Ever thought about pursuing a career in fashion? Or starting your own clothing or jewellery business? How about creating a new brand or product? What if you are in your 30s, 40s or even 50s and you would like to switch your current profession by entering the fashion industry? All of the above is possible. I did it and followed my passion. So can you…
At the age of 25 (now many moons ago!), I co-founded an IT software company just after my degree in Economics from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. My dream was always to start my own business, create jobs and contribute towards a better world. In my head, my father’s saying, “be a creator not only a consumer”, was the main driver behind my entrepreneurial spirit.
After working very, very hard, we managed to have a couple of successful years during the internet boom. Like so many others in the IT Industry at the time, we decided to sell our business in order to move on to the next challenge. By that time, I was in my early 30s. Although enjoying the IT world, I felt I was missing something more meaningful. Taking the time to reflect and contemplating what I wanted to do was a wise decision. It didn’t take long before I knew I had to go into fashion! Fashion has always been my passion but I had completely ignored it.
I grew up in an environment where you needed to pursue a “real” profession and get a degree that would help you to enter the employment market. Looking back, my initial study and my experience in ICT contributed significantly to where I am today in my life. Let’s get back to the decision making process of switching careers. Of course, I struggled with the thought of how am I going to cope with starting at the bottom and working my way up. Learning a new profession, diving into a new industry without prior experience, just a passion is not an easy journey. On top, I was used to being my own boss at my own company and later on running a team at an international corporation with many responsibilities.
Not to mention the financial consequences. Earning a decent income plus the comfortable lifestyle does not make it easier. On the contrary, it encourages your rational argumentsto win. When it comes to such a major step in my life, I tend to take a pen and paper so I can write down calmly the pros and cons on a list. Nevertheless, I gathered all the courage I had, put my ego aside and took the final call. In my case, I chose to do a course in fashion in Paris so that at least it would give me a theoretical framework. That course was a turning point as from there my career took off and I never looked back.
Of course, my journey into fashion has had and still has many challenges every day. At least now, I feel fulfilled and blessed that I am doing what I love to do. Therefore, I can cope easier and better with setbacks or obstacles, as they are learning curves for me. I keep focused on my goals and move on swiftly. My main goal is to make a difference and contribute towards development of women entrepreneurs. Therefore I recently founded the Women Entrepreneurs in Fashion (WEIF) platform, which aims to connect, inspire and empower women in the fashion industry all around the globe.
I have been so passionate about following your dream and inspiring others that I wrote down my story and shared my experiences in a book. This book is a guide for people that want to start a career in fashion or those who want to switch at later stage in their life. It explains in a simple and easy way ten steps you can take to enter the fashion world. Many successful professionals and entrepreneurs from all around the world have contributed towards this book as well. It gives you a global perspective and in any case it does not matter where you are in the world nowadays since technology has brought us all closer.
Here I will give you a few possible questions you might have in your head in case you want to pursue a successful career or set up your own business in the fashion business. I will answer them for you briefly.
1: What kinds of professions and jobs are there in fashion?
One huge misperception about the industry, I would like to explain here. Most of the time when people think about working in the fashion, they think about becoming a designer. Obviously, that might seem like a dream job but remember, not everyone is made to be Coco Chanel or Karl Lagerfeld. Do not be discouraged!
There are dozens of other incredible fascinating jobs and roles in the fashion world. So, in answering the question, I would like you to think first about your own passion. What makes your heart beat faster? Take the time and reflect on what you loved to do as a child. Most of us adults have hidden our dreams and passions in our subconsciousness. Allow it to come out now.
Here are a few examples of jobs, professions or business areas in fashion you can look into:
• Marketing/social media expert
• Supplier/agent Sometimes you might not know what your end job or work will be. Do not worry. You will find out what works for you along the road. I worked in many different areas within the global fashion business and it made me appreciate each part of the chain. But if you know your specialist ambition and you love to be a pattern maker your whole life, enjoy it! Most importantly be guided by your own choices and skills. Not by the expectations of other people.
“Do not go into fashion just because your think is all about glitter and glamour. You will be very disappointed. One thing I can guarantee you, no matter in which country you work, the fashion industry is tough, very tough. You must be in it for the long run, for the passion and for making a difference.”
2: What kind of training and education do I need?
Before I answer that question, I would like to share with you my view on “Do I need an education at all? I am a living example of a generation that made a significant improvement in life circumstances due to education. My role models were my parents who sacrificed a lot, so that their children could study. From a very young age, I was determined to achieve a degree and that paper would open up doors. It was a “must” in order to fulfil my dreams and goals.
Yes, I do believe in educating, training yourself and upgrading your knowledge. At any period or any age in your life. You truly are never too late to learn. How you learn and how you educate yourself is different for each individual. Some people love books, studying or reading. So they would go for a more theoretical learning process. In that case you would search for schools or courses that give you a foundation of fashion. Others love learning but feel more at ease with practical, on the job experiences. Getting back to the original question. “What” kind of education? In the information technology world (and sometimes even overload of information) we live in, you really can find an incredible wealth of education options.
First of all, you can decide if you would prefer to follow an education online or offline. Many countries around the globe have specialised education platforms for the fashion industry. There are a few top schools in fashion, which are located in cities like Paris, London, Milan or New York. If you are a starter then search for schools or education programmes that support a broad range of subjects. Unless you know very specific that you would like to become for example a fashion designer then find an education related to designing.
If you want to switch career from your existing industry to the fashion business then search for a link with the kind of work you want to do in the fashion industry. Would you want to become an international buyer then find studies or programmes specialised in buying. The kind of education also depends on your existing education level. Do you prefer part-time or full time? How much do you want to spend on the new education?
Do an extensive research, talk to ex-students, and engage with people who work in your field of interest. Then summarise all your outcomes on paper and analyse them. If you need support in your decision-making, present your outcomes with a friend or mentor. Remember you are in charge of making the decision.
3: Is it all about glitter and glamour?
Without exception, when we hear the word “fashion” we immediately associate it with glitter and glamour. Is it because we are all influenced by Hollywood movies and movie stars, or are fashion and glamour really connected? Let me talk about the “real” fashion industry. Assume you work for the biggest fashion house or designer in the world (like I did working for Karl Lagerfeld’s own fashion house). Is your daily work really glamorous? I will be gentle on you…the answer is a big NO.
The book “10 Successful Steps Into Fashion” written by Hanim-Dogan-Jain is available on Amazon.com, Lulu.com or iBook App.