When I booked my one-way ticket to New York five years ago, I remember the exact airline that I flew with. You see I couldn’t pronounce it, and when asking my father about the German airline name, he laughed in my face, and has made fun of me ever since.
Five years on, and I never believed that I would be taking part in the first ever runway show, on a plane, yes that’s right, with Lufthansa airline. Frankfurt to New York. On board with an army of press, bloggers, camera crews and models. Whose idea was this?
Frau Kempner. The name badge given to me, I clip it onto my cashmere coat, and am handed a chic fluorescent yellow safety jacket, as we cross the huge runway, and straight back onto the plane for a full dress rehearsal, only hours after stepping off a nine hour flight that same morning into cloudy Frankfurt.
Fasten seatbelt whilst seated. Mentally mine was, tight. Especially when we board, and two camera crews have “hi-jacked’ the plane to wire up the aircraft and test out the cameras. Women shouting German to me as they try to pass down the narrow aisles as they clean the plane, with huge garbage bags dragging behind them. The models, all in their heels, practice walking down the aisles at the same time this is all going on. Absolutely exhausted, and I sit in the front row of business class, trying to keep up with the madness that is going on around me. And I am quickly mesmerized by the cute production manager Simone that is conducting the whole thing, and the buzz of excitement from him and the crew. With the plane firmly on the ground, I am all of a sudden on some sort of high.
I find it comical when I step off the plane, do I get an email from Lufthansa telling me I am now ready to check in for my flight back to New York first thing tomorrow morning. Are you kidding me. I just got here.
A night of exploring Frankfurt, with little to no sleep, and early the following morning my engine is running on only adrenaline, and well, German coffee.
Please prepare for take off.
Soaring above the clouds, I was closer to heaven than ever before, and yet I was feeling far from it. An hour before show time, and I climb the stairs to the upper level of the plane. Passing all the lounging bloggers as they take photos with their selfie sticks , choosing their Instagram filters, and drink champagne with their good looking boyfriends in their Abercrombie effortless sweatpants.
I reach for the clothes that are stored away hidden in the cabinet by where the food is served in the back, and take them to “back stage”, which consists of five rows of business class at the front of the plane. The clothes are all so wrinkled and we are in desperate need of a steamer. Which at that moment we find out that the steamer was not taken onto the plane, and did not in fact pass security.
Taking short breaths, and I half expect the oxygen masks to fall from up above us and hit me on the head, just like in the safety videos. I could really do with some right now. Thinking fast, and I rip off all the plastic bags from the clothes, and start to hang them up along the overhead compartments, making a wall of clothes around the cabin to let them breath.
30,000ft up in the air, and I wasn’t sure if it was the cabin pressure, but I was starting to feel light headed, with a hint of traumatic claustrophobia. Half an hour to show time, and we were surrounded by half naked model getting dressed, at the same time hair and make up fussing over them, spraying goodness- knows- how- did- that- get- on- the- plane, and camera crews conducting interviews, sound booms banging into the over head compartments, and well, clothes just everywhere. It was the chaos of a back stage fashion show, X100.
A mountain of high heels, bras, coat hangers, clothing, everywhere in the cabin. The cheesy 50s music in the background as the show starts, and once the girls leave the backstage curtain to “fly” down the runway, suddenly all the pressure was lifted, and there was a sense of elegance, magic, fantasy as I see them walk down the aisle. Bright red lipstick, and I get a high of that excitement of flying, the exotic side of being on a plane. The glamour, the sexiness. Which I guess I had forgotten all about.
Is now a good time to mention that I don’t enjoy flying? Never have. And I don’t think this experience exactly helped that. However, experience was exactly what it was. And something I won’t be forgetting for a long time.
And as I put my seat back into the up right position, and stow my tray table in front of me, never have I ever been so happy to hear the words…
“Cabin crew, prepare for landing.”
Somewhere in New York – April 2013
It is my last day in New York City, and I have just woken up from the most vivid dream. It was about Bryant Park. Springtime, and I was amongst a sea of bright yellow daffodils, which actually remind me of a rich yellow gold double face silk satin we are using in the current collection. The smell of freshly cut grass, and the huge gushing fountain is behind me, which sounds are mixed in with the faint buzz of chaos city noises, from a far.
