A Cross Border Adventure for a Career in Fashion
By Cheryl Stein
Monster Personal Coach
For those of you who think that a career in fashion isn’t possible, Jessica Banon will prove you wrong. Most people would say that given the current state of the retail market, being a buyer, a merchandiser, or anything to do with the fashion industry would be a dead end. While there is no question that these days budgets are a little tighter, a career in fashion is not only possible, but can also be incredibly rewarding.
Now a buyer for a major Canadian fashion retailer, Jessica always knew that she loved fashion but thought that she would be a designer or go into fashion marketing. While her career story is far from over, her success in the fashion business is a testament to following your dreams, and finding work where you find your passion.
How to Start a Career in Fashion
Banon emigrated from Spain to go to fashion school in New York. She got her career start through an exciting, but non-paying summer internship working for Elie Tahari, a clothing company that makes high- end women’s fashions. “After that, I knew that fashion was the career for me. It was fun and exciting and I loved the work,” said Banon. With a year left in fashion school, Jessica wasn’t ready to parlay the summer gig into a full time position and unfortunately, when she was done her education, Tahari wasn’t hiring.
So after graduation, she pounded the pavement, sending out resumes and ended up getting a job at one of the largest accessory companies in the U.S. She absolutely loved her job and stayed with that company for a few years. She learned a great deal about the mass market and was looking forward to a lengthy career path working in the exciting fashion world of New York. As fate would have it, however, she met her husband –to- be on a trip to Florida. “ I was not looking for love, and I was not looking to move,” said Banon. With a little persuasion, she gave up her much loved position in New York City and moved to Montreal.
Starting Over in the Canadian Fashion Market
Banon’s move to Montreal made her climb up the fashion ladder all over again. “I got hired by an accessory company and got to do design, production and sales. I worked there for a year but wanted to get some experience in the High End market.” It was then that Banon made the leap to Michael Kors, working in brand management. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” says Banon, “because parts of Canada are much more fashion oriented than the United States. What works there doesn’t necessarily work here.” Jessica got tons of experience learning about the Canadian market and was approached to take on her latest position, buying shoes and handbags for a major Canadian retailer, who happens to have an international presence.
Living the Fashionista Career Dream
While today Banon is very happy with the position that she is in, her move from Europe to the United States and then to Canada made finding the right job difficult. With every move, she had to create a network of contacts and had to have the patience to wait for the right jobs to open up. Now she is living her dream and waking up each morning looking forward to each day. “It isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.”
A Fashionista’s Top Three Tips to Make it In the World of Fashion
Tip #1 Develop a Thick Skin
Not allowing criticism for your ideas to make you feel badly about yourself, or to make you want to quit is essential. Being tough and not taking comments personally is one of the most important skills to develop. “To make it in this business you have to have a really thick skin,” says Banon. In fact, she says that in the fashion industry, it can be very cutthroat with people trying to stab you in the back to get ahead. Be aware of the politics, pay attention and others won’t sidetrack you.
Tip #2 Hang in There
It may take a while to get where you want to go, but if you persevere, and keep getting experience, you can land that dream job. That may seem obvious but most people are impatient and don’t want to pay their dues. To really get to the point where you are in your dream job in the fashion industry, you may have to work at jobs that are at a lower level than you would like but may give you a broader range of experience that you can use to sell yourself.
Tip #3 Speak Up!
Banon says that one of the secrets to success in the fashion industry is speaking up and saying what you think. “Don’t be afraid to say what is on your mind, even if it may be a different perspective. That comment or idea can make a huge difference for the company and will show that you have what it takes to be taken seriously.” Like in any other industry, showing that you have your own ideas and are willing to share them, can help you gain the respect of the people around you.