What Designers Learnt From J.Crew

With J.Crew recent news with regard to their floundering sales figure, the company is still maintaining the highly lucrative collaboration with CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund.

The U.S retailer recently held a panel discussion with Fashion Fund alumni Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, Tabitha Simmons, and Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, along with this year’s Fashion Fund winner Paul Andrew to discuss some insights on what they have learnt during their collaborative years with J.Crew.

Here are some nuggets from the panel interview.

On giving advice to future fashion students:

Prabal Gurung: When you get into fashion, when you’re not yet working in fashion, you have this idea about what the fashion world is: that it’s very glamorous, it’s the red carpet, it’s very editorial. But really, what you don’t understand until you get into it, is what goes on the rest of the time, which is just hard work. Besides passion and dedication, it’s the grit. How long are you willing to be in it to become successful?

Tabitha Simmons: And to be yourself, follow your instincts, don’t try and emulate someone else. That’s a key thing I always kind of remember. I remember styling Dolce and Gabbana and Stefano [Gabbana] said to me: “Be yourself, don’t be afraid of repeating something. It can be very ‘what’s next, what’s next, what’s new, what’s new’ in fashion, but I think when you have your own line you kind of keep going with the same thing to establish yourself… you just keep going with the same thing so you get recognized by that.

Joseph Altuzarra: I agree. It’s very easy when you’re younger and starting out to look at other brands and to sort of be pulled away from what you want to be doing. Retailers say, “This other brand is doing well,” so it’s easy to get pulled out of what your core identity is. It was also incredible to realize that it’s so easy to say, “Oh, I did a slit skirt last season so I’m not going to do a slit skirt this season.” But the more you repeat it, and the more you do it, the more people will associate your brand with that thing which is how you build a brand and your voice and that’s what people will end up coming to you for, over anyone else.

On entering the most prestigious fashion design competition, The Fashion Fund:

Prabal Gurung: My advice would be to wait. There’s no need to be in a rush for it. Sometimes you get rejected and you apply again, just to be sure of yourself. But when I went to apply for it, I had this tiny East Village studio, so on the wall I printed pictures of the judges and stuck them on the wall so every morning when I woke up I’d get familiar with what they looked like because it’s nerve wracking going in there. So I wanted to be familiar with their faces. It’s such a nerve wracking thing, don’t you think? Once I got out of there I was sweating.

Dao-Yi Chow: We did the same thing with the judges and we rehearsed so much in front of our staff, so we were upset when we went into our first meeting that they weren’t sitting where we had them pictured. So it threw us for a loop! [Laughs].

Maxwell Osborne: If you get into the Vogue Fashion Fund you have to be in it to win it, you can’t half-ass it in any way. You just have to buckle down and do it.

Tabitha Simmons: I think you also have to know your business inside out as well. That’s something else. Not just the design side but also the business side. They ask you very hard questions about the business aspects of your business.

 Read more here on Elle.com. 

We think Prabal Gurung gives a very sound advice on the new up and coming designers. You can’t enter the world of fashion with the idea in your mind that it’s going to be va-va-voom glamourous. Some part of it is, but that’s a very small portion of your entire work experience and it definitely will take you time to find success. Remember, It takes Marc Jacobs 12 years before he got his big break. 

The industry is known to be ruthless and it keeps churning out countless of new designers every year. You need to find your forte or niche quickly and you will need to develop thick skin almost immediately and be comfortable with failure – which we think is much more important than success.