It’s summer and you’re visiting a distant relative. They make small talk on how much you’ve grown and how they remember when you were three though you swear you’ve never met them in your life. Chatter drifts to what you’re studying. My sister tells them she studies economics and politics at Kings College London. She is praised for her cleverness and for her prestigious choices. Then it’s my turn. “Fashion communication and promotion” I say. Their face instantly screws up in confusion, almost as if they are embarrassed for me, or don’t know how to respond.
This is for anyone who has found they’ve had a negative response when they tell someone what they study or their career choice. As a recent graduate from a fashion course, I’m pretty bias in saying we get it the worst. People assume fashion is a shallow subject for people who just like clothes and didn’t manage to get decent enough grades at school to study something more ‘serious’.
Let me just start by telling those people it might actually surprise you that we actually chose to study fashion. As did millions of business owners and creatives leading successful careers and lives. Being privileged enough to have a good education meant the world was my oyster. Despite going to one of the best schools in the country, coming out with above average results, I chose to go into fashion. Even my teachers seemed confused at my choices. I could have studied to become a doctor or a lawyer, but I didn’t. I was confident enough to say no, I want to study fashion, basing my career on what I enjoy, and what I’m passionate about.
We have completely obliterate this idea that fashion is a meaningless shallow subject about clothes. This is just not the case. Some of the people I have crossed paths with in the industry and at university are the most cultured, interesting and intelligent people I know. To thrive in fashion you have to be intelligent. You have to know about history, culture, politics, technology, marketing and the ever-changing social landscape. The list goes on because that’s what fashion is, it’s enriching, educational and artistic. We are branded as shallow and not smart enough to study a real degree by some, but probably know more about the world than a maths graduate.
So why are we so quick to judge? Why do schools put all their emphasis into the sciences and maths, dismissing the arts and humanities? How many doctors and lawyers can this earth possess, and who will design their logo and brand their firms if no one wants to be a graphic designer? Yes the sciences are important, but the world couldn’t function without the creative and critical brains of those more artistic souls. Why do we strive to categorize and diminish people? We were all born unique, destined to take different paths and do different things, so it seems illogical to measure success in the same way.
This doesn’t just apply to fashion students, but anyone studying the arts or humanities. We need to shift the attitude that these subjects are unimportant, trivial hobbies that will lead to nothing, when in fact these passions can lead to a successful and fulfilling career. Enough people have been discouraged and settle for a mediocre job rather than using their talents to strive for greatness.
Perhaps we should encourage more young adults choosing a career to pick a path that will fulfill them. Something they can get excited about and inspire their own projects and lives. Surely seeking to be happy beats being in a boring 9-5 job that pays well but leaves you feeling numb inside.
If you are truly passionate about leading a career in fashion, don’t be discouraged. Believe in yourself and your talents. Do internships, create, make and network with the empowering community. Perfect your craft, develop your skills and show everyone that with determination and hard work you can make your passion your day job.