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Behind the Scenes of the Fashion Industry

August 25, 2010

Beautiful people, trendy outfits, and timeless sophistication make up the face of the fashion industry, but behind the scenes countless people work hard to maintain this glitzy and fabulous illusion.
For the fashionistas at Dolce Vita a massive amounts of cross-functional collaboration is behind the trendy clothes, shoes, and retail stores. The company has design, production, sales, and retail teams that join forces to make this up-and-coming fashion star a success.

“The design team creates the Dolce Vita shoes and clothing,” says Ashlyn Stern, who works in Web management and public relations at Dolce Vita. “The production team ensures that the designs are properly executed and delivered to our customers. The sales team is responsible for presenting the products to our customers. The retail team is responsible for running five stores and our Website. This team also includes a department responsible for managing the Website, maintaining our social media presence, and overall branding of all the lines.”

The Dolce Vita staff understands that not all work in the fashion industry is glamorous.

“The funny thing about behind-the-scenes fashion jobs is the numerous tasks that you are responsible for changes on a day-to-day basis,” says Stern. “If you are responsible for PR, you will be asked to fill sample requests, assist with distribution of marketing materials, coordinate stylist pulls, and even clean the showroom for appointments. If you run the Website, you will be asked to adjust pricing, retouch photography, create branded materials for distribution, and update the blog. Everyone in the company ends up moving boxes, cleaning, and just generally doing whatever it takes to keep things moving. Teamwork is key to accomplishing anything in this industry. “

The designers at contemporary label Tulle follow the same collaborative approach when creating their fashionable looks.

Tulle’s design team consists of three designers, Janet Schultz, Beatrice Cuevas, and Anni Li. They work together on all of Tulle’s designs, and when it comes to finding the fabrics for Tulle clothing, each member of the team works to find new ideas.

“We each go sourcing for fabric throughout Los Angeles and come together to discuss what we've found and what we need for a certain season,” says the Tulle design team.

The team uses many different resources to gain inspiration for their designs

“We use trend forecasting sites, magazines, music culture, vintage shopping, and take inspiration from urban culture we see on the streets everyday,” the design team continues.

Designers looking for an assortment of projects and greater flexibility also have the option to freelance.

Freelance pattern maker and design consultant Xochil Herrera enjoys the problem-solving aspect of her job. Herrera, an Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago graduate, managed a clothing boutique and worked as the in-house designer after she graduated with a Fashion Design degree in 2006.

“I did tailoring, including a lot of vintage garment re-styling, and designed and sewed handbags,” says Herrera. “It was a very valuable experience, and I got to see the inside of many different garments, which I think has influenced how I think about patterns and clothing construction.”

With this experience she decided to start her own freelance company.

“As a freelancer, most opportunities are with smaller companies,” Herrera says. “A lot of larger companies are able to have a full-time pattern maker on staff, whereas smaller companies do more outsourcing.”

“It’s interesting to see new ideas for products or apparel lines, often from designers who come from a completely different occupational or educational background,” Herrera continues.

After a designer has put the finishing touches on their collection, the next step is to present it to potential buyers. This meeting of the creative and business parts of the process takes place in the showroom.

Joey Giuntoli, founder and managing director of Joey Showroom says that any number of different things go on in his business on a daily basis.

Giuntoli says that his team is responsible for tasks, such as making calls and emails to their buyers on a daily basis, making sure the showroom is appointment ready, working showroom appointments, business road appointments, and a lot of sample coordination with vendors and buyers.

The Joey Showroom staff is made up of many different positions, including sales managers, sales staff, sales assistants and interns.

Giuntoli says that Joey Showroom typically receives at least 10 emails a day from designers wanting to be a part of their showroom. He personally reviews each designer’s submission and asks his team for their feedback.

“From there, we request samples, screen them, and meet with the designers to come to a concrete decision,” says Giuntoli.

Many designers also like to show their collections in a more dramatic, elaborate manner. Fashion runway shows allow them to turn their work into art and really make a statement.

IMG fashion public relations manager Alison Levy produces the glamorous and exclusive weeklong fashion show Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Levy says that planning for Fashion Week is a year-round process, and that between 65-80 designers show their collections at New York City’s semi-annual event.

Fashion Week has a very selective guest list. Journalists and buyers who want to attend the shows must register to be on IMG’s Press and Industry List.

The list is sent to the designers and used to help create the invitations and guest lists for their shows.

“Each show has a different guest list,” says Levy. “There are 65-80 PR teams and guest lists.”

Levy helps members of the press get registered. She also works with each designer’s public relations staff to make sure they have a successful show.

“It’s a lot of the same thing, but really different because you’re working with different people,” Levy says.

Receiving an invitation to show their collections at Fashion Week is a dream come true for many designers.

“Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week started 18 years ago and a lot of designers have been showing with us since it started,” Levy says.

A number of factors are involved when deciding to invite new designers to show their collections. These include, but are not limited to, recommendations from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, reviewing the designers’ lookbooks [catalogues], seeing where they sell their products, and if they use showrooms.

Levy says that her job is fast paced and requires a lot of hard work.

“PR professionals tend to enjoy that kind of environment,” says Levy.

Regardless of the type or level of the position, the best way to be successful in the fashion industry is to network.

Giuntoli says that people are always changing positions, so it’s best to get to know everyone.

“You meet a lot of interesting people with impressive career backgrounds, and you can always learn something new from each person,” Giuntoli says.

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