On Friday 4 September 2015, the TFIA facilitated two panel discussions as part of the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. With a total of ten wonderful panelists across the two sessions. The discussions were broad and in depth, offering insights on how to get ahead in such a dynamic and competitive industry.
TFIA's CEO, Kiri Delly, facilitated both sessions and first thing in the morning she was joined by the following panelists;
The discussion ensued and content ranged from gems of advice to personal experiences and anecdotes. Both sessions articulated the complex nature of this industry with participants having experienced equal opportunities, as they had knock-backs throughout their careers.
Building broad experiences and saying yes to as many opportunities as you can, particularly in the early days, proved invaluable; particularly while you scope the industry and identify all of the potential areas you might like to focus your career, and perhaps those you'd like to steer clear of!
La Marque de Mode's Chauntel Scarr advised to, "Get broad experience. Educate yourself to the different roles and sectors you want to be involved in. Think long term. Do it because you love it and the people around you everyday. Persevere. "
Jen Layton from The Ark agreed, while allowing for an element of intuition, "Feel your way. Be open. Don't box yourself in too early. Just start the journey."
Next State Print's Chole Kerr wisely added, "Leave the ego at the door. The loudest voice doesn't always get you where you want to be. Listen to people around you, be open."
In terms of the necessity of formal education, the jury was split. Without formal education, Adrienne Famlonga of Jeanswest took the journey from Retail Store Manager to Product Developer and now Product Manager Denim (with a few hurdles and rocks along the way!); proving that there is no one way to reach goals in this industry! On the contrary, Toni Stalls of Integral-T recognised the added challenges that exist for individuals who have not engaged in formal education. Nigel Eru, walked the line identifying that, "Education doesn't only refer to formal education. You need to acquire a mindset around perseverance and resilience, as well as an ability to collaborate. Formal education is a foot in the door, but it doesn't stop there."
Another topic that was raised multiple times throughout the two sessions was the value in making authentic connections with the people around you in the industry, the importance of nurturing those relationships and basically maintaining a touch of humility along the way. Chole Kerr from Next State Print drove home the point that, "In Australia we are a small industry and you can very quickly get a reputation. Good or bad." and The Ark's Jen Layton added that you should, "Use your connections. They are your resources." as well as noting that when it comes to hiring new staff members at The Ark, "we need to connect with [a potential candidate] as a person."
Supporting this, Sarah Conners reminded us that there is no reason to wait when it comes to building an industry presence and these professional connections, "Start acting like a professional the moment you become a student. Shoot, blog, tweet - get yourself out there so the moment you graduate you already have a solid body of work behind you that shows your growth over time."
There was four hours of gritty discussion in total and clearly far too much to include in a little blog post, so that just about wraps it up as an overview! A big thank you to our wonderful panelists, to all who attended, and to MSFW and Creative Victoria. We hope the discussions were as enjoyable as they were valuable for those of you considering pursuing a career in this exciting industry we all call home!