I am feeling quite nervous about my flight later. I’m about to put on a pot of coffee, but I change my mind. Instead, I get dressed, and head over to the park instead. To think, I haven’t visited it since the expired Christmas tree and ice rink were taken down, and I really can’t go home without seeing it one more time. I must go.
Fast forward. I have become some sort of airline critic. And like a Virgin, I was flying with them for the very first time. I am impressed. A pleasant journey where I managed my complimentary glass of wine before 10am this morning, enjoying the available in flight entertainment, and it did make me smile when just before landing, the sweet air hostess dressed in bright red offers me some love hearts candy. Nice. I’ll save them for later.
Much more exciting than the latest iPhone or iPad. Let me introduce you to the “ivisa.” Well- the O-1 actually. The newest must have accessory, and no it does not come in any other colors. Walking through customs, and I can only describe it like I’m going into battle, however this time I’m equipped with the strongest armor. An Olympic medal. A golden ticket. Armor which has taken about six months to prepare, but boy am I excited to try it out. But most importantly, it’s the pass to my dream. And it worked.
Ignoring time difference, sleep deprivation, baby I’m running on adrenaline and excitement. Sophie your life is waiting. And as I head into Manhattan and run down the subway steps on Northern Boulevard in my blue suede heels, I approach the window to ask for my brand new monthly subway pass. As I look over the booth, I can tell one of the woman’s eyes is fixed on me, but the other wonders. There’s a long pause.
“What perfume is that you’re wearing?” she asks, “I like it” and suddenly she moves her face closer to the glass which makes me jump.
“Oh, thank you” I say, “it’s Jean Paul Gaultier.” I explain to her the female body silhouette shaped bottle. She smiles.
My new Secret Garden for the next three years. I walk into Bryant Park for what seems like the first time again, and I am overwhelmed by the blanket of yellow daffodils that have filled up the park during my absence. Beautiful. And just like my dream. The colors, the smell, the surrounding faint city noises, drowned out by the fountain of tranquility. Spring has crept up just like that, and yet I can’t help but think how did those daffodils find their way into my dream?
And as I jump on the oh so familiar JFK air train back into the city that morning, with that gorgeous New York sunshine glaring through the window, a strong burnt orange, which silhouette actually reminds me of a French fil coupe organza we are using in the current collection. And then it starts to sink in again that I’m back in the city that I love, and I get another flashback of those gorgeous daffodils in Bryant Park. My favorite.
At that moment, I remember the tube of love heart candy handed to me on the plane. Just what I fancy. Fishing them out of my tight jean back pocket, I open the wrapper. I pull out the first heart, it’s pink. I turn it over, and it reads, “You win.”
I guess I kinda do.
My Granny sent me an amusing article from the Daily Telegraph earlier this week. It was by columnist Bryony Gordon, and she writes about her training for the London Marathon this coming April.
“This might give you some inspiration for your next blog post!” my Granny exclaims in her email.
I will also be running the marathon in March later this year, in Washington DC. And if anything, the article although comical, only made me feel worse about my current training situation. I think I have about 8 weeks until the big day. However, I’m already “carb loading” as I dig into my pasta dinner, and I’m thinking of tapering pretty soon. Which for the non- runners reading this – “tapering” is the act of not running in the lead up to a race to save energy. I’ve been tapering for weeks!
I first got into running when a good friend of mine decided to do a challenge and run 30 races within one year in the lead up to her 30th birthday that December. Crazy I know. Almost all of her weekends were filled up with race after race, which involved eight half marathons, two full marathons, and numerous fun runs, one which included running down the West Side highway in only our underwear, in Mid February. Can you believe I got roped into doing that one? It was only a matter of time before I got hooked into the running world, and my week nights soon became gym sessions of running on the treadmill for 30 minutes, and then meeting the girls on the stretching mats to talk about our day, and gossip. Now that definitely got my heart racing.
