Before They Were Brands – How Some Top Fashion Design Labels Got Their Start

They’re the must-have fashion design labels, the status brands that we just have to wear. But some labels and designers have become such a part of our fashion culture that it’s easy to forget that they weren’t always successful brands. At one point, the founders were fashion school students, stock boys or sales clerks. In fact, learning about how the designers got their start makes one admire them even more. Here, then, are some top fashion labels and the story of their humble beginnings.

Marc Jacobs. One of today’s top design celebrities, Marc Jacobs’ first job in fashion was as a stock boy at Charavari, an avant-garde clothing boutique in Manhattan. After graduating from high school, he went to fashion college, where he launched a line of hand-knit sweaters. His first job out of fashion school was at Perry Ellis, but he designed a grunge collection there that led to his dismissal. In 1986, with the help of financial backers, he designed his first collection bearing the Marc Jacobs label.

Kenneth Cole. Not many people realize that the full name of Kenneth Cole’s brand is “Kenneth Cole Productions.” Why is that? In 1982, the designer wanted to show his first line of shoes at Market Week at the New York Hilton, but couldn’t afford a hotel room or exhibit space. So instead, he parked a trailer two blocks from the hotel to sell his shoes. The only catch was that only production companies were granted permits to park trailers on the street. Not letting that stop him, he turned his shoe company into a film production company, shooting a documentary about his business and selling 40,000 pairs of shoes in the process.

Juicy Couture. The label that popularized the velour track suit was founded by fashion school grad Pamela Skaist-Levy and and Gela Nash-Taylor, wife of Duran Duran’s John Taylor. Believe it or not, their first product was maternity pants. After changing the brand’s focus to active wear, the brand continued to struggle until they sent a free track suit to Madonna with “Madge” emblazoned on it. The superstar was photographed wearing it in public, and Juicy Couture was on the map.

Vera Wang. She may be known for her elegant wedding gowns and costumes for figure skaters like Michelle Kwan, but Vera Wang actually started out as a figure skater as well. She competed at the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and was one of “Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd” that year. She failed to make the U.S. Olympic team and began a career in fashion journalism. She was a senior fashion editor for “Vogue” for 16 years, but left when she was turned down for the top job that Anna Wintour secured. She then became a design director at Ralph Lauren before striking out on her own.

Anna Sui. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Anna Sui loved fashion as a little girl, clipping out fashion magazine pages for her scrapbook. After attending fashion college, she worked for various junior sportswear companies by day, and designing her own clothing by night, eventually launching her own label out of her tiny New York apartment.

Ralph Lauren. Born Ralph Lifshitz, the designer’s first foray into fashion was selling neckties to his fellow classmates at his Talmudical academy. After serving in the U.S. Army, he worked for Brooks Brothers as a sales clerk. In 1967, he became an entrepreneur and opened a necktie store where he sold various labels, including his own, which he called “Polo.” He soon introduced men’s and women’s suits to his line, and eventually gained international recognition when he designed the clothes for the Robert Redford movie, “The Great Gatsby.”

These brands may have started out small, but they became fashion giants. And that’s inspiration indeed for anyone wanting to break into fashion design.

The Influence of Australian Celebrities on Australian Fashion

Australian celebrities play a big part in the psyche of the Australian public; in fact they could almost be considered part of an Australian’s daily life. Our favourite celebrities are in our sub-conscious everyday – they are on our televisions, we hear their voices on the radio, and see them almost everywhere in print ads such as billboards, newspapers, and magazines. It’s no surprise really that celebrities have an influence on our lives and shape our ideas on things. One area that celebrities are particularly influential in is the latest fashion trends.

