11 Pros Share the Moment They Realised Fashion Was the Right Career Path

Creative and fun, yet often requiring gruelling work and long hours, fashion is one industry that’s endlessly fascinating to those outside of it (and even those working in it, too). In fact, its behind-the-scenes antics are so interesting they’ve been the subject of countless films, TV shows, books and podcasts.

It’s because of this, though, that the fashion industry can be incredibly competitive and hard to get into, which makes choosing a career in it a bold decision. So, that then begs the question — how did those in fashion make that career choice?

Ahead, 12 fashion pros answer that very question, sharing the exact moment they knew fashion was the right career path for them. From loving fashion at school, to noticing a gap in the market for a certain style of fashion, here’s what they said.

Nadia Fairfax, Creator at @nadiafairfax

“I knew I always loved fashion, but I don’t know if I ever had that ‘Ah ha!’ moment. So, don’t feel bad if you are not on a ‘steady path’ to your ‘dream job’. I just took a small job (at Camilla) after school — legitimately, my mum would drive me to her office after school — doing something I think I liked / had a slight flair for and then I just went with the flow, and it evolved. I never said no to a great opportunity, or the chance to work with great people no matter what the job entailed. I’ve pretty much worked across every aspect of ‘fashion’ from sales, to creative, to design, brand, PR and marketing, and the events side of things. I even helped run the back of the website in my early days at Aje.

“Now I feel like the world is my oyster. I could tackle almost any project any client could throw at me, or I could start my own label, store etc should it tickle my fancy. It may not always be as straightforward as study-intern-job, but as they say, it’s all about the journey! If you’re a good person and take each task on with gusto — you’ll find yourself in a place you never knew you could be!”

Natalie Xenita, Vice President-Managing Director, IMG Fashion Events APAC

“There’s nothing like the experience of a runway show. Sitting front row at Dion Lee’s Resort ’18 show on the steps of the Sydney Opera House — my first runway show in my role as head of IMG’s APAC fashion events — was a moment I’ll never forget. It crystalised on the spot how bringing together my formal education (in media and communications), skills developed through my almost 20-year career (advertising, fashion media and publishing sales) and a lifelong love of fashion and visual arts could all channel into one incredibly fulfilling role.

“I can totally understand that the fashion industry can feel daunting to those looking to make their start, but that’s also one of the best things about fashion — the breadth of skills and areas of expertise are massive. You only have to look around at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week to see just how diverse the ecosystem is, from designers, models, photographers, journalists, event producers, retail buyers, finance and tech experts, hair and makeup artists, content creators, public relations, brand marketers, even lawyers and policymakers. I’d love for more people to see just how inclusive of different skills outside of just design and manufacturing, that the fashion industry really is.”

Rebecca Vallance, Creative Director and Founder at Rebecca Vallance

“I knew from a young age that fashion was right for me. It was the only subject at school that I looked forward to every week… and the only subject I was truly passionate about. When I launched the business 11 years ago, we took the first collection to Paris to sell at Fashion Week and picked up two Harvey Nichols stores in the first season. At that moment, I knew we were onto something.”

Aria Wigneswaran, General Manager at Depop ANZ

“I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of fashion. It’s such an important form of self-expression and creativity, and as I was growing up, I saw myself and so many young people around me use fashion to explore and articulate their own personal growth and change. The industry is also constantly learning and evolving, which makes it such an interesting space that presents its own unique challenges.

“At the core, though, fashion has always felt like a tangible way to connect to people, and so I decided I wanted to be a part of this industry and community. However, before diving in, I invested time upfront in my career to build the core skills that I knew would be valuable from a business perspective, whilst also developing a deep understanding of the importance of community and collaboration.”

