10 insights and tips this year’s fashion graduates should remember
As Graduate Fashion Week comes to a close celebrating its 25th anniversary, newly appointed brand ambassador Mandi Lennard, head of creative consultancy Mandi’s Basement, shares some advice and tips for those about to enter the industry.
Kim Jones Menswear 2001
I remember going to a Central Saint Martins show in around 2001 to support Kim Jones, a client who was about to graduate. I was stood at the back and could hardly see anything but I noticed a handout on someone's seat and snuck it. The introduction referenced all the designers I was representing at the time. It wasn't until Nicola Formichetti brought a young Gareth Pugh to my Hoxton Square office a few years later, that I truly got it - for every designer you decide to support there are hundreds who are left to fend for themselves, and in addition to the emotional support, practical advice is crucial. So here's what I hope are some valuable tips to those who are about to spice up our creative future.
Get Yourself Out There
Now is not the time to be a recluse. Get visible on Instagram, crash parties, get yourself on the mailing list for private views at galleries such as White Cube and Sadie Coles, get a part-time job in a bar you know everyone goes to… You're going to meet some great people and you have to be prepared for how you are going to present them with a snapshot of your work without sounding as though you just prepared a script -- less is more, but you need to condense who you are into the scenario of an organic chat at a party. Tip: I'm the pro yet I can't remember who my clients are when I'm introduced to someone -- you've got to be better than that!
Remember Your Self Worth
Celebrate who you are and how great it must be to meet you, be ready to introduce yourself to the characters who are going to form your future, and identify any guiding angels put there to lead you to your next chapter. Appreciate those who are showing you support now, as they will be your strongest future advocates. Don't force relationships, they will develop over time, and never take stuff personally. When the time is right, you will shift gears without realising it.
Now is the time to reach out, so if you want to meet someone who inspires you, collaborate with a brand or creative talent, you'd be surprised how easy it is to track down a contact. Always be open to collaboration, it's the best way to grow. Don't be defeatist and never give up. If someone isn't interested or hasn't responded, you just paid them a huge compliment by getting in touch, and when you do so again in the future, they may be more responsive.
Follow Your Vision
From the start, I had a clear idea of what I wanted my agency to be. I didn't want to be like anyone else. I wasn't worried about fitting in. I was paranoid about being regarded as ordinary. What's your thing? What's important to you? Create your own set of values. Keep a focus. What's the point in doing anything you never set out to do? If you can't afford cashmere, you're just going to have to be imaginative!
Prioritise The Dream
You haven't got long if you want to go out there and catch your dreams, so be brutal with your time management. The stylist assistants who always complained to me about how they want to be stylists, but there just isn't time to do their own shoots, are still assisting. The assistants who made time are now the editors. I spend more time being creative with my schedule than anything else and I love it. I'm ducking and diving all day long to achieve my dreams. Time is the most precious tool in your armoury!
Start At The Top
When I started my agency, I always started reaching out to the best fashion titles and worked my way down, I always made things difficult and challenging - it makes the rewards sweeter!
Identify your weaknesses, but never use them as an excuse. If you battle with the business side, then you need to get a structure in place that allows you to focus on your creativity. However, not taking an interest or keeping abreast of it, is detrimental, so get with the programme and face your responsibilities. A good start is to literally account for every penny from now!
Don't rely on anyone but yourself. If anyone criticises your work, make a point of ensuring they are up to speed with how you progress, they will always respect you for that, and it's more interesting to have someone grow to appreciate you, than the super fan that always told you how great you were. Warning: always thank those who support you; it's a big oversight with a lot of designers not to thank editors. I know several designers who have built invaluable relationships with editors who have written about them, from sending them little keepsakes they made with hand-written thank you notes.
Keep The Faith
Don't worry if you're best mate got a PR and you didn't. It's much better to get your hands dirty and learn how it all works from scratch, so when you do gain the support of a PR later, you are better equipped to work in tandem with them, rather than have zero input because you never understood what's going on - plus being self-reliant is a great feeling!
Always be gracious to anyone supporting you, nurture them, and don't hold it against them if they let you down. It's easy to hate an editor who said something bad about you, but you'd be surprised how supportive they can be, once you find your groove and they see you flourishing as a creative. The worst thing you can do in this industry is have a chip on your shoulder.
I've surpassed my dreams a thousand times. Only you can create your own destiny, so focus on the positives, and get your ass in gear and make it happen. Be wild.