Sunday, March 08, 2009

Q&A Time! Breaking Into Fashion + What Bag to Buy?

Hi Tin! I've been reading your blog since 2007. Your posts have inspired me to no end. What action plans would you recommend to people like me wanting to penetrate the fashion industry (aside fr the obvious-i.e. taking fashion classes, internships)? I've heard not-so-nice things about the fashion industry. I'm actually scared to make a move. Fashion schools here in PI cost a lot! Thanks!

Hi! Thanks for your question! You're on the right track by asking. It's a baby step, but the fact that you are considering this career move is worth something. You know what, I can totally get where you are coming from. I've taken the circuitous route to get to where I am (fashion blogger/writer and I can't say I am totally immersed in the industry as of yet) and what I can tell you is, once you get straight with yourself by affirming that this is where you want to be, and start making an effort to really see what is out there for you, you'll find that things just fall into place.

Ok, that was a little vague. Let's put it this way, the first step is always the hardest. You don't want to invest time and money doing something that might not be what you want in the end. But the thing I learned is, you'll never know until you try. And the fashion industry is such a huge industry that being in it per se is not the end all and be all. You still have to find your niche.

There are actually dozens of careers in fashion - there's planning and merchandising, retailing, online retailing, warehouse logistics, fashion design, technical design, accessories design, pattern making, cutting, sewing, showroom sales, events, PR, publishing, journalism, styling, photography, model management, trend spotting, forecasting, and so on. You can work for a designer, a retailer, a luxury house, a fashion forecasting/consulting firm, a PR firm, a modeling agency, a photography studio, a publishing firm, a manufacturing company, a showroom, a warehouse etc and you would still be technically working in fashion. So you have to find out where you want to be in exactly. Do you want to be on the creative side? The technical/production side? The business/management side? The marketing and publicity side? And you will never know until you dip your toes into the fashion pond.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to get into fashion is to just be curious and ask people in the industry what they are doing, what it's like, and from there, figure out if this is really where you want to be in. Start by asking friends, relatives, friends of friends/relatives in the industry (Manila is a small place, you are bound to know someone who is in the industry) and just keep on being inquisitive. Hearing their accounts first hand will dispel or corroborate the myth that fashion is a cut throat industry. But to be honest, while there are horror stories, I've met so many people in the industry, both back in Manila and here in New York who are nothing but the sweetest, most approachable, amazing, creative and fun people that I have ever met! Some have become very good friends in fact! So don't be too scared. I think if people see that you are sincere and you have a good heart, and that you just really have that passion for fashion, they will be more than happy to help you out and watch out for you. But yeah, you can't all be sugar and spice in this industry too. You also have to have tough skin and be prepared to bitch it out when it's time to draw the talons out. Because the industry attracts a lot of flakes, posers and dodos too, heehee! But generally, the decent, self-assured ones treat you the way you want to be treated and at the same time, if you are nice and sincere, then people are nice and sincere back, it's that simple.

Now once you've decided that you are made to be in the industry, then start taking classes, even just short courses that will pique your interest. From there, you can take further classes to dig deeper into the subject, or move on to another short course to help you figure out exactly where you want to focus in. Consider it this way too, when you sign up for a class, you are also signing up to a valuable network of people, whether they be classmates, teachers or alumni who can help you break into the industry eventually. I have been taking classes at FIT, and I find that my teachers here are more than happy to answer questions and emails from students and will give you the exposure and opportunity to get your hands "dirty". If not for my teacher at FIT who handles/organizes volunteers for Fashion Week, I would not have had the chance to help out backstage and be part of the runway shows, albeit from the sidelines, haha. Volunteers of course don't get paid, but that was quite an experience that was worth giving up one day to wake up early in the morning and run all over the city for.

While obvious, internships are really a great way to break into the industry. It's practically a rite of passage, a valuable one, especially since you get to see how things are from the bottom (which is important once you start working your way up). Internships are generally unpaid, but the opportunity to see how things are done is what you should be aiming for at this point. It's a sacrifice in a way, but think of it this way, if you are enjoying what you are doing, money hardly matters. And from what I've seen, when people enjoy and love what they do, the money eventually follows!

So don't hesitate! If you want to be in fashion, take that first step now, no matter how difficult and daunting it seems to be! Once you start taking that step, you'll see that the next steps become easier and opportunities just open up for you one after the other. Next thing you know, you are in the industry and you are loving every minute of it!

Good luck and keep me posted on how your fashion adventure goes! ;)

I need help! I'm contemplating which bag to buy...a damier speedy or a goyard st. louis. need your advice!

thanks :)

Hi there dear reader! I see you are a in a bit of a dilemma! Should you get this?

Or this?

Hmmmm, I actually don't know how to answer this. Because it really depends on your lifestyle. Instead, I will just list out my top of mind pros and cons for each bag, and give you a couple of follow-up questions to help you come up with a decision!

Damier Speedy PROS
- Classic
- Cheaper than a St. Louis PM (Damier Speedy 30 is $700 vs. a St. Louis PM that retails at $940)
- You can use this for work and on weekends
- Secure and zippered so no worries about your stuff spilling out
- You can even lock it for extra protection (although it would be such a hassle to really lock-up your bag, the lock and keys are really just an homage/throwback to the origins of LV bags as traveling bags)
- Still looks great after many years

St. Louis PROS
- Classic
- Lightweight
- Great for traveling
- Can be worn over the shoulder or carried on the crook of your arm
- Spacious
- Comes in a variety of colors
- May be personalized with stripes, initials, etc.
- Has a detachable pouch

Damier Speedy CONS
- Has to be hand held or carried on the crook of your arm
- LV is quite an ubiquitous label
- the bag itself is not made of leather but of coated canvas

St. Louis CONS
- Too casual for work (if you work in a corporate setting)
- Although you can bring it to work, it functions more as a tote/secondary bag to carry extra stuff
- More expensive than a Damier Speedy
- It's a very "open" bag, no means to zip it up or tie it at the sides to keep your stuff protected
- the bag itself is not made of leather but of coated hemp canvas
- Tends to look "battered" when overused (although this can also be quite charming)

Now remember, these are just the pros and cons off the top of my head. There could be more I haven't really thought of. But as a rule, whenever I am contemplating on a purchase of a high ticket item, these are the things I ask myself...

