You Don't Have to Be a Designer to Work in Fashion

Growing up, I was dead set on becoming a designer. Blame it on my Barbie Fashion Designer PC game, but I was so laser-focused on what I wanted that I sketched my prom dress when I was 10 (spoiler—it didn’t make the cut senior year). At the time, I thought there was no other way to break into the industry, especially once I graduated from college and had to start looking for jobs. It turned out I wasn’t great at designing, despite creating the chicest ensembles for my Barbies, but I did have an eye for fashion trends and writing about them. Then it hit me: I could be a fashion editor.

What I’m trying to say is that there are a dozen other jobs within the fashion industry that might not be as noticeable when you’re in school. Take everyone at Who What Wear, for example. Throughout my time here, I’ve met and become friends with some of the industry's brightest, including Michelle Plantan, our executive director of creative strategy. She heads up our social team, and she’s kind of la magnetic force around the office (also, her wardrobe is perfection—so many vintage pieces!). I wanted to chat about her career journey to give you all a glimpse into just one really cool job within the fashion industry. Keep reading to find out if this could be the career path for you…

ON HER CAREER PATH

What has your career journey been like? Can you tell us where you started and how you built up to this position?

I started my career essentially ghostwriting for different celebrities. I worked for a company that managed celebrities’ and brands’ websites and social media presences (though at the time it was only Twitter and Facebook). From there, I oversaw Michelle Phan’s website and acted as creative director for her YouTube MCN (multi-channel network), and did social and creative strategy for Warner Music Group’s original content channel, the Warner Sound. In 2013, Clique called, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve always loved creative strategy and content development, and that’s really been the through-line of my career thus far.

Did you always want to work in fashion?

I’ve always loved fashion (in junior high, I actually had a personal shopping business for my friends, AOL account and all), so working within this vertical came naturally to me. My career aspirations, though, always were (and are) to tell interesting stories for women that have the potential to shift perspective. That obviously transcends fashion, but it’s been fun to apply those ambitions to a space I enjoy so much, in a medium that challenges you to constantly level up your packaging.

ON FASHION AND THE BEST ADVICE SHE'S GOTTEN

What would you say to readers who want to work in fashion but only think they can be editors or designers? How can they look into the other jobs in this industry that are just as rewarding?

Fashion brands and fashion media are businesses, and thus need employees in business functions, too. We have brilliant women and men at our company in tech, finance, and sales roles who participate in the fashion industry through those fields. It’s all about matching your skills with subject matter you find interesting.

What’s one misconception about working in fashion?

That the people aren’t nice. I’ve met some of my very best friends and allies in this industry.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

You can always learn something. Approach every question, suggestion, and interaction like this. I met the woman who does social for The L.A. Times recently, and she shared that she tries to meet every request from a co-worker with a “why not?” mindset. I love that thinking. I also really treasure this quote from Hillary Clinton’s letter to her younger self: “…remember that confidence and an open mind will always serve you better than insecurity and doubt.” I have this saved in a note on my phone as a reminder.

On Her Workwear Wardrobe

How do you dress for work?

I really dress however I’m feeling that day, so my day-to-day uniform at work is pretty varied. I guess it’s like a mood ring, and I use clothes sometimes to correct my mood if I’m ever feeling “blah.”

Before I get dressed, though, I check my schedule to make sure I pick an appropriate outfit for whatever meetings I have that day. If it’s a big one, I’ll prep and steam my outfit the night before. [Editor's note: For confidence-boosting outfits to be at the ready at any given notice, we recommend the LG Styler. It’s a big-ticket item, but all the dry-cleaning bills it saves thanks to its steaming, de-odorizing, and pleating abilities make the machine 100% worth it.]

I’d say my ~standard-ish~ uniform matrix consists of jeans, skirts, or black trousers from Totokaelo, a funky sweater or jacket, and shoes I feel comfortable running around to meetings in. Most of this is generally vintage, with the bottom line being I try to keep things comfortable and imaginative. When in doubt, all black with a cool pair of heels will never let you down.

Dressing well for work: overrated or very important?

Important, but not the most important by any stretch. As long as you look appropriate and competent for your work environment (and any subsequent meeting environments your manager needs you to be in/wherein you’re a representative of your organization), and your clothes are clean and unwrinkled, you’re doing great. It’s not a contest. And you don’t want to be thinking about how much your feet are killing you when you have better things to do.

Shop fashion girl–inspired work wardrobe essentials:

Jackets

Dresses

Tops

Bottoms

Bags

Shoes