Erika from Retro Flame works in fashion and has heaps of experience making her the perfect interviewee to give you an in depth insight into what she does, what her work involves, how she has got to where she is today, amongst many more helpful questions. Read on to find out more!
Tell us a little bit about yourself in a few sentences.
I'm a 20-year old Student/Blogger/Stylist currently studying business in Galway, Ireland. I write my own fashion blog, "Retro Flame, where I include personal style posts, my inspirations & updates on exciting projects I've been working on. I love all things vintage and also love to customize clothes so that I can add a bit of my own personality to them.
Did you enjoy studying Fashion Industry Practice at The Galway Technical Institue? What did you enjoy about it?
It was by far one of best years I've had so far! There was only 20 of us in the class & by the end of the year, we were all pretty inseparable. The best thing about the course was that it was immensely practical. We didn't just sit in a classroom listening to a teacher, but instead we were shown how to do something, given some inspiration & then we got a chance to let our imaginations flow. I always had an interest in fashion, but my time at GTI really confirmed that fashion is definitely the career I want to pursue.
What kinds of things did it involve doing/learning about?
We learned such a wide variety of things, but in the end they all linked up perfectly together. We learned about Fashion Styling, PR, Design, Graphic Design, Buying & Event Management. We organized a fashion week which consisted of a fashion show, live window displays & much more! I constructed & designed my very own window display, styled 3 photo shoots, designed a garment made from recyclable materials, compiled & presented an A/W Coat collection as part of the Fashion Buying module & leaned more about the Industry than I could have ever imagined. It's a course I would highly recommend.
Where do you usually shop for clothes?
I usually shop in Vintage stores, Charity/Thrift stores & Markets. I love finding things that nobody else will have! I do shop in the High Street form time to time, but only really when there are sales on. I also really like TK Maxx.
What are your hobbies or things you like to do in your spare time?
Well I guess at the moment, blogging is what I'm always doing if I have a spare minute. It's very time-consuming, so I always find myself using my spare time to improve & develop my blog. I also do some freelance styling whenever I have a free weekend and that's something I absolutely love! I'm the kind of person that loves to keep busy.
What was it like studying Fashion and Beauty PR at London College of Fashion? What kinds of things did it involve?
It was a really interesting experience. The first thing that our tutor told us on our first morning there was that we were probably going to learn more from each other than we were from her...& she was so so right. Everyone in the course had a different story but we all had the same aspirations. So it was really interesting to hear what everyone had done, how they had got where they are now & then to share tips with each other. It was an extremely practical course, so everyday we were set little tasks that we had to prepare in groups of 3 or 4, then we presented our ideas to the class at the end of the day. It really helped my presentation skills & also improved my public speaking skills. We also learned a little about Styling which I loved! My next goal now is to save up to go back over & do the Fashion Styling course.
Would you recommend going to university to study fashion and to get a degree if you wish to have a career in the industry, to gain skills and experience?
I kind of have a mixed opinion on this. I really do think that you can learn a lot in university if you are willing to work very very hard. But I do think that in order to be successful in this industry, you have to just get out there and starting doing lots & lots of work experience. Networking is the key to success. Be very nice to everyone you meet & make sure to get their business card!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Many places really but mainly from blogs, street style & websites such as Lookbook.nu.
How did you get to where you are today? What kinds of things did you do and are still doing to strive to achieve your goals?
Quite simply, hard work! As I said before, I never really have that much spare time anymore & that's because I am constantly trying to improve and develop my blog, build up my styling portfolio, assist with organizing events & just getting my name out there. If you want a career in fashion, often it doesn't come down to how good you are but instead, how hard you are willing to work. You have to be prepared to work for free for a pretty long time, but if you are passionate enough about it, this really won't matter. Every opportunity you get, just get involved with things that are happening in your area. I find that every event I go to, I meet someone new. So before you know it you'll have built up a pretty good contact list & this is one of the key aspects of moving up in the fashion world.
How would you describe your style?
It varies from day to day really & very much depends on my mood. I absolutely love dressing up, I don't know what it is but I always kind of feel better & more confident when I'm happy with what I'm wearing. At the moment, I'm loving long skirts, band tee's, chelsea boots, anything mint green & adding my own touch to my clothes through DIY.
