d just like to emphasize the importance of giving your best and going that extra mile because even though you may not think it at the time, someone is watching and they’re paying attention.
Lastly, Benita I will never be able to repay you for the opportunity you gave me and because of you I am here in the position I am in because of it. I owe any current and future success I may have to you and that chance you took on a happy, sickeningly eager recent college grad. I love you B and thank you for everything you have done for me professionally and personally.
Until next time kiddies :)