Fashion Diaries: This Is How I Got My Fashion Job
I think we all have this notion that working in fashion is all about the glitz, the glamour, and a lifetime supply of designer clothes waiting to be worn. It’s the reason why we ate up every episode of Sex and the City, kept up with all the drama of The Hills, and repeatedly watched Anne Hathaway’s fashion makeover in The Devil Wears Prada, hoping that someday, that will be our life. We all want to live that picture perfect world, that we tend to look past what it really takes to thrive in this industry.
We asked some of the fashion’s top players on how they started their careers and a few insights about what’s it really like working in this industry.
What were you doing before you got into the fashion industry?
Yves Camingue (Fashion Designer): “I was in college at the University of the Philippines (Cebu) studying Mass Communications, aspiring to be a lifestyle writer. Freshman year (2005) was about to end and our batch was tasked to organize an event where we could merge two communication media together. We planned a fashion and poetry show entitled “Ipadayag” spearheaded by my classmates Chassy Cortes & Eden Villarba. I, having expressed myself through art and clothes at school since there are no uniforms at UP, was the conscious choice to realize the concept. My idea was to make clothes from indigenous fabrics and materials (e.g. a twig corset & raffia pleated skirt) with statements on society and certain issues, a parody of sorts. Fashion shows being produced by students at that time wasn’t an accepted idea. Since we were turned down by a lot of people to sponsor us, I turned to scrap fabrics I could find at home to be sewn into clothes. Early on, I found one pleasure in my life, which is in doing what people say you cannot do. Consequently, Cebuano fashion designer Dexter Alazas saw our potential and agreed to direct the said fashion show. After seeing the clothes I made with my classmates, he approached me to be his atelier design assistant during the summer. And the rest is history!”
Maita Baello (Celebrity Fashion Stylist, Qurator Studios): “My first job was in Marketing and Sales for a magazine. I was also managing my own shoe brand on the side before called Brandy & Zoe.”
Andrea Beldua (Fashion Photographer): “I was doing more events photography—it was my stepping stone to network myself and make some money too while I build my portfolio with my personal/passion shoots.”
Chuchie Ledesma (Senior Makeup Artist, Maybelline Philippines): “I was a project reseacher for the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism and a writer and editor for a wellness magazine and a Disney magazine.”
Gela Lehmann (Model, PMAP): “I was still in school, doing my third course. Honestly I was kinda lost in life, still trying to figure out what I want to do career wise.”
Kate Paras-Santiago (Editor in Chief, Metro Weddings): "I was working in the marketing department as a buyer for SM Supermarkets. I basically dealed with food 24/7. It was my first job after college, and I lasted for almost 2 years."
What was your first job in fashion? What was it like?
Yves Camingue: “My first job was being an atelier assistant for Dexter Alazas. This was a part-time job since I was still in sophomore year when I was interested to dabble in fashion. If there were long breaks in between classes, half-day classes or even after classes, I would excitingly head over to his shop to design clothes for his clients if he wasn’t there. I would be curious with certain fabrics, drape them to be sample show window displays, take measurements of clients, manage fittings, talk to the seamstresses and get to mingle with different people from the industry. His casual day-to-day tips matched with constructive sermons altogether made my introduction to the industry a pragmatic experience. During the late 2000s, there were still no fashion schools in Cebu, so I was lucky enough to learn the ropes first-hand. Aside from all the fashion glitterati and enchantment there was KSA: Knowledge, skills and attitude that one should imbibe.”
Maita Baello:“I worked as a fashion assistant to Pam Quiñones where I learned everything I needed to know about the business from sourcing, liquidation, meetings, how to deal with different clients, etc. I think that when it comes to this type of job, experience is the best teacher.”
Andrea Beldua:“I can still remember one of my first biggest shoots for a local zine! I shot portraits of a couple of celebrities/personalities for this Freckle themed series. I even moved an out of country vacay (along w/ the already scheduled plane flight) for it. I knew it was going to be a huge break for me. It still remains to be one of my favorite shoots to date actually.”
Chuchie Ledesma: “I was one of Lourd Ramos’s makeup artists for Mutya ng Pilipinas 2010. It was exciting and scary at the same time because everything was fast-paced!”
Gela Lehmann: “As a commercial model. My first job was for a digital ad for a phone network company. I didn’t start getting into fashion until like two years after. One random day, I got myself in a modeling competition (Philippines Next Top Model), won it and got contracts with brands like SM. I’ve never had a photo shoot before that.”
Kate Paras-Santiago: "I started as a fashion assistant for Chalk Magazine. I was in charge of helping put shoots together, pulling out, writing, booking suppliers, finding locations for shoots, etc. Even back then I already loved my job despite the hectic schedule."
What do you think is the best part of being in the fashion industry?
Yves Camingue: “The best part of being in the fashion industry is that you can be a catalyst for change. You can be a non-conformist. You can conform to traditional notions, but bring it to the future. You’re your own vision. Whether these are trends that you introduce or processes that improve the relationship between suppliers, you have that voice to change how the game is played.With work, especially in the age of social media, you can channel your talent in so many ways! Being in fashion does not confine you in just one category. I mean for those who don’t lean towards “eveningwear”, there’s always something for you. You can invent your own clothing category! Your work can be shown in different ways, it’s just attracting the right people to bring your work to an audience that will matter. Just be in tact with your competence. Competence is one’s security.”
