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Are you heading to college with dreams of breaking into the fashion industry? Ever wonder what to study in order to get there? We asked some of our favorite fashion insiders where they went to university and what they look for, education-wise, in the people they hire. Here’s what they had to say.
Stacey Bendet, Designer and Founder, Alice + Olivia
Alma Mater: University Of Pennsylvania
“I did not come from the traditional fashion school background, studying International Relations and French at the University of Pennsylvania. When we hire for design positions, we do generally recruit from design schools. But in other areas of the company—sales, marketing, digital, e-comm, etc., I always look for diverse backgrounds and I love students from Ivy League schools who have studied internationally and have a unique perspective and interest in the fashion world. Enthusiasm, creativity and a positive attitude are the most important features for me in a candidate for any job!”
Alma Mater: Duke University
“I went to Duke University, and threw myself into two things: drama and the school newspaper. From both, I learned the importance of deadlines, teamwork, patience, focus, and taking creative risks—even if at first, I seemed crazy. My university experience was amazing, but unfortunately in this country, you have to be both smart and fortunate to easily attend a ‘good’ school. That’s why when hiring, I look at things like internships, clips, and the candidate’s initial email asking about a job. That tells me so much about their writing skills!”
Shashi Menon, Publisher, Style.com (Arabia)
Alma Mater: University of Southern California
“I attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where, after beginning as a Computer Engineering major, I ended up doing a dual major in Strategy and Finance. In terms of education, I look for candidates that have practical experience, much of which I believe is gained outside of the classroom. At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for experience.”
Timo Weiland, Designer, Timo Weiland
Alma Mater: Vanderbilt University
“I graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2005. At Timo Weiland, we always look for people who have a balance of core curriculum—not necessarily fashion—and extracurriculars that are long-term involvements. Also, those that take initiative to attend courses outside their major, i.e. a WashU grad in Liberal Arts who also audited fashion courses there or attended courses at FIT after graduation.”
Natalia Barbieri, Co-Founder and Designer, Bionda Castana
Alma Mater: University of Westminster
“I went to university in London at the University of Westminster. What we expect is the right balance of creative courses and business studies on a candidate’s CV, as our business requires that. Also, to be honest, what is even more important is their level of work experience. The real world is the true education.”
Shruti Ganguly, Vice President Television and Video, NYLON
Alma Mater: Northwestern University (undergraduate), NYU (graduate)
“I went to Northwestern University for my undergrad, where I started off with a double major in Economics and Fine Arts, and ended up with a Communications Studies and Art double major and business minor. And really, in undergrad, what I learned the most, especially being at a university in America, is that you can explore and expand, try new things and find surprises in the classes that seem interesting. And that’s how I ended up working in the film and entertainment business—it’s because of a class I took called ‘Women in Indian Cinema’ that just sounded interesting.
The ironic thing is that years later, I went to NYU for my Masters and got an MBA at Stern, and an MFA in film at Tisch, which in an odd way is like the accelerated version of what I was studying when I first moved to the States.
For potential candidates, I would want to see their curiosity piqued and there being a great willingness to learn. Hard work and determination are also key. To some extent education helps, but a lot of the time it’s about their persistence and following up—if they meet you at a panel or event or seek you out—or their references and previous work experience.”
Alma Mater: None
“I didn’t go to university. However, just lately I’ve been struck by the innate professionalism of several women I am dealing with who work for such places as M.A.C Cosmetics and Ace Hotel, and realize they have been to university. Which is not something you usually pick up on, but nevertheless, for me, they stand out, much the same way that a Royal College of Art graduate stands out from a Central Saint Martin’s one—there’s a greater formality and discipline—and in that respect, I have realized and appreciate the advantage of such a formal education.
What I look for in a potential candidate is not just their knowledge, but a well-rounded character, too. It’s the way in which they operate professionally and also how they interact with people, how they can appreciate the greater picture, and how grounded they are.”