Gwen Beloti would agree that designing is a job...but fashion is a calling. Gwen, like many of our readers, heard fashion calling to her. After unsuccessfully ignoring the call for years she stunned family and friends by leaving her Masters degree in Psychology behind and entering the risky business of fashion design.
Heeding the call to fashion was not only inevitable for Gwen, it was a smart idea. This quickly emerging designer learned the trade at the Fashion Design Training Studio in New Jersey by many of the same teachers teaching at the infamous FIT. After private lessons and classes with former FIT instructors Gwen quickly learned the manual aspects of fashion, something that always came easy to her.
Shortly after her mentoring finished the Gwen Beloti Collection was born. Her collection is made up of pieces designed to be collection items for edgy young women looking for classic lines with modern style. Gwen's fashions have since been featured in magazines and fashion shows across the country.
Despite being relatively new to the industry this fashion vixen is already primed to give back to the community with her Fashionably Smart. Literally initiative. This project teams the Gwen Beloti Collection up with selected accredited high schools to choose high-achieving young women to bestow her wisdom, and a custom-fit piece to. Another project Gwen participates in is non-profit Little Dresses for Africa, to which she donates 10% of her clutch purse sales. Yet another charitable donation pursued annually by Gwen is the Prom Dress to Impress campaign: donating evening wear to young women who otherwise couldn't afford a prom dress.
Not surprisingly when we approached Gwen about offering advice to aspiring fashion designers she jumped at the chance. The result was tangible advice to those looking to enter the industry:
What inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
I was always interested in stylish wears but what prompted me to really try my hand in this industry is the feedback I received from family and friends. The little bit of formal design training and practice that I had at the time rendered material that showed potential and I decided to further pursue the art of fashion and business.
What is your focus within the industry?
My primary focus is women's ready-to-wear apparel, catering specifically to boutiques wanting to maintain a degree of exclusivity.
What type of education did it take to get you where you are today?
I attended a few schools as I wanted to learn from different perspectives. I initially did a lot of research on my own but later enrolled in a fashion program. I went to a small design school in NJ as well as NY. Both of which were certification programs. I also took a number of private lessons with FIT instructors and with instructors from abroad.
How has your career path progressed over the years?
It has been an interesting progression. Things didn't happen as quickly as I'd liked however there was clearly a progressive pattern. I'm currently a lot further ahead than I was when I started. This concept of progression is not something that just happens but something that you have to make happen and continue to work at.
What is your favorite part of working in the fashion/design business?
I'd have to say the garments. I love looking at the clothes on women. I love to watch the clothes move. The finished product of what I do and make is what I love the most.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashionistas?
I would advise them to do their research and to take advantage of as many possibilities as possible. Experience is key and practice makes perfect.
What school(s) does your company generally recruit new hires from?
We're currently only working with senior student interns from high schools and the school tends to be associated with the arts.
Do you think there is an overall increasing or decreasing need for people in the fashion industry?
I think there is always a need. Though there may not be a great demand there is a need. It's important to research and be informed so you're familiar with where exactly the need is.
Which roles in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
I'm not sure. Ultimately it's important to do what makes you happy, however; use early experiences such as internships to test the waters in these various areas in order to become better versed.
What designer(s) or brand(s) influenced you the most as a creative professional?
Donna Karan, Oscar De laRenta, Nicole Miller, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Dior and others.
Do you think today's jobs in the fashion industry require more of an artist's touch or business-like ruthlessness?
It takes both. I've come to recognize the increased importance of good business. A good balance between the two, art and business, is ideal. At the very least there should be some familiarity with or an association with both.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Networking, communicating, reinventing, researching.
What do you think the future of fashion and design holds?
It holds a great deal for aspiring designers including challenges and successes. Network, communicate, reinvent and research in order to be a step ahead.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.