Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to create a fashion portfolio

If you click on the above image or go to, you can view my fashion portfolio. Often when you email people your resume and cover letter, they ask you for links to your work.  However, images of your clothing are generally not sufficient.  They also want to see sketches, usually both hand sketches and Illustrator flats although in New York, more often work is done on the computer.  I'd seen portfolios in the past, and obviously from my own line had collections that I had done, but still felt somewhat at a loss as to how I should put it all together.

Through a personal connection, my resume was submitted internally at Gap and I met with a recruiter.  I showed her a binder that contained a collection of rough sketches with swatches, a couple of lookbooks/photos of my clothes, and press I'd received. She very generously gave me constructive criticism on how to put my book together, showing me a sample of a freelance project she had on hand -- inspiration images, fabric swatches, and sketches.  I think every company has a different preference for style, and in New York, which is a pretty commercial market, the style tends to be favor computer work.  However, the style she was interested in, and what comes more naturally to me, was something more organic and handmade (and someone later told me, what the head designer, Patrick Robinson, prefers).  She also told me that since my background was more unconventional, my portfolio should reflect that.

With that, I decided I wanted my portfolio to feel more like you had come across a sketchbook of sorts, as opposed to something that was more polished.  People get more excited when they feel like they are getting an inside glimpse into your process, even if what they're actually seeing is something that is carefully constructed.  I bought a moleskine notebook and started putting the book together.  It took me a while to figure out how I wanted it to look, but I started with compiling inspiration images.  This was a little tricky because sometimes what inspires me is an idea rather than an actual image - like how would this shape look cut out on a leg -- so I also did a Google search for images which I could pretend inspired my collection.

I looked around on the internet for examples.  I didn't search too hard but didn't really find much that was helpful.  What did help me, however, was to go to a portfolio seminar run by the freelance/talent agency, 24Seven, located in SoHo in New York.  They run all sorts of training events to help you become more employable, including this seminar.  My seminar was run by Molly Gamble, who does recruiting for Delia's.

Molly went through the different aspects of the portfolio, and general do's and don'ts.  However, what was most interesting was the end part where she critiqued each person's portfolio, or whatever they had started.  There were about 6 or 7 of us there.  Although most of the other portfolios were more computer-based (i.e. mainly computer illustrations, laid out in Photoshop, and professionally printed), it was still helpful to see how other people had integrated the different elements.  Seeing the samples really helped me solidify how I wanted to lay out my portfolio.  Since I do some web design, I decided to just scan my portfolio (although I ended up doing a lot of work cleaning up the scans on Photoshop) and put it on my own site.  However, Molly recommended the website Coroflot, a free site where you can upload your portfolio.  Other portfolio sites that were recommended:
- Carbonmade
- Dripbook

Places in New York to buy portfolio supplies:
- Sam Flax
- Lee's Art Shop
- AI Friedman
- Pearl Paint
- Dick Blick
- Utrecht

I bought my moleskine notebooks at Dick Blick (I also live near there).  You can sign up for a discount card and if you're on their mailing list they often send out coupons.

Besides Craigslist, you can find fashion design jobs listed on StyleCareers. Also, a lot of the bigger companies post jobs directly on their websites, and you can apply through their site.

Good luck!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

I'm currently at JFK, Terminal 5, waiting with my brother to board my flight to San Francisco to see my dear friend Bird.  The flight has been delayed, apparently due to ground problems at SFO.  Thank goodness they have free wifi and I brought my laptop.

I decided to use this down time to catch you up on some of what I've been up to over the past couple of months.  I meant to post about it when I first found out I got the position, but I was too busy to sit down and write about it.  My friend Kellan referred me for an interesting freelance gig.  I handled social media for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which is run by IMG.

Some background on Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.  The two major fashion seasons are Spring/Summer, which starts in September right after Labor Day, and Fall/Winter, which starts in February.  New York Fashion Week kicks things off.  The best known and most established venue of New York Fashion Week is what is colloquially known as the "tents," which used to be at Bryant Park until Spring/Summer 2011, last September.  Now they are at Lincoln Center.  Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week connotes those tents at Lincoln Center.  Around 90 designers showed this season at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, although some of those included affiliates who showed off-site (at a venue outside of the tents), but pay money to be associated with the event.

Many designers show off-site, particularly if they are a big enough name that they can draw press and buyers alone.  In the past couple of years, MAC X Milk (shows at Milk Studios in the Meatpacking sponsored by the makeup company MAC) has become a hot venue, drawing the hottest names in fashion. 

However, many designers, if they can afford it, like to show at MBFW (we were instructed to always call it Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week rather than New York Fashion Week or the tents) because of the critical mass that gathers to see all the shows there.  Fern Mallis is credited with creating what is now known as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.  In the early 90s, she was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and worked to bring the shows, which had been previously scattered and disorganized as well as sometimes in shoddy locations, under one centralized location.  The event has since been acquired by IMG, which produces it.