You see, I think running comes naturally to me. I am pro at running for the N train in the morning, as I hear it approaching on the tracks above, I have a large coffee in hand, and the latest Time Out magazine scooped under my arm. Or how about running to pick up fabric on 38th Street when the new intern decides to take a long lunch, and I have no choice but to dash out so that production doesn’t stop. Or not to mention this morning, when I woke up and realized we were out of ground coffee, I’ve never thrown on my sneakers so fast to run to the store to stock up. It’s all part of the training.
The race in March will be my second marathon. Once a runner, always a runner, right? I completed the race in Queens last year, and well, it was far from easy. Especially that damn Mile 23. Oh Mile 23. It was straight after my friend Audra (another power runner I look up to) met me at mile 22 with chopped up banana and orange slices. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her in the distance, I wanted to hug her, but then feared of stopping incase I didn’t start again. The fruit she was feeding me was just the icing on the cake.
“Almost there, almost there!” I remember her cheering.
But then it started. The water works. I remember passing the “Mile 23 sign”, blurry, and I just started balling my eyes out. Yes, I was in pain, literally everything was in pain, drunk with tiredness, and I was far beyond “the wall” that runners always talk about; in fact I couldn’t even see that damn wall I was so far past it. Why was I not prepared for this feeling? It was some kind of overwhelming sense of me being in that moment, that I was actually running the race, and that feeling of accomplishment so close, but so difficult to catch. For goodness sake, I only had three miles left, which at that moment I turn the corner to my surprise to see my friend Rita, standing by the Mile 24 sign, and she’s waving her arms in the air with a huge bouquet of flowers, screaming my name. My other two friends Stephen and Augie are there with her, and they start jumping up and down also. It was at that moment the tears stopped, and it was then that I knew, “I got this.”
For some unknown reason, I am not worried about this race coming up. Okay, so of course I’m training, but why am I so cool about this race? Maybe because I have more self-belief this time? Or maybe because I’ve done it before, so I know I can do it again. Even if I do have that fear in the back of my head of that tortuous Mile 23, which until this moment, I have not shared with anybody.
When I have a bad day, I compare it to Mile 23, with that feeling of being lost, perhaps the thought of giving up, or just loosing hope. But then I remember, it doesn’t last forever. You see it was only for that one mile, before my friends met me the other side, and I realized that I am surrounded by the people I love. And suddenly it all makes sense again, and well, you just keep going. Because you know what? “I got this.”
My room has finally warmed up. It was the third call to my landlord that did it, and he went to flick the switch, and just like that we have heat. It snowed last night. I’m looking out of my window, and notice light layers of snow on the tops of all the cars parked down the street. White. The same color as the blanket that I have wrapped around me, as I sit crossed legged and huddled at my desk, and I have the La la Land soundtrack playing in the background, on repeat.
It’s mid January and it just hit me that we are in the thick of Winter. When did that happen? Although come to think of it, with the bi-polar weather New York has had this week, it could be mid May for all we know. But anyway, as a typical Fashion Blog theme this week, I have decided to share my “Favorite Winter Items I can’t live without this Winter, or any Winter to be honest. Basically, how to keep the cold out and the warm in.”
1. My snow boots. The twenty minute trek to the subway on early mornings would not be possible without my Caterpillar indestructible snow boots. With their faux fur lining, and rock hard leather shell, I’ve had them for 10 years now, and I know we are definitely going to make it to the next 10. Just as long as it keeps on snowing.
2. My Gilet. (Also know as a sleeveless padded vest for my US audience.) Starting the gilet trend amongst my friends, let me tell you this item is the secret for layering up your outfit this Winter, or Spring, or any time of the year actually. It even looks cute with floral dresses. Mine’s white, (okay once was white), $50 from Uniqlo that I got on sale last summer. (Who’s buying jackets in August? Me, that’s who.) It rolls up into one of those tiny draw string bags and fits perfectly in my purse. I carry it with me everywhere.
3. My cashmere sweater collection, I can’t decide which one exactly is my favorite. I hand washed them all last weekend, and it was very amusing when my roommate walked in on me in the bath tub surrounded by a sea of floating sweaters. The trick is all in the drying, well so this GQ article told me. Don’t ring them out, instead damp, and roll lightly in a towel, and leave to dry naturally. Cashmere success.