1. Is it within my budget?
2. Will I be able to pass this on to my kid, sister, niece, etc. / Is this sturdy? A classic?
3. Do I own something similar to this item? If No, then proceed. If yes, then I might not need it.
4. Will it go with most of my stuff?
5. How often will I use it? If I can use it as often as I can, then it's worth it (Cost Per Wear). If I can only use it occasionally, then
I'd rather go for something more practical and "value for money".
6. Will this item fit into my lifestyle? (ie, I carry a lot of stuff with me all the time, so I'll need a tote vs. I can live with just my wallet, keys and make-up kit in my bag, so I'll get the Speedy)
7. Do I want this because it's trendy/everyone has it? (Don't get it, save your money for something that calls out your name!) or do I want it because I appreciate the craftsmanship/quality of the item? (I will love this for life!)
8. Has this item been on my mind for days/weeks/months? If you've forgotten about it, you most likely can live without it.

If this still doesn't help, let me put it this way. Either way, you won't go wrong! These are both great picks and I don't think you'll experience buyer's remorse with whatever you end up with! ;)

(Photo credit:,


Anonymous said...

Thank you ever so much! I will definitely keep you posted. If it weren't for the cost and scarcity of time, I'll definitely take the plunge. See, I work full time in a call center. But you're so right. I should start asking around first. Thing is, I kinda get intimated by fashion folks :)

Anonymous said...

do you know any online site that sells goyard?

Anonymous said...

If you really want a career in fashion I guess you can start by reading different fashion magazines and familiarising yourself with the names of the major players in the industry, study the designers' collection and fashion terms. This will only cost you a little. And and.. fashion schools in Manila are reasonably priced though compared to the other art schools abroad like Parson's, FIDM, London College of Fashion. :)

cd_mfo said...

Just find time for it, there are weekend classes too! And I agree with Anon 3:54's advice above, schools in Manila are much more reasonably priced! Read a lot of magazines too, go online if you don't want to spend on magazines, you'll learn a lot! But for the most part, get over your fears, don't let it paralyze you and keep you from following your dream! You'll be surprised at how people are willing to help and share once you ask! =)

cd_mfo said...

There are no online sites selling Goyard. If you are in Manila, the only place I can say sells guaranteed authentic Goyard bags is Accessory Lab in Rockwell and Tresorie in Jupiter St., Bel-air Makati! Check out for details on her stores!

Anonymous said...

Wow! thank you again for all the pieces of advice! I do read a lot of magazines and I believe that's what got me started w/ my interest in fashion :). In fact, my boss catches me surfing the net reading blogs and sites related to fashion all the time. I just feel that I shld work on my networking skills and get over my fears and insecurities. I did check FIP's site and while 7-9k seems reasonable for a short course, I just have a lot on my plate right now (financially speaking). Napaghahalatang purita ako! hahaha! BTW, your blog MFO is the first blog I go to when I'm online. I shld make mfo my homepage! . thanks again Tin and anon 3:54!!!!

Anonymous said...

oooppps! i hope i don't sound too negative and nakakainis. I will definitely enroll in a fashion school as soon as I figure out what I want to focus on. Again, thank you!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info.

cd_mfo said...

You're welcome Anon! Don't worry, it's normal to be afraid when you are about to take the leap! Just keep your goal in sight and become your dream!!! =)

You're welcome Ms Style! Goyard does not even allow their retailers like Barneys and Bergdorf to post their bags online, so your best bet really is the Goyard store or established retailers =)

Anonymous said...

I guess you should try reading magazines, blogs, and fashion books like local magazines, vogue, women's wear daily, elle, etc.. It will definitely help you a lot. In fashion, you should be updated on what is going on. Try enrolling at a fashion school. You'll surely learn a lot from your teachers who are industry professionals and also you peers.

I am currently studying fashion marketing at parsons and I am really enjoying it. My advice is just do not give up and follow your dreams!

Anonymous said...

Hi! Need help. I've always known that fashion is my passion and have gone on an entrepreneurial venture for 3 years now. I run a small boutique in the province and was quite successful in establishing a regular network of customers. However, a new mall was put up recently in our area and has driven everyone in their direction. The inevitable happened.. and small retail stores like mine tremendously suffered in terms of sales. I really don't know what to do. It breaks my heart to close shop because I really love my store and I don't want my staff to lose their jobs. =(

To put up a fighting front, I attempted to apply for stall space lease space inside the mall and came up with a unique store concept should the mall allocate a lifestyle/ fashion avenue section for small retailers like me. I prepared and have submitted needed documents like LOI, store concept, lay-out perspective,etc. It has been more than a week now, and I still haven't heard from the lease officer yet. Would it be proper to give them a call? They told me that they they will be the one to contact me once they've found an available space.I don't want to seem like a pushy applicant, but the waiting really kills me. This is my last hope to resuscitate my business and I don't know what to do anymore...please help me!

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