The future has always been unknown, and considering how fast things happen today, it certainly still is. I have often been asked by young students on how to prepare for a future in fashion, if studying fashion was a good choice, and what city is the best for a fashion degree.
Of course, I don’t hold the answer to any of these questions, but after 15 years in the industry, I start to have an idea about, what could potentially work. If studying Fashion is a strong choice? Well, I can only say that it may not be as good a guarantee as studying law, finance, IT or odontology, but I still believe that the strongest choice will always be studying, what you love. Always. If you do something, you don’t feel totally and utterly passionate about, you will always and only be mediocre at it – no matter how hard you work. And considering that you will perhaps have to do this for many, many years, doing something you love is a really good investment, if you ask me – both in terms of life quality and remuneration, as you’re more likely to get a good salary, when you throw your heart 100% into something.
When it comes to choosing what city to study in – if you’re is so lucky to have the opportunity to go abroad – I would recommend a multinational city with a great university. Being in a place with many different nationalities will broaden the view, just as going to a new place will. I have previously spoken about travelling, as a major source of inspiration and life lessons (read more about that here), and needless to say, studying abroad is the extended version of this. I have also previously spoken about the importance of getting an excellent education (read more about that here), so I think, you start understanding just how important, I think these issues are.
Then we’re left with the very generic, yet important matter of how best to prepare for an uncertain future. A million things are important, but the following 6 are, what I would advise any young person asking me – actually also regardless of profession.
- Hard work. Always. You need to be better than your competitors. As simple as that.
- Travelling – as also mentioned above. If you have limited opportunity, the Internet offers a lot of insight into the world around you, and is a fantastic source of inspiration and knowledge.
- Networking. It’s never too early to start, and going out meeting people can have a life-changing impact on your career. Network with everybody in your field, and consider it an indispensable part of your career plan. Also; meeting new people is fun J
- Languages. The more you know, the better. English is of course a must, but I would recommend one or two more. Perhaps one European language such as French or Italian (fashion countries and could be relevant also for high-end production) or Spanish or Portuguese (spoken in various countries around the world), and then either Mandarin, Russian or Arab. It’s very hard to say, which would give you the best career opportunities, so here I would simply recommend the one that inspires you the most.
- Being a Generalist. This means being able to do a little bit of a lot of things, rather than being a Specialist, and able to do few things to perfection. I believe being a Generalist is a wise choice for the beginning of one’s career, as more doors will be open after graduating. Later, I would then recommend specialising in one field, as later in your career, your competitors will have many years of experience in doing something specific, and you don’t want them to be more experienced than you.
- Being prepared for anything. It was the following article that inspired me to write this post, because I think, there was a really good point: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/wanted-college-graduates-tolerance-ambiguity-jeff-selingo. When I was 20 years old, and had my first internship with Burberry in London, I remember Christopher Bailey passing me a bikini, and asking me to draw the pattern. It was a simple triangle bikini, but I recall not being able to figure out, how to do it, for the simple reason that I had never traced the pattern from an actual bikini before. The fact of being placed in front of something new, made me unable to think, instead of just using common sense, and trying to figure out a solution. Later, when I was 26 years old, I had my own menswear brand, and this was the time, when I once and for all learnt just to figure things out no matter, what was in front of me. It’s a valuable skill to have, and it makes you confident and immune to stress. There are of course times, where it’s good asking your manager how to do things, but at the same time being able to think for yourself and come up with solutions is very valuable. Employers want somebody who can help – not somebody who needs help with everything.
On another notion, I would like to round of this piece with a recommendation for the creative subjects. Being able to think creatively, which is what you learn while for instance studying Fashion Design, means being able to imagine some new project (solution to a brief), which doesn’t exist yet, as you need to model everything from zero. It’s mentally a different way of using your brain compared to more linear and analytical ways of thinking, and I believe that in the future, Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity and the all-together Entrepreneurial way of resolving problems on-the-go and inventing new solution, will be ever more important and required for also big companies to survive. These skills are important in how to prepare for a future in fashion but also very useful in other areas.