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Last Friday, Anna Wintour sat down with Vogue's new international editor Suzy Menkes for an interview in front of an audience of young fashion design hopefuls at London's Central Saint Martins.
Wintour used the opportunity to dish out the brutal truth on what it takes to find success in the industry, from starting your own business directly out of school (don't do that) to dressing celebrities on the red carpet ("God, they need your help"). Below, find six takeaways from the interview.
1. It's very hard to succeed in your own business straight out of school.
"The first step after college [in Britain] is to go straight into your own business. Whereas in the United States, students are more cautious or their emphasis is more on wanting to work with other designers first. [...] I personally would advise you to think carefully before you start your own business and consider possibly working for a designer or a company whose work you admire."
2. Find a business partner who understands the numbers.
"It's unusual, in my experience, for a creative designer to also be good at understanding facts and figures. It's important to have someone to talk to and discuss everything with and bounce ideas off. I have not seen too many successful designers who've managed alone, without their business partner."
3. Learn how to present yourself.
"In today's world you have to interact. You can't really be some difficult, shy person who is not able to look somebody in the face: you have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus and what you believe in. If you can't be passionate about who you are and what you are doing: how can they [your audience] be?"
4. Presentations work just as well—if not better than—staging a runway show.
"Please listen to me when I say: an interesting creative presentation is just as effective as a fashion show. I see people who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on fashion shows, which I simply don't think is necessary. A presentation gives us all an opportunity to meet you, rather than to go and sit in some dark room somewhere and wait for you to start; then [have] no time to say hello, and rush off to the next one."
5. Resort and pre-fall are huge moneymakers, so don't ignore those collections.
"The basic truth of the matter is that 80% of what sells in the stores are the mid-season collections: resort and pre-fall. So when you're ready, don't ignore it, because it's gonna be something that will help you all to pay the bills."
6. The red carpet needs your help, but don't expect to dress celebrities right away.
"The red carpet, in the United States, has become too much of a business. It's a fact that celebrities are paid to wear everything, and to me that sometimes comes across as very manufactured and not individual. I was just recently at the Tony Awards in New York, and, God, they need your help. Let me tell you, it was a disaster.
So, there are opportunities, but don't expect the Oscars the first time out. They have all these teams of people telling them what to do, what to wear, how to do their hair, make-up. And they're so scared of being criticized, whereas, you know, what's wrong with looking different? How many mermaid fishtail strapless sequins [gowns] can we see?"