Earlier this month, the most powerful woman in fashion, Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, descended on London design school Central Saint Martins to dish out advice to fashion students, young designers and journalists on what it takes to find success in the industry. From directly getting out of school and starting your own business (please don’t do that) to dressing celebrities on the red carpet (“God, they need your help”).
In other words, stop dreaming and be realistic. This is advice from a woman who’s helped the likes of Alexander Wang, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler to succeed, so we think she knows what she’s talking about.
Read some of the invaluable points from her talk below:
1. Starting your own line doesn’t guarantee success
“The only thing I worry a little bit about, going straight from school to starting your own business, is not that many succeed… I personally would advise you to think carefully before you start your own business, and consider possibly working for a designer or a company whose work you admire.”
2. For the love of God, find some meaningful employment
“Go get a job,” Wintour stated in no uncertain terms. “Whether it’s working as a designer or working in a restaurant and then doing your own thing in your own time, it’s a reality of life. In the end it’s going to be helpful to you and so many others.”
3. Buddy up with a friend who understands the numbers
“It’s unusual, in my experience, for a creative designer to also be good at understanding facts and figures. It’s important to have someone to talk to and discuss everything with and bounce ideas off. I have not seen too many successful designers who’ve managed alone, without their business partner.”
4. Learn how to present yourself and don’t be shy
“In today’s world you have to interact. You can’t really be some difficult, shy person who is not able to look somebody in the face: you have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus and what you believe in. If you can’t be passionate about who you are and what you are doing: how can they [your audience] be?”
5. Don’t readily fall for the recognition and ‘fame’ social media may bring
“It’s possible in today’s world to be instantly famous, whether it’s through Instagram or whatever platform it may be, but it’s a very different matter to be successful financially and in the long-term,” she noted.
5. Presentations work just as well—if not better than—staging a runway show
“Please listen to me when I say: an interesting creative presentation is just as effective as a fashion show. I see people who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on fashion shows, which I simply don’t think is necessary. A presentation gives us all an opportunity to meet you, rather than to go and sit in some dark room somewhere and wait for you to start; then [have] no time to say hello, and rush off to the next one.”
6. Resort and pre-fall are huge moneymakers, so don’t ignore those collections
“The basic truth of the matter is that 80% of what sells in the stores are the mid-season collections: resort and pre-fall. So when you’re ready, don’t ignore it, because it’s going to be something that will help you pay the bills.”
7. God help the the red carpet, but don’t expect to dress celebrities right away.
“The red carpet, in the United States, has become too much of a business. It’s a fact that celebrities are paid to wear everything, and to me that sometimes comes across as very manufactured and not individual. I was just recently at the Tony Awards in New York, and, God, they need your help. Let me tell you, it was a disaster.
So, there are opportunities, but don’t expect the Oscars the first time out. They have all these teams of people telling them what to do, what to wear, how to do their hair, make-up. And they’re so scared of being criticised whereas, you know, what’s wrong with looking different? How many mermaid fishtail strapless sequins [gowns] can we see?”