For some fashion is simply on the radar but for others couture is a daily affair. One of those workaday couturiers is Vanessa Fernandez, founder of My Everyday Couture. Vanessa's blog, My Everyday Couture, was recently voted one of the top 50 fashion blogs on the net by RedRoverStyle.com's industry-defining list.
This isn't a one-off for Vanessa though. She has been a writer and creator in the fashion industry for the past 12 years—beginning with her first bog The Designer Dish, at just 18 years of age. Within a year her first blog turned into a job as fashion editor at a local style magazine, SA Pulse, and her first feature article, “Recessionista: Life on The Fashion Front”, was published when Vanessa was just 19.
These days Vanessa has continued her fashion work, with her blog My Everyday Couture, as a contributor to the San Antonio Style Examiner and The Alamo City Times, as a stylist, image consultant, and as a fashion show producer.
Somehow we pried some time from Vanessa's busy schedule to ask her about her experiences in the industry and she translated that to real-world, actionable advice for aspiring fashion writers and PR professionals:
For any of our readers not familiar with you could you explain your blog's vision?
My Everyday Couture has a vision of providing our readers with fashion that is practical. We feature designers on a local and national level as well as posting about trends and style. Our website is a place for the best of both worlds. We offer articles on high fashion, straight from the runway styles but at the same time have articles that any reader can relate to from DIY to trends.
What inspired the idea and creation of your business to host up-and-coming fashion designers?
It was an idea to feature up-and-coming designers because the industry often does not give people the opportunity to put their talents on display. It is very cut throat and there are many more people who have the ability but are never given the chance. Our website can be used as a platform for designers to share their creations.
How did you originally get your foot into the door of the fashion industry? (aka what was your first job and how did you get it?)
I got my start in fashion when I was 18. I had always had the interest in style and clothing which led me to start my first blog called The Designer Dish which covered local and high-fashion designers and their collections. My website was soon noticed by a local life and style magazine. I received a call which led to my position for the magazine as their new Fashion Editor. I began writing and had my first article Fashionista: Life on The Fashion Front published at age 19.
What type of education did it take to get you where you are today? And how has your career path progressed over the years?
My education was never fashion related but during my college career I was able to find my niche and apply what I was learning to my work. My blogs and writing had always been a hobby until I started working for a magazine. I began studying computer information systems but writing code was not a walk in the park; switching to business, I really enjoyed learning about the ins and outs, however, at the same time I had started a business called Evolv Your Style. What I was being told in school and how it plays out in the real world was not matching up so I decided to study communications focusing in public relations. This helped me the most because the fashion industry is all about whom you know which sadly is the reality of many industries. However, having the ability to communicate and connect with the major players in fashion made it easy to get a stronger hold on my business. Having had taken the business courses and completing my minor really helped because I was able to understand the business side of fashion. When it comes down to it the industry is a business, everyone in fashion works long, hard hours for often that single image or a 3 minute runway show but we do it out of passion and desire. I completed my Bachelors in Communications: Public Relations and a minor in Business Administration December 2011 and already I have been able to apply a lot of my communication strategies toward the fashion industry.
If you had the opportunity to start your career (or business) over again would you do anything differently?
Starting my career over probably would not happen, I was lucky to be seen and offered an opportunity to be a published fashion editor before 20, which was a really great and early start for me. As far as doing things differently in my business and career in fashion now, of course I would. You learn from the missed opportunities and chances to be something better and changes have to happen to get the outcome you expect. I expected my business to be up and running possibly sold and have started a new one within a certain number of years but the way things played out I did not or, rather, it has not yet worked out that way. But doing things differently means changing things and the hard part is finding the will to change.
If you had to describe the business side of the fashion industry briefly to our aspiring designer readers, how would you paint an accurate picture for them?
The business side of the industry is very objective. Unlike the creative side there are rules and procedures to go through so that all involved get paid and/or recognition for their contributions. There is always paperwork, as in any business there must be documentation, but at the same time the business side is pleasant for those who prefer a bit more structure in their career.
What is the most important skill and/or hard lesson you have learned while working in the industry?
A tough skin is necessary and having communication skills will take you a very long way. The industry does not stop for anyone and is full of judgement, literally, designers send their creations down a runway to be seen and are given judgements and opinions. If the press and important individuals in fashion find it well received, chances are it will be online, in print and in store. However, even if the collection was not well-received the opinions will be online, print published and talked about on Fashion Police. You will be rejected more than being given approval until you have proven your ability and desire. However, being able to communicate with editors, other designers and heads of the industry will really take you far past the judgement quickly. Talk about why you design and why you love fashion, explain your visions and creations and really believe in the work you do whether its modeling, fashion writing, designing, event planning, etc.
What was most surprising about working in the fashion industry?
How easy it is to become part of it. There is never a moment in fashion when you feel ‘left out’ or without purpose. Everyone in the industry works for their end goals and have certain things they want to accomplish and when they see you too have that same will to do something for the greater fashion picture you become part of the same team even if you are working on separate collections or projects. It comes down to being as passionate about fashion as the next because only the strong survive the industry.
What school(s) does your company generally recruit new hires from? And, do you accept interns?
We recruit from any major university and fashion-concentrated schools. We accept interns and contributors to the website as well. We look for an individual with a degree and focuses in Communication, Business, Marketing, Writing, Public Relations, Fashion Merchandising, etc. Our interns work with the company for one semester and are required to fulfil different tasks that will enlighten them to different aspects of the industry from event planning and styling to business accounting and client research. We look for individuals with an interest in fashion, someone who takes the initiative and is always willing to learn.
Which role(s) in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
The thing about the fashion industry is you really can’t have one without the other. All roles are important and necessary to be filled. However, some are easier to come by than others. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit I suggest finding a career as a writer, photographer, or stylist. If you’re good at communicating and working with people PR, advertisement and marketing is for you!
Do you think today's jobs in the fashion industry require more of an artist's touch or business-like ruthlessness?
A balance of both, you have to be a little ruthless in the industry because there are so many individuals working for the same prize. However, winning said prize requires an artist’s touch.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Ability to communicate, punctuality, hard working, dependability and honesty are essential.
What would you recommend for aspiring fashion professionals looking to break into today's fashion industry?
Think of a clever way to do it. The fashion industry has so many ‘been there, seen that’ moments. Be bold, do something outspoken, but with class and respect. Be unique and know that fashion has no template, what you produce is art, an expression whether that be through design, styling, writing, photography.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.