Designers prefer to have celebrity endorsers for their clothing lines, particularly as celebrities raise the profile and appeal to celebrity hungry Australian consumers. Having celebrities such as Nicole Kidman (who recently endorsed Chanel No. 5) and Ian Thorpe has been advantageous for fashion labels. The popularity of these celebrities assures that fashion designers and fashion labels get the desired attention from the target market. We all love to wear the latest styles, so when we see the likes of Naomi Watts with a hot handbag, then the rest of us are rushing out to get it! When fashion items such as clothing, shoes and accessories are seen on famous celebrities then the desire for the rest of us to replicate their look has an incredible power on the rest of us. Wearing the latest styles that we see on our favourite celebrity gives us a stronger connection to the stars we admire. Celebrities have special something that makes people want to follow their lead; this in turn makes them powerful trend drivers.

Celebrities are trendsetters, so expect to see them making the headlines when they are out in public with a new style (think Kylie after any of her many changes). Australian fashion critiques judge these styles and we see reviews, feedback and comments across many media forums. Celebrity styles that receive good reviews and get the thumbs up are often quickly picked up and become a trend with the wider public. Think how often we will see an image of Cate Blanchett or Miranda Kerr with a ‘How To Create The Look’ caption and article. Magazines regularly feature such articles to help stylish readers achieve their favourite Australian celebrity’s look, or re-create an outfit similar to one worn by a celebrity for a special occasion or event.

We can even get clothing and other items that famous celebrities have launched. It is possible now to purchase clothing, shoes, accessories, bags, lingerie, and even perfume and toiletries. Stylish consumers can buy lingerie from Elle Macpherson and Kylie Minogue, as well as the Kylie perfume. Just by carrying a celebrity’s name products get a significant level of support from consumers. Fashion editors and trend watchers are always on the lookout for the new styles and trends, eagerly awaiting the next thing that these celebrities will introduce to the fashion world especially those celebrities who have consistently made it on the list of the Australia’s Best Dressed Celebrities.

The glamour of award nights and the red carpet inspire a great deal of public attention and this influences fashion lovers. There are often reviews and commentary for the biggest award nights and there are television shows and even channels that focus on celebrity and fashion. These shows can be a great place for designers to get their brands in the public eye – with fashion lovers tuning in to watch the fashion at events such as the Brownlow’s or the ARIA’s to see what their favourite celebrities are wearing.

There is little doubt that Australian celebrities get to wear some amazing designer fashion. With local shows such as ‘Make Me A Supermodel’ and Australia’s ‘Project Runway’ captivating a whole new audience and expanding their understanding of fashion, the influence of celebrities is sure to continue and grow in the future.

The Secret To Getting Fashion Internships!

It is really important to gain experience by interning to help you break into the fashion industry! Paid internships programs, can be competitive and tend to have early recruitment periods during winter to early spring semester. Another alternative is to arrange for a non-paid internship (where you earn college credit).

As with everything in life, getting a fashion internship all about the preparation! Proper preparation, along with your other assets, with set you apart from your competition and will help make hiring you a no-brainer!

If you don’t have any industry contacts, don’t get down in the dumps! It could just be a sign that you need to get out and do some major networking! You can start with college career counselors, professors, and other students while also exploring industry events (fashion shows, open houses, trunk shows, etc.) where you can meet lots of new fashion contacts.

You can also approach creative agencies, designers, stylists, fashion editors, or fashion producers to say you want to learn their craft and are interested in interning. Many of these people will be happy to have someone come in and help lighten their load. Although you may not earn a stipend, you will definitely gain experience and exposure to the industry.

All of these people could possibly have valuable information that can lead to you getting an internship. To find the right fashion internship, make sure you openly discuss your job search with the people you know and ask them to check in with the people they know. Doing so could really help you out big time!

Here are 2 resources that you can use to search for fashion internships:

Free Fashion Internships: Lists fashion internships across the country.
Check out http://www.freefashioninternships.com

Style Careers: This is the largest fashion-only job search website.
Visit: http://www.stylecareers.com

Once you have scored an internship, make sure you build bridges with managers and co-workers while you are working there so you can keep in touch once your job has ended to keep the lines of communication open.