Maita Baello: “The best part is definitely being surrounded by inspiring and creative people.”
Andrea Beldua:“I guess the best part is the people - how you can learn so much from them, how they help you grow as an artist. We're talking about mingling and working with “The” tastemakers in Manila - that would surely also improve anyone's style if anything, haha! But seriously, I do owe my growth a lot to the industry. The pretty freebies are a great bonus too, lol!”
Chuchie Ledesma: “Creativity is king here. This industry is boundless and generous when it comes to opportunities of self-expression.”
Gela Lehmann: “Getting to meet a lot of fun and creative people. Also, collecting all these beautiful photos professionally taken, and being able [to have] something to look back into once I am old and wrinkly!”
Kate Paras-Santiago: "I always say that I am fortunate to be doing a job that I truly enjoy, and one that I wake up excited to do. Every day is different, and my job allows me to express my creativity in a lot of ways. I get to meet a ton of people in this job, and it sure doesn't hurt that I get to experience beauty in all forms on a daily basis."
What do you think is the one thing that people don't know (false assumptions) about the fashion industry?
Yves Camingue: “One thing that people don’t know [is that it’s] only 10% glamour [and] 90% hard work. People don’t know that beyond the red carpet and magazines, we toil hard; we go thru storms and stresses just to finish a project. We even fight or argue with our suppliers to get things right. People think fashion is just all pageants and gowns, especially in our country. If the surface is scratched, there are more purposeful elements in the fashion industry that need support. The designer pret-a-porter category is so underrated and so missed out on that, although we still get to be worn by celebrities, we are overshadowed by the influx of international brands, which the public patronize more than the homegrown brands.”
Maita Baello: “The number one assumption would be that it's such a glamorous job. What people don't see is the long hours and hard work we put in.”
Andrea Beldua: “I think one of the most common misconceptions about the industry is that you have to have lots of money to be able to be stylish and "on trend". A lot of my peers actually don't spend as much as you think people like them do! It's all a matter of being resourceful and creative and knowing how to invest on classic pieces you can mix and match with thrift finds for example! Taste can never be bought haha!”
Chuchie Ledesma: “That most people are shallow and that all they think about are clothes and makeup and the glitz and glam. I beg to disagree. It takes a lot of creativity and brains, coupled with business skills, to be able to produce an editorial that considers both the publication and client’s interests without sacrificing the essence of the theme/concept.”
Gela Lehmann: “That it is easy. There is a lot that comes with the job, from blisters on the toes and damaged hair to getting rejected countless times and fighting insecurities!”
Kate Paras-Santiago: "As they say, a lot of people think fashion is all glitz and glam. To be quite honest, it is actually a very high-pressure job that requires patience, dedication, and hard work. Most days I am lacking sleep because of the sheer amount of things to be done, but I always end the day with a happy heart, knowing that I get to do what I love every single day."
What would you tell someone starting out a career in your field in fashion?
Yves Camingue to young designers: “You need passion and compassion. If it means sacrificing your previous vices and wants, then you’re on the right path. You need to be deeply passionate about the work you put out. There’s no “small” or “big” project.
Pair your vision with a task. Vision is your dynamo for your career! Pair it realistically with actual tasks to take you where you want to be in your career. If you want to conquer the world, get out, get busy and stop procrastinating and make that collection already! And make sure it’s wearable.
Learn and research constantly. Learning history is very important. If you understand the things that came before you, you will understand your vision and your own path. And that’s where fashion leads you. Don’t think too proudly that you know everything already. Find someone who can teach you techniques beyond the book.
Take risks. Something that doesn’t go as planned or goes wrong can be empowering. The world won’t end if something does. Break the wall of fear that’s blocking your vision! Always acknowledge it because once you break that wall, you’ll never know what’s in store! “
Maita Baello to aspiring stylists: “I always say that if you want to make it in this business, there's no shortcut. It's best if you can intern or assist because that's how you'll learn and hone your skills.”
Andrea Beldua to budding photographers: “Just keep on creating. Collaborate with other creatives who are also just starting out. Reach out, do the work and make sure to put it out there. Have a presence - especially online. Even as a rookie, know the value of your time and talent when you do get hired. Be constantly inspired, trust that you will find your style and identity but in the meantime, keep on experimenting. Actually, NEVER stop experimenting.”
Chuchie Ledesma to striving makeup artists: “Leave your ego at home. Be open to suggestions and ideas and always be willing to assist senior makeup artists, this way you can also learn more about how the industry works in the process. If you must do the dirty work (i.e. set-up and clean up after or carry their extra bags) do it. DON'T BE LATE.”
Gela Lehmann to young model-hopefuls: “It sounds cliché but I’d say believe in yourself! Every model is different and has his/her own unique feature. As long as you are always professional, like being punctual, taking care of your skin, practicing your walk and poses in the mirror, do not let doubt and anxiety get in the way! Easier said than done, I am still struggling to fix that!”
Kate Paras-Santiago to new creatives: "Do not be afraid or iffy to start at the bottom as an assistant or an intern and pour yourself to learning the ins and outs of the business. Do coffee runs, carry a ton of garment bags, tie the model's shoes, and never stop learning. Find inspiration everywhere and put them out into your work. Find a mentor and try to absorb as much. Best of all, be thankful for not all jobs allow you to experience fun as often as your fashion job does."
Lead photo via IMdb