You are currently working as a Senior Stylist & PR Assistant at Upfront PR and Model Management, what do you like the most about your job?
I started off doing work experience with this company & I was lucky enough to be offered a job at the end of it. I love the versatility of the job. I usually work at all the big events we organize and every one is so different to the next. At the moment, we are preparing for our biggest event of the year, Kerry Fashion Weekend. I am styling all the events & am very involved in organizing a vintage event we are having on the Saturday night. The people I work with are so great & I'm very lucky to have this wonderful job.
Aswell as working as a Senior Stylist & PR Assistant, you are also a Freelance Fashion Stylist. When did you know that you wanted a career in fashion or did you know straight away what you wanted to do?
Yes, at the moment I'm styling 1 or 2 shoots every month which is really exciting. I'm working a lot with a really talented photographer called Saibh Egan, from Galway. Before every shoot, she tells me the vision she has for the shoot & then I source all the clothes which I think will be suitable. Styling is quite a difficult career, but it allows me to express my ideas through clothes, etc. so it is a hobby I absolutely love. In order to get your name out there in the styling world, you have to build up a really good portfolio. So if there are people reading this who think styling may be what they want to do, just start collaborating with photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists & models who are all looking to build up their portfolios too (there are loads!)...& start experimenting with different ideas you have. The more shoots you do, the better you'll get. I'm still learning too! I always knew that it was fashion I wanted to do because I wanted a career that would vary every day. At the moment, I really like the Fashion PR & Styling side of things, but I would also really like to get some experience working in fashion magazines, hopefully in the very near future.
What would ultimately be your dream career?
Ultimately, I want to own my own business. Quite ambitious, I know, but you have to be! At the moment, I'm just gaining experience in a lot of different areas of the industry so I haven't fully decided yet which path exactly I want to take. But I do know that whatever I will be doing, I want to be working for myself. I have an idea for a little business of my own, which I will be launching in Septemper/October 2012...I won't reveal yet exactly what it is, but I must say I'm very excited to see how it all goes.
How was your internship at the Irish label 'NATALIEBCOLEMAN'? What did it involve doing?
The internship was fantastic! I applied for the internship out of the blue one day, not thinking I had any chance, so I was absolutely over the moon when I got a phone call back saying I had got the internship. I moved to Monaghan, to work in her studio for 2 weeks and I loved every minute of it. She showed her newest collection at both Paris & New York Fashion weeks, so I was on hand to help prepare for this. It involved lots of phone calls, emails & planning. I worked extremely hard and very long hours, but I learned an unbelievable amount while I was there.
It is known that the fashion industry is very hard to break into. What advice would you give to people currently studying fashion in university at the moment? Also, what advice would you give to younger teen bloggers at school/sixthform/college hoping to get a career in the increasingly fast-paced industry?
The main thing is to just do as much work experience as you can. The more things you have to say on your CV and in interviews, the better. Also, start a blog if you haven't already! My blog, "Retro Flame", has opened so many doors for me so far & has allowed me to really get my name out there. Your blog is pretty much your online CV, it is somewhere that will give employers an idea of your tastes & personality & will show them that you have the ability and commitment to set up something that you can call your own. I also mentioned before that networking is another key ingredient to making you successful. Get some business cards made and aim to give out at least 5 at every event/get-together you go to. You never know who you might meet.
What skills would you say are needed for working in fashion?
You need to be hard-working, dedicated, flexible & most of all unforgettable.
What are your main goals for the future?
I have lots! But the main ones are to develop my blog & ensure it keeps on growing, to gain some experience working in a fashion magazine, to set up my own business (which will all be revealed soon), to complete a fashion styling course in LCF & to have gone to all of the fashion weeks in the next 2 years. You have to aim high, eh?
Finally, where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years' time?Living in New York still doing what I love!
So, clearly Erika is extremely successful in what she has done to try and achieve her goals and is very inspirational, certainly towards me anyway! I hope this has helped some of you in deciding if this is the path you also want to go down and given you some insight into the industry! Also, be sure to go over and have a look at Erika's blog!
More features/interviews will be coming soon. Let me know if you actually want to see some more! Please feel free to leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments below or even tweet me! If you have any ideas which might fit in nicely with these projects or think you would like to be featured in any way at all within the subjects of fashion/beauty careers, then please get in touch!