4. My dressing gown robe. The first thing I put on every morning, an indescribable comfort. We have a close relationship. And it’s one of those old school flannel kinds, I think “accidently” taken from a fancy hotel in London. It’s my favorite.
5. My new leather gloves with wool lining. A surprise gift from the head seamstress this past holiday. You see I always have cold hands, even in mid Summer, it’s some kind of circulation problem so I’ve been told. They’re definitely helping me save on the hand cream this Winter. Only thing, I do wish I could type in them.
6. My emerald green knitted scarf. You see, I always have a knitting phase once a year. Any of my friends will tell you. Last year the phase came early, and I bought out the thick size 8 needles around November, picked up some beautiful mohair yarn from the local store here in Astoria, and so my latest creation is the green scarf, I love it, and most importantly, it’s bloody warm.
7. My Raybans. Okay, so it’s a boring one. However you can always count on that New York blazing sun to be present, and I am always ready with my classic raybans to shield me from that bright light. They’re also great for early mornings, and avoiding eye contact with crazy characters on the subway.
8. Lastly, a hot cup of tea. Yes, I know it’s not a piece of clothing. But it’s so much more. I can’t survive the Winter without a good cup of tea. Which at this moment, I unwrap my big white blanket, and climb out of it to go and put the kettle on. Forget central heating, expensive cashmere, my dressing gown, even the gilet. If there’s one thing that I know will warm me up, it’s that cup of tea.
My brand new blue jeans. The perfect fit. I walk into the office and the head seamstress stops to look at me up and down.
“Nice pants,” she winks, and it’s the best English I’ve heard her say all week.
“Thanks!” I smile. “They’re new.”
But it’s not until I wrap up my work at the end of a busy day back in the studio, do I suddenly realize a defined light blue imprint on my chair. Are you kidding me? And then I look down at the palms of my hands, and notice they are also tinted blue, from the denim. Dye is everywhere.
“Welcome to the studio!” I tell the university students as they pour into the showroom early on Thursday morning. The day has arrived, and my first tour group has started. Not getting much sleep the night before from my fear of public speaking, however it’s not long before I am showered with questions, and realize that is actually quite fun.
“How did you get the job?!” The first question fired at me. I go on to tell the story, my story. Coming to New York with one suitcase, and not much else, and that one interview. You know how the story goes by now.
“What’s the hardest part about adapting to the New York lifestyle?” A girl with long blonde hair in the back pipes up.
“Well, having people understand my British accent over the phone is always a challenge!” I tell her, and everybody laughs. “I am forever being mistaken as ‘Stacey.”
“Have you met Beyonce?” A guy in the front asks, his eyes lit up. I laugh. Ah yes, a very important question. I go on to tell them the story of that one day at work last summer when her stylist happened to “drop in” to the studio, only to give us that one afternoon to design and mock up three new tour costumes for her, which we are then later swept off to her secret rehearsal grounds somewhere in Brooklyn, to present them to the queen herself. In the meantime, we wait and watch her perform the whole set, privately. All I remember was pinching myself constantly to remind make sure it was all really happening.
I then take the students into the back, where all the magic happens. The pattern room, the chaotic sewing studio, I could tell they were soaking it all up.
“How are your collections going?” I asked the small blonde girl as we make our way back into the showroom, she walks beside me, I can she’s mezmorized by the whole experience.
“We have less than two weeks to complete two outfits for our assessment.” She tells me this with a concerned and slight panicked look on her face, like I shouldn’t have bought up the subject at all.
“Two weeks?” I almost choke with laughter in my response. “You’ve got loads of time!” I tell her. At that moment we pass a rack of 20 dresses, and I explain how I have to alter and ship all of them out by tomorrow.
“ If I can do all of that”, I tell her “then you can design and make the two outfits by the end of this month.”
She grins at me.
Exhausted. I’m on the crowded W train this evening on my way back home to Astoria, after a very long day. My phone vibrates in my coat pocket, and it’s one of the students on Twitter, they’ve mentioned me in a post.