**Edit.  I'm in Atherton at Bird's house, and continuing the writing of this post from there. **

At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, there are four different venues.  Each designer is given a 1 hour time slot during which the show takes place, and no other runway show takes place.  Most shows usually run under 10 minutes, but on average, they begin 20-30 minutes late.  The three runway venues are (in order of size): the Theatre, the Stage, and the Studio.  The fourth venue, which was created when the tents moved to Lincoln Center (I believe) is the Box, which is a space for presentations (as opposed to a runway show), and usually overlapped with runway shows.

As the social media manager, I met with the IMG marketing coordinator starting in mid-January to learn the ropes and figure out our strategy.  I managed the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week website, Facebook, and Twitter

The main function of the website is to display the schedule of the shows, but starting the Spring 2011 season, the website also featured photos (taken by Getty) of each designer's show, as well as video (this season shot by InDigital).  In addition, the website features a Scene section with photos from each day of the event, as well as a news section, which features news about designers and advertorials about sponsors.  During MBFW, we had four different types of articles -- Designer Did You Know, which contained designers' responses to questions we asked, such as what kind of music was on their iPod; From the Front Row, which were questions we asked to Front Row guests at the shows; Backstage Beauty, where our haircare sponsor TRESemme shared what they were doing with hair on the runways; and Guest Blogs, which were posts by people involved with Fashion Week, like models.

It's hard to say how many people actually read the news articles, since the individual posts did not have unique URLs.  During MBFW we had a couple of news articles a day.  We would link to these articles from our Facebook and Twitter accounts.  On Facebook, our strategy was to limit our posts to no more than one per hour, as to not exasperate our followers.  We also limited the amount of sponsor content we posted on our Facebook page.  In addition to linking to news posts from the website, we also created albums of different themes we noticed on the runways, like maxi skirts.  We also linked to articles about our designers, and posted the YouTube videos of the shows created by InDigital.  I also ran around the venue, taking photos and posting them sometime on Facebook and Twitter.  I had an all-access pass so I could walk around all the venues and their backstages, which was cool.  My boss encouraged me to go to as many shows as possible and tweet about what was happening there, and around the venue, where there was a lot happening with sponsor events.  I used HootSuite to schedule tweets for each of the shows, as well as tweeting live from the event, although that didn't always work so well because there were so many people taking up bandwidth inside the tents.

In addition, we ran a couple of contests to increase our followership.  One was a Street Style competition, where our followers were encouraged to submit photos of themselves wearing one or more items designed by one of our designers.  The other was a Twitter contest, where we asked people to follow us and tweet about their favorite Fall 2011 looks.  Over the course of the event, we managed to gain over 9000 Facebook fans and 5000 Twitter followers.

Here are some of my favorite photos I took with my iPhone from the event: 

Christian Siriano backstage before his show.

Shoes backstage at Rebecca Minkoff, I think.

Betsey Johnson being interviewed at the Diet Pepsi lounge in the lobby.

Cool hand decorations made from wire hangers, I think this was at the Binetti presentation.

Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl soundchecking before the Rebecca Minkoff show.

Behnaz Sarafpour presentation.

Tim Gunn talking about his experience at Parsons at the American Express SkyBox.

Vera Wang backstage before her show.

Gwen Stefani watching the run-through before her L.A.M.B. show.

Blogger BryanBoy with his friend -- he was very friendly!

Style icon and Vogue Nippon editor Anna della Russo.

Cool airbrushed pattern on a wig backstage at Betsey Johnson.

Julie Stiles getting interviewed backstage (I forget which show this was).

Michelle Trachtenberg heading to her seat after being backstage before the Rebecca Taylor show.
It was a fun couple of weeks.  My interns said I had the best job -- basically getting paid to attend the fashion shows -- but it was very hectic!  It was a great experience though, and cool to see how the PR teams of the designers, sponsors, and IMG worked together to provide maximum exposure.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Balenciaga Fall 2011

It's been a while.  I'll post an update soon, but the Paris shows are in full swing, and my favorite one, Balenciaga, didn't disappoint.  Here are a couple of images:

I love the print.  The texture of the jacket is pieces of faux leather woven together.

My fave model, Stella Tennant.  She's in her 30s at this point, with a couple of kids, but I've noticed her on the runways and in editorials recently.  I've loved her ever since I saw her at the Dior show when I was an intern there.  I think she's around 6' tall.  Androgynous but beautiful!

Amazing accessories!

I'm not sure how he does it, but there's something about Ghesquiere's work that elicits a visceral reaction for me.  The clothes and accessories are probably a little bit over the top for most people, but for me they are a perfect balance between craftsmanship, artistry, and wearability.  He's always pushing the envelope and the clothes always feel fresh and new, but rarely (to me at least) do they feel costumey.  I also enjoy that they give the wearer a feeling of power and strength while still feeling feminine.  The Balenciaga girl isn't a girly wallflower.

I'm not there yet, but his work is definitely an inspiration to me.