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The fashion industry is known for its tightly-knit network, but dig into different designers' backgrounds and it takes on a whole new level of interconnectedness. Last week, we tracked Fashion Week's major players, scouting who worked for whom before they struck out on their own.
Both Tory Burch and Thakoon Panichgul counted Harper's Bazaar as an employer early on in their careers, and Alexander Wang interned at Marc Jacobs, Teen Vogue, and Vogue just three years before winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and getting Diane von Furstenberg assigned as his mentor. Maybe she regaled him with tales of her days at QVC.
Before signing on with the shopping channel, von Furstenberg also spent some time in the magazine business as a contributing editor with Vanity Fair. Calvin Klein worked at WWD in the art department in the early '60s before launching his own line in 1968.
Others were drawn into the industry through retail positions. Michael Kors started in sales—first out of his parent's basement with his own boutique, Iron Butterfly, and then at Lothar's, a now-defunct upscale boutique on Madison Ave. He switched from sales to designing for Lothar's, then moved onward to successfully launch his own brand and pick up a high profile design position with Céline in the '90s. Both Wang and Phillip Lim dabbled in sales at Barneys, although Lim left retail relatively quickly to design for Paul Frank Industries before launching his own line. Thankfully, he hasn't left the cartoons behind.
Most of the younger designers started out as interns to their more established counterparts. Donna Karan paid her dues at Anne Klein, where she would eventually become the head designer before building her own business. Zac Posen interned for Nicole Miller and Richard Miller (at the Met's Costume Institute) before stepping out on his own after a short stint in sales at Tocca. Lazaro Hernandez interned for Michael Kors at the same time that Jack McCullough was working for Marc Jacobs, then two years later Proenza Schouler debuted as they were graduating from Parsons.
Parsons has a long history of producing successful designers. Marc Jacobs, James Mischka and Mark Badgley all attended the school at the same time, graduating within a few years of each other. Afterwards, Badgley spent time working for Williwear, while Mischka went to work for Donna Karan. Three years later, Badgley Mischka was born.
Oscar de la Renta spent his early days working for Antonio Del Castillo, Elizabeth Arden, and Jane Derby before the debut of his own line in 1967. 30 years later, he picked up a head design position at Balmain, where he was in charge of the couture and ready to wear collections. Reem Acra also spent some of her formative years outside of the United States, designing both in Hong Kong and New York before making a permanent move back to the States.
Is your head spinning yet? Check out the corresponding web above to keep it all straight.—Erika Graham
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