Bridie George, Founder and Director of Bella Descanso

“The moment I knew fashion was the right career path for me was when I cold-reached out to an international artist to collaborate on creating prints for my sleepwear collection, and they agreed! Coming from a career in agriculture (a very different industry!), I had always experienced a feeling of not having a platform to freely express myself — I love experimenting, colour, texture, art and building relationships with like-minded people to bring wonderful things to life. That moment made me realise that there is such a wonderful community of fashion creatives out there, and by challenging yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone, the shared connectedness to creation that exists is so fulfilling.”

Carolyn Gahan, Joico Artist and Fashion Stylist at @carolynjayun.stylist

“Working on set for many editorials and creative shoots as a hairstylist allowed me to see what a fashion stylist does and what it entails. I realised fashion is just an opinion and can have so many different meanings to different people. The rules we give fashion get thrown out, and you can really push the boundaries and get people wearing something they never would pick for themselves. Illusion dressing, accessorising, colour and prints are only a small amount I have learned in fashion styling school, which has reassured me I’m right where I need to be.”

Ally May Carey, Creator at @allymaycarey and Fashion Photographer at @creating_substance

“When I was little, my mum taught me to sew and knit — this was passed on from her mum. I studied textiles in high school and loved creating things, but it wasn’t until I left school that I realised there were other avenues within fashion that interested me more than fashion design. After school, I modelled full-time, and from there I was heavily influenced by photography and light and how that plays with the depths of fashion. Blogging created an outlet for me to express myself, and over the past 11 years, everything has evolved organically. I now predominantly work in photography, design and creative direction — all of which revolve around fashion.”

Claudia Stahl, Founder of Jac Cadeaux 

“I came into the fashion industry in my 40’s after running a French language school. I wanted to challenge myself and turn my hand to something else French, and fashion seemed to be a natural choice. I had lived in Paris for four years and had a good understanding of classic French style. Upon my return to Australia, I noticed many women (and men!) wanted to emulate the chic and classic French girl look and with a niche in the marketplace, I launched Jac Cadeaux later that year and have loved every second. Jac Cadeaux captures the iconic French girl style perfectly and I hope to work in the industry for a very long time.”

Emily Delphine, Fashion Photographer at @emilydelphine_photography

“Long story short — I’ve always been drawn to fashion since I was a little girl, but what really hooked me was the good old Tumblr days in high school that my best friend and I would spend hours and hours on. I discovered so many photographers I admired and eventually came across the photographer Cass Bird and just knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. So many people told me it was a dead-end or didn’t believe I could make a career out of it. But I think if you love something and are passionate, there’s no holding you back. I’m also super stubborn and like to prove people wrong, so that helped.”

Ebanny Dwyer, Fashion PR Manager at NAC Media Group

“I never considered fashion as a path for me growing up, however, I really had no idea what I was doing to do. Looking back now, the number of hours I lost watching First Face on Fashion TV and ripping out photos from magazines to stick on my wall (replacing my beloved Good Charlotte shrine from 2004) I should have known this was the direction I’d end up going. After graduating high school, I used all my savings to fly to Brisbane and Melbourne Fashion Festival to intern as a dresser backstage. This is where I really discovered my skill set — impeccable shoe taping and quick dressing changes.

“From there, I Googled fashion colleges, emailed my parents who were in Africa at the time and told them I was moving to Sydney. Getting into the industry was hard work but everything was so exciting and magical — I interned every day I possibly could, and it really paid off after being offered my dream job at Madison Magazine.”

Laura Basso, PR Manager at BEC + BRIDGE

My mum really inspired me on the fashion path. She would wear all the cool designer brands when I was in high school — I used to borrow her clothes all the time. I think what really solidified it as a career for me was my first internship-turned job, working in the cupboards at Grazia Magazine (back when it was a weekly fashion/gossip mag). 

I started to see fashion as art and really consumed myself in it. I showed up every day and worked my ass off, and that’s why I got that job — if you’re not willing to do that, it’ll be a hard industry to crack. My experience has since evolved into fashion PR, now working for BEC + BRIDGE as the PR Manager. I love the creativity that I’m given in my role and, for me, what’s rewarding is knowing you have the ability to inspire a community of like-minded people.”

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