“Thanks Sophie for the fantastic tour, you are such an inspiration for us all!” I can’t help but smile to myself, and I can tell the guy standing next to me on the train is wondering what’s so funny.
I think I had an effect on those students today. Their first taste of the real fashion world, and how it is possible to live “the dream.” I really hope my story sticks with them, kind of like the imprint of my blue jeans on my white leather chair. Which the next day I scrubbed and scrubbed to come off, but it just won’t fade.
Seeing the faces of the students as they entered the showroom that morning, lit up, bought me back to the realization of how lucky the position is that I am in. It’s something that I’ll remember for a long time, and well, for even just that one moment, makes it all worth while.
Three, two, one, Happy New Year. I’m on the roof, surrounded with some of my closest friends, and I’m wearing my favorite silver beaded sequin dress. Fireworks explode in front of us, and I glance down to notice the bright lights bounce off the sequins on the dress, creating this beautiful bright kaleidoscope of dancing shapes on the floor.
For me, life is quite simply filled up with moments. And I plan to continue living my life exactly like that, experiencing each moment to the next. Yes, some people say that 2016 wasn’t the best year, but for me, there were a few pretty great moments in there.
Rewind back to earlier this year, and I follow my bright coral sneakers as I run through Queens. 26.2 miles to be exact. The mental image of my spicy Bloody Mary cocktail at brunch after is keeping me going, especially those last torturous six miles. But I made it. Quite the accomplishment.
And then I’m laying on the beautiful white sandy beach in Naples, Florida, probably the most exquisite beach I have ever stepped foot on, and I’m wearing my big white sun hat to protect my face from the bright sun. So peaceful, so calm.
It’s the heart of the summer, and you’ll find me on Fire Island with my co-workers, and we’re team building, literally. A huge BBQ, walks along the beach, and I’ll never forget everyone running to jump into the sea to cool down from the heat. A fantastic moment for sure. However, don’t ask how we ended up at an underwear party at night. And if you don’t know what an underwear party is, again, don’t ask.
The day I decided to change my hair back to it’s original color, well the closest to the original colour yet. The same day I found my light wash vintage Levi jeans hiding in the back of my draw. They fit me again! After too many hours in the salon and later that day I meet up with friends in Brooklyn, and I guess it was just one of those really great summer days that I will always remember.
Then I’m in my printed kimono dress with leather trim collar, and I’m taken out for dinner. We’re overlooking the Eiffel Tower and celebrating the completion of yet another successful two day fabric marathon ordeal, and I remember thinking in that picture I am so excited for that meal, and then to go and hang up my high heels!
I ride the Eurostar home, when I have a moment, and am reunited with my younger sister outside Kings Cross station, London. We are both in matching floral dresses. I buy us a coffee, and we sit outside, and catch up. I remember this girl sitting the other side of the bench and interrupting us to say how happy we looked at that moment, and she offered to take our picture. It was cute.
And then I really know I’m home when I’m taken across all the backfields in the fresh Buckinghamshire countryside, and my Wellington boots are filled up with mud. It was good to be home again, even if it was just for a couple of days.
Fast forward to last week, it’s Christmas Eve, and I’m sat in the lobby bar of the most beautiful hotel with my good friend Stephen and his family. I’ve decided to wear my brand new bright red lace dress. Invited to spend the evening with them a truly magic evening of gift giving, story telling, and laughter. Isn’t that what the holidays are about?
For me, life is filled up with moments. Whether they be high or low moments, each one is it’s own, and leading onto the next. Cashing in my lucky scratch card yesterday morning, and I decided to save the money, putting it towards my next 2017 vacation adventure.
2017, to more great moments, great memories, and great dresses. Hey, this could be the luckiest year yet.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinions starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
Out of the closet. My dad told me he was gay when I was twelve years old. Actually, I remember it pretty well. My sisters and I sat around the dining table, the bright sun pouring into the kitchen, and he holds my hand.
“You know I still love you” he says, “unconditionally.” The room now filled with light, I catch his eye and smile at him. We have a moment.
Into the bright lights. I’ve just shown my very first collection of street wear clothing at the prestigious New York Fashion Week. And as I step off the stage my gay best friend Stephen shrieks as he jumps and throws his arms around me, almost taking me down in the dainty heels I’m wearing.
