Why I left the Fashion Industry
The highly requested post is finally here. Although it's only been about 2 months since i've made the decision I say 'finally' because i've been battling the decision for a year now which is eternity in my mind. So many followers have asked me for advice on finding internships, jobs, and tips to get into fashion which i'm always happy to share. But since sharing my decision to leave the industry on social media - I was shocked at how many of my followers felt just like I did. I've been asked to share my experiences that led me to this point and I share them from a vulnerable and honest place. My only goal is to share my journey and inspire someone to find the strength to get out of a job, relationship, or situation that is unhealthy and toxic.
I graduated from Stony Brook University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. My school didn't offer much for me so I made it my business to get as much fashion work experience outside of school.
I landed an internship as the wardrobe assistant for the Wendy Williams show during the summer of 2015 and let me tell you I was so excited!! It was my first "real" fashion work experience which confirmed my love for fashion and the "industry." At the time, my goal was to build a resume that would be the best foundation post-grad and this internship was a great start along with a bunch of other retail gigs.
After graduating, I studied abroad/took time off to live a little before the worries of finding a job had set in. I landed a full-time (unpaid) internship at an extremely successful, high-end womenswear brand. I was excited yet again but I knew that I would be starting from the bottom and that was a risk I was willing to take to prove myself and get my foot in the door. So I did.
I worked my ass off.
Proving myself meant doing my job and the job of others, working beyond 9 to 5 and physically overworking myself. I was going the extra mile that was most times unnoticed and unappreciated but I was determined to get hired there or elsewhere. At the time, I was so driven by my want to get in the industry that I was completely blinded by the cons of the situation. I worked and worked and worked until I was soon trusted with bigger tasks and treated as a full-time employee yet still unpaid. I made so many connections and was learning so much at such a fast pace that the internship felt worth it. It was worth the hard work I was putting in and I saw myself being a part of the company. My internship came to an end after 3 months and there wasn't an open full-time position for me therefore, I moved on and found another job in retail.
Let me just say this is all while being a super confused, post-grad, "idk my purpose in life" 22 year old. I was very frustrated at the time but I trusted the process and knew that whatever was meant for me would be. Two months later, a position at the company I interned for was created for me and the decision was a no-brainer. All my blood, sweat, and tears as an intern paid off.
I was beyond prepared and qualified for the position. After all, I had been doing the job (unpaid). Although I was so happy to officially be in the fashion industry, I was not prepared for the insanity that it came with. The insanity included but not limited to - running like a chicken without a head to make sure a sample gets somewhere in time, quickly unpacking a box of samples only to pack it up again within minutes (a skill I mastered that i'm sure will come in handy when I move one day), delivering amazing customer service to clients with unrealistic demands who thought I had super powers, on-going production mistakes in which I had to relay to a client their dress will not be made on time, cleaning/merchandising a showroom in minutes before an appointment, the list truly goes on. I share a few examples to say that the position took a toll on my mind and body. I had never worked so hard at anything in my life. The demands of the position were too much and truly for no reason. After all.. it's just clothes. I lost 12lbs in 3 months, I lost a lot of my hair, and my skin was the worst it could have been due to the stress. I had no energy or drive to focus on FromTheHeelsUp so I neglected it which frustrated me. My brain was fried and I was in a terrible mental space dealing with a lot of anxiety. My weekends were spent being anxious for the following week and I never truly felt as though I "clocked out."
I noticed early on that maybe I made a terrible decision in taking a position I thought I wanted so bad. Maybe I loved the industry but hated the department I was in? Maybe I should use my voice and let my boss know that I am being overworked and needed more support and a team effort? Maybe I really hated fashion? IDK! So many questions went through my mind.
Soon after, my relationship with my employer turned sour and I dealt with a lot of disrespect and belittling on top of going above and beyond in my position. Not only was I not given the recognition for my hard work and ability to wear multiple hats beyond my job description, I was now being mistreated which was a huge NO for me. Most situations I bit the bullet and continued to work hard but I began to hate the job. Waking up in the morning became difficult. Going the extra mile became less and less. And the job hunt began.
As I was searching for a new position I questioned whether my next position should be full-time/part-time or even in the industry. I questioned if I should quit and go full-time with my brand. The fear of being without a steady income or simply not knowing what I wanted to do killed me. I questioned if I had any other interests besides fashion. It was a lot of back and forth and deep thought with myself, my family, my friends, and my boyfriend.
After 8 months (props to me for making it that long), I found a new position. I resigned in September and was replaced in a day. It was then confirmed that I was not viewed as valuable. I realized instantly that I was disposable and replaceable to a company I sold my soul and health to. Lesson learned. I took the good and the bad and moved on.
I landed a position as an Executive Assistant to an accessory brand. I decided to give fashion another chance before completely cancelling it off. I was very transparent with what I wanted out of the position and what I didn't. I took the lessons and mistakes I made in my very first position out of college to my next position because I really wanted it to work.
Truthfully, I wanted to get the most I could out of the position to help push my personal dream. The position would allow me to learn aspects of running a business that I needed to learn for my own brand. I was going to be able to contribute my knowledge in social media/marketing to help push a brand (something I already do on my own time). At the time, it was a smart and beneficial move.
Two weeks into the position, I realized I was lied to. I was lied to about the success of the company, the office environment, how much I could contribute my ideas and many other things. I was working late hours (for no reason) and it began interfering with my personal life and brand. I spoke up for myself very early on because I wanted to be transparent and like I said, make it work. Very soon after, I was in a very toxic environment. Micromanaged, disrespected, belittled, ignored, manipulated, and the list goes on. I talked myself out of flipping a table every day (no exaggeration). I got out of character more times than I am proud of because let's face it, everyone has a breaking point and I had for sure reached mine. I knew I found myself in a very unfortunate situation once again and it was sealed, stamped, and confirmed - I needed to get out of the fashion industry FAST.
I couldn't believe that I tried again and it failed. I truly felt like I had hit a dead end. I felt stuck. I began planning all sorts of exits and trying to curate the best plan because at that point I just wanted to be happy. I learned early on that there was no amount of $$ in the world that would make me stay somewhere I felt unhappy.
It was back to the drawing board with "what do I do now?" As much as it took a toll on my mental state, I continued to reassure myself that it will unfold as it needs to - to trust the process. Just a few days into the new year, a position outside of fashion fell on my lap by a friend who knew what I had been going through. I took a leap of faith and there was the light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't and still can't believe that I am now in an environment that promotes individuality. My contributions are valued and my opinion matters. I'm learning an entire new industry that I had no idea would even interest me. I regained control of my life and i'm back to a normal schedule allowing me time to grow my brand and.... be human (as insane as it sounds).
My last position had traumatized me to my core, leaving me to question my direction, my ideas, my contributions, and even my worth. The decision to leave the industry was really tough on me but the lessons I learned are infinite.
I hope that if you resonate with my experiences you understand that your mental health is more important than a paycheck. Your mental health is more important than proving a point or being the bigger person. Your mental health is worth more than spending 8+ hours in an environment you are not happy in. For my individuals who have dreams, passion projects, and side hustles - it is OKAY to work a 9 to 5 solely to invest in your dream. It is okay to feel lost and scared. But do not allow yourself to live in a space of fear and doubt for too long. If you are unhappy - recognize it and change it. Step out of your comfort zone and you never know what you'll discover on the other side of fear.