How These Australian Fashion Trailblazers Got Their Start

When you’re at school and deciding what to do after year 12, it isn’t obvious that there are so many different career options in the fashion industry. For that reason, careers in fashion can sometimes seem legendary. When I left high school, all I knew is that I wanted to work "in fashion", but I didn’t realise there were so many areas where I could pursue my career. Fast-forward through one media degree, multiple internships and a stint in magazines, you’ll find me here—at Who What Wear Australia as fashion editor. What I’ve learnt along the way, is that the industry is full of incredible people and roles.

I sat down with three fashion girls, to find out what they do and how they got there. Keep scrolling to read their inspiring stories.

Photo:

Sadaf Razi

"I’ve been a fashion stylist for just over eight years. I always knew I wanted to work in fashion, so in the final year of my media degree I interned at as many fashion magazines as I could.

Luck was on my side when I became a permanent intern at Dolly magazine and from there I met fashion editor at the time—Nadene Duncan. I assisted stylists for a long time and built great relationships. In turn, I was recommended for the position of junior stylist at Famous magazine.

After Famous, I moved to Girlfriend magazine and now for the last year and a half, I’ve been based in New York, working as a freelance stylist. There’s no typical day when you’re working across many projects and freelancing—between frantically pulling clothes from showrooms, fittings, styling a celebrity or fashion shoot or answering emails all day.

I have peers and friends in the industry who I admire and motivate me to be the best version of myself. One of those people is Eleanor Pendleton of Gritty Pretty—she encourages me to push myself, and in such a competitive industry it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you.

My advice for an aspiring stylist? Be diligent. There’ll be times when you have to do something you don’t want to do, but if you do it with respect, kindness and to the best of your ability, it won’t go unnoticed. And obviously, never give up. If being a stylist is what you want to do—you can and will do it."

 

"I’ve always followed fashion magazines, trends and blogs but straight out of high school I got a job with Heidi Middleton and Sarah-Jane Clarke, who founded Sass and Bide. I learnt so much about merchandising and running a boutique. From there, I got a job at a Bondi boutique, where I assisted with buying, and then selling with a wholesale agency. I gained incredible insight by being on both sides of retail and wholesale.

My store, Désordre grew organically from a travelling boutique (we found small locations with short term leases) to its first permanent space in Darlinghurst, Sydney. So how did it all get set up? Other than initial business modelling, registrations, and courage, it came down to time and contacts. When you open a boutique, you need to buy from collections approximately six months ahead of delivery so you have to be super intuitive to what your customer wants before they even want it. My mission was to bring customers a more adventurous offering and items that were exclusive.

My existing business relationships helped—when people know you, they trust you. I couldn’t just open a fashion boutique with the best brands in market, I had to prove my boutique is of a calibre that suits their brand reputation, too. Lastly, you needed to build capital, customer base and find that unique selling point.

My advice to aspiring boutique owners is to find your point of difference, the more successful boutiques—the better for everyone!"

Photo:

Street Smith

"I’ve been a buyer for almost 11 years—the last four at Sportsgirl. How did I land where I am today?

I finished up a commerce degree and went straight into an office job. It didn't feel right (especially wearing a suit every day!), so I quit and started working on a shop floor as a casual sales assistant. After working my way up doing several stints across local and international labels I landed a role at Ralph Lauren in visual merchandising and was introduced to the world of buying.

I worked closely with the buying teams at Ralph Lauren and that was it for me. I was extremely persistent and applied for entry level roles but got knocked back every time. After what felt like my 30th rejection letter, I got a call from K-Mart saying that was accidentally sent an automated rejection email. I got the role and the rest is history!

Sportsgirl is very fast paced and there is always something happening. When I'm not on international buying trips (hello NYC!), I usually spend the mornings on emails and then I'm off to meetings. I sign-off ranges, present product, design, or meet with suppliers.

It is important to keep developing and improving as a manager so I’ve always had a mentor. I wouldn't be where I am today without Colleen Callander (Sportsgirl CEO)—she is amazing. Her drive and passion inspires me every day.

If you want to be a fashion buyer, you have to work hard, be passionate and have a can-do attitude! Buying is a rewarding career. On a more practical note, any retail experience is helpful—working on the shop floor is the best place to start! The digital fashion world is so integral to my role, so have an up-to-date portfolio or fashion blog to show your eye for detail."

What other careers in fashion would you like to hear about? Let us know in the comments below!