“You nailed it!!” he exclaims and he squeezes my hand, tight.
Coming across one of my art shows last year, he was instantly attracted to my work, and wanted to be apart of it, with the input of his graphic design talent. Closeness difficult to describe; we can be up until 4am working on a new print together, or laughing on the phone for 20 minutes not saying one single word. Together we are the brand “SoSophie.” It was the beginning of my ultimate dream of creating men’s street wear clothing. The lights go down and we leave the stage, together.
I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday.
“You need to go darling, what have you got to loose?” I’m sat with my dad’s partner, Maudy. We’re at a gorgeous outside cafe in Rome on vacation. He’s got a good point. I was 21 years old, with my entire future waiting for me. What was holding me back?
“Go to New York!” he says with his overly Italian hand gesture. “Live your dream in the Fashion capital!” Maudy had moved to London from Rome with a one-way ticket when he was just 18 years old, and he had never looked back. I think at that moment he saw a piece of himself in me. It was a pivotal moment, for both of us.
Coming to the high-end couture fashion world in New York, and I have found my mentor, my guardian. Taken under his wing, he has given me opportunities like no other. We’ve traveled around the world together for glamorous fashion shows, trunk shows, and not to mention marathon fabric exhibitions in Paris. Five years later, and he has made me the strong, determined sculpture of a woman that I am today. And yet there is still so much more to learn.
London calling, and as I throw on my red lace dress I try to hang up the phone to my dad before he makes me too late, I really have to run out the door. Meeting some friends at the new Greek place the other side of Astoria, and the reservation was booked for 10 minutes ago. But as I run down 21st Street and hail a cab that evening, I start to think. To think about how all the strong male figures in my life are gay men! Surrounded by them, my father, my best friends, my co-workers! Currently a single girl myself, with a bit of a challenge to find a lasting boyfriend for more than three weeks, and yet I meet these guys and they all have such a huge impact on my life. We just click.
Is this why I have such a fascination for menswear and the desire to create young men’s sportswear? Cool, modern street wear for the gay life style, whether he’s on the way to the gym in New York City, or heading out for the night in Soho, London, or in fact, anywhere in the world.
The cab comes to an unexpected stop. I’ve arrived. And yet as I climb out, the thought pops into my head again. Yes, I have all these strong male figures in my life, but there’s always that fear, that fear of being alone, forever.
“What if I’m single for the rest of my life?” I ask Stephen as I pour out of the cab, and he’s there in front of the restaurant, along with all of my friends, our friends.
“It’s okay,” Stephen says, and he squeezes my hand, tight. “We’ll still love you, unconditionally. And in the meantime, we’ll keep making fabulous clothes.”
“Awesome.” A word I rarely use, if ever. In fact I try to avoid it. Living in New York City I have learnt that “awesome” is a word so frequent in the everyday American vocabulary, and in my opinion, it is over used to the point where just about anything can be described with that one word.
My new hair color is awesome. A new hair salon, new stylist, and I am introduced to Sabrina. Challenged to control my fast growing hair, and I have a feeling that I am in good hands. Sabrina walks over and has the exact fierce hair style that I want.
“I work in the image driven prestigious fashion industry,” I explain to her. If you can make my hair look half as good as yours, I will be your happiest client ever,” I think were my exact words. Looking
through the mirror at me, she smiles. Someone switched on the cold this week, and the sharp icy New York Winter has officially arrived. The door slams shut behind me as I enter the cozy restaurant on the Upper East Side to meet my good friend Augie. We sit at the far corner table, away from the cold. So excited, Augie presents to me his brand new photo book. A project that he’s been working on for some time now, and it’s finally completed. It’s a beautiful coffee table book containing all of his photography taken all over the city. A tribute to his very impressive Instagram account of breath taking photographs, and each one filled with so much emotion, so many stories. The book is awesome. I want a copy I tell him.
