We began this journey together when I was just nineteen years old. The origin of our relationship is a little fuzzy after all these years together. I can’t remember if I developed an appreciation for you through our mutual designer friend, Jeremy or if it really was because I watched
P.S. I Love You for the thirtieth time (Hilary Swank’s character’s transcendence into shoe making was always so inspirational). Off I went into the world of hat-making and after five intense years and over $100,000 later, I write you this letter to tell you that I’ve had enough.
They never tell you how truly hard this life would be. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be easy but they never publicize the fact that you will be broke forever and no matter how talented you are or how hard you work, you will never make it. It’s not a pessimistic outlook, it’s just the honest to God truth. The problem I have is that I literally just woke up and decided to start designing. I never had a game plan or pictured how this all would end. I was always the girl to go balls-to-the-wall with whatever I set my sights on and this was no different.
Parts of our relationship could be glamourous and fun. I have been featured on countless national television segments, been highlighted in fashion magazines all over the world, have been able to meet celebrities and work with some pretty incredible talents. I was even able to showcase during New York Fashion Week which, for most, would be the height of their careers but instead was one of my greatest disappointments. The best thing I can take away from this industry is the business sense that has been instilled in me: the way I can solve any problem and be flexible (mainly because things rarely go the way they were planned the first time).
In order to understand why I am breaking up with fashion, you might need to know a little about me first. I am the type of girl to sit in on a Saturday night watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix while eating ice cream out of the carton. I go to bed by 9:30pm, prefer to only drink champagne instead of vodka and I like to be comfortable. Now you’re probably saying to yourself “well no wonder fashion doesn’t agree with her” but you have to understand that the “glamorous” life and the promise of riches was never even a thought until I got too deep into fashion to turn back. The part of this business that I love most is creating, seeing my detailed concepts coming to life before my very eyes. If this industry could only be creating collections and seeing them on the runway, I would totally be in my element, but, alas, it’s about making money and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to do that. People love everything about you and your work until it’s time to write a check.
If you’re going to be in this business I am going to be frank with you, have a back-up career and be prepared for the following:
1. Brand image should be your number one concern. If you begin this business without knowing your voice and who/what your brand is, you will spend years and countless seasons messing up until you get it right and that is just wasted money. Figure your shit out before going hard in this industry. It’s some of my best advice for you.
2. The only way to truly make it as a designer is to have at least $150,000 upfront to be spent wisely on marketing and your manufacturing and even that won’t get you far at all. Spending a few thousand here and there will get you little results and you will always be hurting for more.
3. Stop paying people to do what you can do. Don’t waste hundreds or even thousands on a fancy website when you don’t even produce collections yet. There are so many awesome and professional “drag and drop” sites that give you the control you need, and cost no more than $10-$30 a month. Cut out as many middle men as possible. Do all the styling, web development, social media, and networking, yourself. Don’t know how to do something? Fucking learn. You can’t know your business unless you are working it from the inside out.
4. No one is your friend. This is the truest advice I can give you. I am, by nature, a very trusting and gullible person. No matter how sincere someone may be, I promise you, they will turn on you the moment a better opportunity comes along. This is just the industry and you would do the same if Anna Wintour came a knockin’ at your door. I have met very few true friends in this industry and have been burned more than anything.
5. No matter what state you are in you have a booming fashion community. It may not be as exciting as NYC but there is a network in which you can tap into quickly. Do not feel as if you are “too good” for something when you are first starting out. Until you have an impressive press list and buyers under your belt, you are not allowed to be that selective. You never know what opportunities are waiting for you at that mixer in that one low-end restaurant in the middle of your Nebraskan town.
6. Don’t feel like you have to move to New York the second you start your brand. Yes, living in NYC does lend it’s opportunities but also realize that your company is still building and the city of New York is over-saturated with people in the same boat as you. Your options would be cut in half if you had to pay for a NY-sized apartment at triple what you would be paying in your home state. Focus on building your portfolio, brand and name before moving to NYC. As long as you have an internet connection and a space to put your things, a fashion brand can be ran anywhere in the world. Save your money and put it towards things that matter.
7. Stylists are the key to survival. Network with (credible) stylists as much as possible. Love them and make them love you back. Find the ones with a good reputation who work with many photographers. These fabulous fashion beings will get you published.
8. I could write a book on social media, but I don’t have to. That’s what Google is for. Know your brand voice and use that voice everywhere you can. Realize the free opportunities that good social media can bring you.
9. Don’t waste your money on doing runway shows. You might have to do a few shows in your area to get your name out there but really think about this and choose wisely. Your focus should be on your web presence and your brand and building your brand voice.
10. I fucking HATE how disorganized people in the fashion industry are. Everyone is always late or can’t seem to plan anything properly. When I was working with Nolcha New York Fashion Week this past September, I can’t tell you how many times the organizers told me that “it’s clear you’ve never worked here before. This is just how things are.” That is NOT a fucking excuse for laziness and disorganization.
11. Always have a plan B, C, D and sometimes a plan E. I can’t even begin to describe how much could actually go wrong at shoots and shows. Being flexible is a must. You can’t be so attached to an idea or concept and you must always keep a level head about you.
12. So. Many. Stupid. People. The incompetence of this industry is just astounding.
13. Most people in this industry would rather buy an $800 pair of shoes instead of pay their rent or put food in their hungry stomachs. Which person are you?
So, there you have it fashion. I scratched the surface on how abusive and undesirable you are. I can’t afford the pages of notebook paper it would take to list everything you have done to me. I knew what type of lover you could be so, really this is my fault. Our personalities clash and there is nothing that either one of us can do about it. I wasted the majority of my young-adult life working eighty hours a week with sleepless nights and an empty wallet. I think it’s time I got be a kid again.
Love always and forever, your very tired lover,
Monstruosité by Dolly Donshey
By Dolly Donshey
illustration by Lauren Greif