Fashion Is Serious Business – Germaine Caprio (FGI Chicago)

When I tell people I’m a clothing designer, they think my world is filled with trips to New York, runway shows, and champagne but in reality, it’s nothing like that. Most of my days are filled with the stuff no one really wants to do; stuff like ordering fabric, following up with cutters, clients and suppliers, paying bills and making sure everyone is doing their job so our clothes get made and our orders can ship.

Designing and owning a clothing line is far from glamorous work.

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I’ve had faculty members from reputable design schools in Chicago visit our showroom. They want to know how to help their fashion students find work after graduating. “Perhaps lead them into a different major,” I say, sarcastically but when I really think about it, these students need to learn so much more than how to design a clothing collection. They need to learn about business.

I’m a firm believer clothing designers are born, not made and those who want to “learn” design will never get it but that doesn’t mean a person without an eye for design can’t work in the fashion business. There is so much more to it than matching prints with solids and whipping up unique silhouettes for a spring collection.

A successful independent clothing designer needs to know how to run a company and a successful clothing company needs to know not only how to make beautiful garments but how to sell them. They need a top notch website, a huge social media campaign to match and an eye for details. They need an army of reliable cutters, sewing contractors, fabric suppliers and logistic companies that can ship supplies across the country. They need knowledge of the customer experience so when a customer receives an order, she loves what she’s paid for and if she doesn’t she knows how to return it. The owner of a successful clothing company knows spending money on a swanky office isn’t as important as investing in the right employees who are smart, efficient and care.

There are thousands of extremely talented designers out there just waiting for that one big break and I’m thrilled the design schools are truly concerned about helping these talented young artists learn how to make a living from their craft. Schools need to help these students hone in on their markets and keep them from thinking the business of fashion is all about glam and bling. They need to encourage students to produce their clothing lines responsibly and show them being a part of the textile business doesn’t mean they have to produce their collections in China or outside of the United States.

Being successful in fashion takes a lot of hard work, dedication and common sense. Just like any business, there are bills to pay, boxes to haul, deadlines to meet and contracts to read.

So what advice do I have for young students majoring in fashion? “Pursue your passion and be open to exploring all the facets of the fashion business. You may not end up as the Head Creative Director at Christian Dior but there are many other jobs that play important roles in the clothing industry and companies out there needing smart, dedicated professionals to help them succeed in this tough industry.”  Plus, the champagne they serve at the runway shows isn’t that good anyway.

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Author: Germaine Caprio (Executive Member – FGI Chicago)

 

 

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