SoCal Fashion Industry Leaders Share Success Stories & Advice with FIDM Students
For FIDM students and alumni, the opportunity to connect with top leaders in the fashion industry is an evening well spent. Over 130 showed up for “Connect,” an event hosted by apparel industry talent management firm, Gamechangers, and the FIDM Alumni Association. At the event, five fashion industry leaders, from a variety of disciplines, told their inspiring stories about how they got where they are today, and gave students advice for succeeding in any industry.
Passionate about doing things differently, Guy Chanin, founder of Gamechangers and a long time former apparel industry executive, inspires others in the fashion industry to think differently about the roles they play. When Gamechangers was invited to speak at FIDM Guy called upon his talented friends from Helmut Lang, Stance, Amuse Society, True Religion, and Nixon to join him. The recurrent theme for each story was clear: attitude will get you much farther than aptitude.
Everyone on the panel told their personal stories of their rise from a low level job to the top. Megan Brunner, Nixon’s head of marketing for North America, began her career with an entry level marketing position when Nixon was just starting out. Because she never said “no” to a task—even when it was outside of her job description and she did not necessarily know how to do it—she was able to continue to excel and, essentially, create her current position.
Mandy Fry, a FIDM graduate and co-founder of Amuse Society, strongly believes that having the right attitude is crucial to success. She believes “what you visualize will materialize.” She has held onto every connection she’s made since her college years, which helped land her a job at Roxy early in her career. What continued to propel her, and cause brands like Billabong to seek her out, was her work ethic. She was always the last person to leave the office and did whatever it took to learn new skills crucial to design.
“You should always be able to max out your relationships,” said Joe Roberts, recruiter for Helmut Lang and Theory.
Roberts says part of his success is due to treating everyone the same. Whether that’s a busboy or a creative director, they receive the same amount of attention.
Chanin expanded on the importance of making the most of every relationship. He explained that networking is not about social media or going to networking events—though those aspects are admittedly effective—it’s about creating a level of intimacy with every person you meet. Between making these connections and having the right attitude, it’s hard to fail.
Having the right attitude includes having a strong work ethic. John Hazen, vice president of omnichannel commerce and digital innovation at True Religion, started out working under the table for below minimum wage with an apparel company. He was soon hired on because he knew how to set up their email. With an affinity for technology he became the unofficial go-to IT guy. Eventually, he became responsible for getting the surf industry online, with heavy hitters like Hurley and O’Neill under his belt.
“Work hard and be willing to try new tasks, and you will get noticed,” said Candy Harris, senior vice president of the women’s division at Stance.
Harris can personally attest to this piece of advice. Because of her work ethic, the president of Billabong asked her three times to leave her position at an ad agency to join Billabong before she accepted. Her initial hesitation on accepting the job was that she didn’t think she had the experience; but Billabong saw the attitude they were looking for. After 12 years at Billabong, she left to find another challenge at Stance. At the time, retailors were only carrying socks two months out of the year, and with her help developing a brand story, they are now carried year round and have been featured everywhere from surf shops, to Anthropologie, to J Crew. Her top piece of advice for the students and alumni:
“Be a sponge. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn from people that you didn’t think you had anything to learn from.”