Designers' Must-Read Advice For Making It in the Industry

Sep 7, 2017

Designers' Must-Read Advice For Making It in the Industry

What does it take to make it in fashion in 2017? A perfect storm of talent, vision, determination and well, a little bit of luck. X factor. Je ne sais quoi. 

While each of this year’s CFDA {Fashion Incubator} brands have all of the above in spades, there’s no denying their success happened overnight—or alone. Here at INTERMIX, we love to discover new and emerging talent, and keeping that in mind, we asked each the {Fashion Incubator} Class of 2018 to share their best pieces of advice for aspiring designers. Here’s what they had to say:

Believe in your message

Maintaining a strong brand identity is key for establishing oneself in any industry; however, fashion has the added elements of emotion and perception that play into a customer's decision to swipe a credit card. “Stand your ground on what your ethos is for your collection,” says Katie Deguzman of K/ller Collection. “Feel really strongly about it and stand behind it.” Echoing that sentiment is Alix’s Alexandra Alvarez: “It’s definitely not easy, but it’s really important to stay true to what you’re doing and stay focused.”

And to that point, if you’re genuinely inspired by your work, it'll show in the final product—and also make your job much more fun. “Do something you believe in and something that you’re passionate about,” advises Haerfest’s Tim Joo.

Do your homework

Don’t let the runway shows and fancy invite-only parties fool you; at the end of the day, fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, a machine in the business of beautiful clothes. “Make sure you learn as much as you can, because [fashion] definitely is still a business,” says Brother Vellies’ Aurora James. “We need to make sure that we’re also understanding the business side so we can build a strong company that supports the designs.” 

Attitude is everything

When you’re working around the clock, having a positive mindset and being able to work with a team is just as necessary as needle and thread. “Attitude is really important because you can always learn design skills, but [a poor] attitude is one of those things where it’s not necessarily easy to work with,” says Dan Joo of Haerfest.

Know your muse

While adjectives are great to keep in mind during the design process, try and identify a specific muse or quintessential client who really inspires the look and feel of the brand; This was essential for the husband and wife duo behind Haus Alkire: “Know your consumer early on rather than later,” says Julie Alkire. “In the past, you could experiment with product and see how it does in stores, but [now] you really need to have that vision for yourself so that when you get to the store, it’s already successful.”

Identify a void—and fill it

Fashion is inherently competitive and subjective, but just like any other brand, it’s important to approach a launch as serving a need that has yet to be met. “Design around a need in the market as opposed to something you just want to put out in the world,” recommends Julie Alkire, whose demi-eponymous label emerged as an option for clients to get custom pieces made at a ready-to-wear price point.

Standing out from the pack is also a must—you don’t need us to tell you how oversaturated the market is in 2017, right? Keeping that in mind, womenswear designer Ji Oh advises young talent to “make yourself different from others and always be true to yourself.”

Never give up

It’s an adage for a reason. None of the designers in this program would be where they were if they gave into insecurities and people who said they’d never ‘make it’. “If you really have the passion and the fire, then you have to just put everything into it,” says Yestadt Millinery’s Molly Yestadt, whose designs have graced the runways of some of the biggest international fashion labels. “Just put your heart into it and keep going.”

And finally, don’t settle. (This goes for anything, really, but is especially true in the stiletto-cutthroat world of fashion.) “If you have a vision of where you want to go, don’t water it down,” says K/ller Collection’s Katie Deguzman. “Go for what your goal is.”

Shop the Story