Come to think of it, this actually reminds me of a book that I just picked up and started reading a couple of weeks ago. “Just Kids.” A biography of the American musician Patti Smith, she tells the story of coming to New York at 17 years old, where she met the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. It beautifully describes the creation of their Bohemian lifestyle in the heart of Brooklyn, living off next to nothing, and the struggle to make art in this romantically written hazy New York setting. Well written, and I am falling in love with Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautiful and quiet character of aspiring to become an artist, and the first of his kind.
I’m in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn today, wondering. Feeling a slight creative block this week, and I need the air. The cold has taken a break, just for today, and the pace of New York has been turned down a notch on this particular Sunday, with the lead up to the holidays just around the corner. I am exploring new places on Bedford Avenue, and every street I discover is a new Instagram picture in my head, no filter needed. That Brooklyn rawness is very noticeable to me today, people selling their clothes in little boutiques, artists wrapped up in the cold, whilst making pieces on the streets, musicians playing on platforms, even aspiring dancers swinging on poles in the train carriages on my subway ride here. People are creating. Everywhere.
How about Sabrina giving me an incredible new hair makeover yesterday morning, or Augie with his completed photo book. New York is full of artists, each with their own unique talent, passion, and all striving to be noticed and making money with the skills they have to offer.
Then it hits me. Just like that New York air as I step out into the cold and quickly clasp my new black beret before it blows away down Bedford Avenue. I realise that the possibilities are endless in this place. Just create.
And now I know what I’ve got to do. And it’s going to be awesome.
“Designer studio seeking young enthusiastic fashion design intern. Must be hard working, presentable, and able to work in a fast paced environment. Flexible schedule is preferred, and above all, must be hungry to learn.”
As the year comes to a close and we turn over to a new season in the fashion calendar, and it can only mean one thing. The hunt for new interns is on.
“Tell me about yourself”, I ask her. It’s the beginning of the summer. She’s sat across the table from me, and she’s shaking. As she swipes through her portfolio on her Ipad, I can tell she is just so nervous from the moist imprint of her finger on the screen as she turns to the next page.
That was me in that same seat. Exactly 5 years ago. Fresh off the plane from England, I had my long hair in a braid and I was wearing a white jersey tank top. Told I had one week to show what I could do, I had never worked so bloody hard in my life.
You see, if I hadn’t made that leap back then, I’d still be managing the fitting rooms at Zara in my hometown. Not that there’s anything wrong with a start job in Zara, however I had just completed a three year university degree in Fashion Design, and nothing had prepared me for the real world. What to expect? Where to begin?
I remember my first internship extremely well. It was in the basement of this fashion accessory silk screen print company in East London. I was folding scarves. Literally. Me and three girls, it’s all we would do all day. Kept there until 8pm every night, unpaid, folding away. I wish I were kidding.
That flash back of the folding silk scarves pops into my head as I finish up the interview with her. Already I know she’s a keeper. From the firm handshake, her up right posture across the table, the perfect red lipstick she’s wearing. It’s really hard to believe Victoria is only 19 years old.
The laws recently changed in New York and that interns doing full time work must be paid. And I second that. Every candidate I hire I do my absolute best to ensure that they are learning to the fullest. To this day, I still hear mixed stories of the life of the fashion intern in New York, depending on the company as to how they are treated, however when they’re under my roof, I make a point to be the best teacher I can possibly be.
That jump into the real world is just so important, and I really don’t think university prepares students for that. At least mine didn’t. I was stuck in a hard place either taking an unpaid internship folding scarves, or earning money in a retail store, which was not what I wanted to do. It’s hard. But you’ve got to go for it, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.
We only had the pleasure of lovely Victoria for that one summer. Probably the best intern I have ever worked with. So professional, so on point. One day I hope to be as elegant, smart, and sharp as herself.
It’s Victoria’s last day in the studio, the day we were all dreading, and I come back to my desk to find a beautiful handmade card resting on my keyboard. I can tell instantly the card is her own design. I turn it over, on the back is a note in her tiny neat Italic handwriting.
“Dear Sophie, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your guidance, support and patience during my time here. I have learnt so much because you are so amazing at what you do! It has been a pleasure working with you and I will miss you. I hope to stay in touch!
Designer studio seeking young enthusiastic fashion design intern. Must have a dream, and not be afraid to go for it.