Thriving in the fashion industry is all about meeting the right people at the right time. There are many talented young designers and creatives but not all of them will succeed in the long term. And what set the mere talented from the truly successful is often the power of their professional network. Though I am far from being a fashion networking expert, I’ve been to a fair number of events/workshops/meetings and parties that helped me to master the basics of fashion networking. Here are 5 essential tips that will transform you into a memorable social butterfly!
1. Invite Fashion Friends
Going to a networking event alone is brutal. Especially if it is your first time. Be sure to invite friends who are interested in fashion. Go to the event together and work as a group. Even when you spilt up and meet other people, you can always come back together and introduce each other to more professionals. Plus, having a close friend in a room full of professionals is a mental savior.
2. Introduce Yourself with Passion
Fairly easy said than done. How do you make a killer introduction in a spilt second to a fashion expert? First, talk about your role and your aspirations and goals. Be sure to explain what brought you to the fashion networking event and what are your biggest interests in fashion. Even if you don’t necessarily know what aspects of the fashion industry you want to work in, show your passion by saying that you are actively looking for fashion opportunities.
3. Show your Portfolio
Showing your creative work is very important. Before the event, make sure you have a physical portfolio ready. Include a variety of work including research and development phases, sketches and fabric swatches. Some young designers may worry about revealing too much inner details of their collections and would frown on this advice. But I think this portfolio doesn’t exactly have to be current. This is not a portfolio review for a program, so bring work that reveals your brand and voice but not necessarily details for your upcoming shows. Also, if you can wear your original designs to the event, that’s even better!
Even if you don’t have your portfolio ready, be sure you have an online portfolio on your phone or iPad to show. This can be your website/ blog or digital scans of your designs.
While you show your portfolio, be ready to answer questions about every piece. Talk about your concept and vision and engage the listener with your story. Having an unique story is often more powerful than a mere pretty picture.
4. Ask Questions (LOTS)
Most people in there are likely to be professionals in the industry, all having more experience and expertise than you. So instead of talking all about yourself (though an appropriate amount of self-marketing is important), you should take the time to seek advice of their expertise. Ask what made them interested in their field, what is their daily working routine, what are their current projects, etc. Asking these questions basically scored you an informational interview on the spot!
Of course, you should always be professional and sincere with your questions and refrain from asking overly personal questions. And lastly, kindly ask for their contact information (LinkedIn or business card or email NOT Facebook).
5. ALWAYS Follow-Up
This last tip is essential! You took the time to dress up and go to the event. You took the time to talk to 50 people, so be sure to stay connected. Always remember to email a short thank you note to the people you met. For those you wish to stay connected and seek for further advice, make sure to schedule a coffee chat and ask more about their expertise.
From past experiences, it is best to email during office hours (10am -5pm). Also, it is better to contact within a week of meeting so the connection stays fresh.
If the person does not respond or doesn’t wish to meet you after a few tries, don’t fret. There are many more fashion professionals who can mentor and help you. He/she just wasn’t meant to be.
Being in a room full of professional strangers can be quite daunting. But it can also be really fun and interesting to meet people and learn the inner scope of the industry. Try out these tips and always keep a positive attitude! The next person you meet may be your next employer, life-long mentor or best friend!
White Shirt: Madewell
White Skirt: Original design by COCOHO
Platforms: Urban Outfitters
Purple Tote: Long Champ Le Pilage
PHOTO: NINA DUBINSKY & ALEX YU