5 Things I Learned at New York Fashion Week
If you would have asked me a year ago, where I'd hope we'd be with Wear Your Label I wouldn't have even fathomed where we are today. Granted, I was still internally torn about turning down the MA Fashion program at Parsons (looking back, probably a good move..).
New York Fashion Week is something I never really thought was attainable. Mostly because it's New York. Fricking. Fashion Week. But, you get on Buzzfeed once and people start to think you're pretty cool, and the next thing you know you have an invitation to show in New York. And yes, it has literally taken me this long to come down from that high and actually process that it really did happen. So I'm sharing the 5 things I learned at New York Fashion Week:
1. Just because it's somebody else's game doesn't mean you can't play it your way.
When AMCONYC reached out at asked if we'd like to be a part of their emerging designer's showcase during NYFW, there was this huge moment of "Really? Us?". Here's the thing: we felt under qualified. Truly. We're two university kids who started a clothing line to raise awareness about mental health... but neither of us has a formal background in fashion, we've never formally studied design... And we've realized and accepted that. We knew that we couldn't compete on technical design. That's just a given. But what we could compete on, is brand. Telling a story. Making people feel something. So that's what we did.
We casted Role Models, as we always do. We designed pieces that made a statement, and told a story. And then we actually told a story - through spoken word, that was performed throughout the runway show and intertwined with the messages on each shirt. Yes, it was a fashion show - but we did it our way.
2. There will always be bigger fish in the sea than you.
Being a fashion company in Fredericton, New Brunswick has its advantages: you get to be a big fish in a small pond. Take one step into New York (and then add the hustle and bustle of Fashion Week) and you realize very quickly that you are a very, very small fish in an ocean of people trying to make it. No matter how far you think you've come, you will always be behind somebody else. Unless you're Anna Wintour. But she's not human.
3. Stay humble, and be kind.
More or less a follow up to #2. In the start-up world, it can be easy to let things get to your head. Whether it's a great sales day, or a successful pitch, or a new contract/client/retailer/whatever. Reality is, you're still a small baby fish. And at the end of the day, no matter how cool your stories are, how many users are on your app, or how many press outlets you've been featured in: none of it really matters if you're not a decent human being. So stay humble, and be kind. Because if you think you know everything, you're probably missing out on a lot of things.
4. Not everybody will "get it" and that's okay.
Let's get real: fashion and mental health are two worlds that pretty much never mesh well together. The fashion industry is notorious for making people's mental health worse. So to try and shed some light on that at Fashion Week is a pretty bold move. We got a lot of blank stares, fake smiles, and scoffing from people who just didn't get it. And while 95% of people who hear our story are super supportive, there's always going to be that 5% who prefer not to care. That's stigma. That's why we do this. And that's why it's totally okay that not everyone does get it; it reminds us that our work is never done, until they do.
5. Be grateful for where you're at, and who helped get you there.
Every good thing that has happened to us, hasn't just "happened". It's been a result of a lot of hard work, and support from mentors and friends. We couldn't do it on our own. And while our full-time team is just Kyle and myself (for now), the Wear Your Label Family has been growing over the past year - from Role Models like Nicki and Sarah, to our photographer Allie, interns like Ashlie, our agent Chris, and everyone in between. You guys are what makes it all worth it. And I couldn't be more grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving friends.