Fashionista's How to Make it in Fashion 2014

I attended Fashionista's How to Make it in Fashion this past Friday.  The event took place at the Line Hotel in Los Angeles.  The event featured panels of fashion insiders such as designers, stylists, CEOs, costume designers, and more. 

This panel was based on fashion startups.  It featured Yael Afalo, the founder and CEO of Reformation, an LA-based fashion brand, Patrick Coyn, the co-founder of The Black Tux, a tuxedo rental company,  Katrina Lake, the CEO and founder of Stitch Fix, a website that helps women revamp their style, and Alexandra Spunt, the head of creative at Everlane, a high-end fashion brand.  In regards to why Afalo started her company Reformation, she stated, "There was a need for a sustainable fashion brand for the consumer."  Lake talked about her method of subtly reducing prices instead of redlining products on her site.  She told us, "We don't want to train clients for markdowns."  Spunt mentioned how Everlane's products frequently sell out.  She said that it usually makes consumers want the products more and that "selling out online isn't a bad thing."  In regards to using data gathered on the web and elsewhere, Coyn said, "We use data to drive most of our decisions."

Lubov Azria, the Chief Creative Officer of BCBGMAXAZRIA, grew up in Ukraine and was trained as a ballerina from a young age.  She mentioned that she would spend a lot of time looking at the ballet costumes and that is probably what made her interested in fashion.  She moved to Texas with her family and then eventually to Los Angles by the time she was a senior in high school.  She recalled a story that changed her life.  She started by telling us how one day in 1986 she was walking down Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.  She stopped in front of a window of Neiman Marcus and admired the most beautiful dress she had even seen.  She then walked inside and asked to try it on.  As she was in the dressing room, she felt so amazing wearing the dress.  She then saw the $3,000 price tag.  At that moment, she made a promise to herself that she would never make a woman feel like she wasn't good enough by making expensive clothing.  Later in the interview, she was asked what made her keep going with her fashion dreams.  "When you give up on your dream, you die," she simply stated.  She also talked about how someone can impress her in an interview by asking questions and doing your homework beforehand.  She also told us that she had plans to make BCBG a true lifestyle brand in the future.

This panel consisted of costume designers such as Soyon An, who has worked on So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol, Mandi Line, who currently works on Pretty Little Liars,  Jil Ohanneson, who does the costumes for Revenge, and Salvador Perez, who is the president of the Costume Designers Guild and also the costume designer for The Mindy Project.  Line got her start in the costume design industry by interning on a movie set and dressing rock bands.  Soyon worked as an assistant stylist, but she missed designing.  She then decided to go into costume design.  Ohanneson got her start by working on films.  Perez mentioned that he often makes 30% of what Mindy wears on The Mindy Project.  All four costume designers agreed that knowing how to sew is a very important skill if you want this job.

George Kotsiopoulos, co-host of E!'s Fashion Police and Who Wore It Better?, spoke during our lunch break.  Kotsiopoulos spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of washable fabrics, since the conference was sponsored by Tide.  He also talked about his past job working at The New York Times in the style department.

This was the stylist panel.  It included Nicole Chavez, Micaela Erlanger, Sally Lyndley, and Tara Swennen.  Erlanger said that as a stylist, you have to be flexible.  Lyndley mentioned that customer service is also an important skill.  Erlanger said that being a stylist is "full time.  It's 24/7."  The stylists all agreed that finding a balance between work and home is key.

Scott Sternberg, the designer of Band of Outsiders, was interviewed.  Sternberg said that he started the brand by just creating men's shirts and ties.  His first major retailer was Barney's.  He talked about his experience with the CFDA Fashion Fund and that Anna Wintour taught him about focus and differentiating his brand from the others.  Sternberg has always thought that fashion is "comically serious."  This is why he decided to make his brand "light and funny."  He also told us a good piece of wisdom:  "I've made a lot of mistakes, but its about learning from them"