Candid Kell: Cutrone's Advice for a Career in Fashion

Here is a fascinating extract from Kelly Cutrone's book If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, including her Top 10 Tips for getting a career in fashion.

MAMA WOLF SPEAKS

By now you know I love the Goddess, but I run my office with the mentality of a more earthbound but still highly mystical creature: the wolf. To my employees, I’m Mama Wolf—I lead the pack. As PR girls in the New York fashion world, we’re roaming a brutal wilderness, often fighting for our survival, and I’m here to hunt, teach, and protect, not coddle. Fashion may be beautiful to look at, but the truth is that it’s kill or be killed out there, babes.

It’s important that everyone understand their place in the pack and contribute accordingly to its success. Like my partners,
Robyn and Emily, I am unapologetic about using titles, emphasizing seniority, and acknowledging how much time each person has put in relative to the others. I tell my girls that they should have a sense of entitlement that reflects their title, and

I believe this is true regardless of where anyone works. If you’re an assistant, you’re entitled to assist. If you’re an associate, you’re entitled to associate. If you’re a director, you’re entitled to direct and to have all the privileges and responsibilities that go along with that function. It won’t surprise you that when we order catering during Fashion Week to sustain us through the long nights we spend in the office seating shows and putting out fires, Robyn, Emily, and I always eat before the midlevel team, which eats before the assistants, who aren’t allowed to touch the food until the rest of us have taken what we want. The senior team brings in the clients, after all, and the clients pay for the food. (Like wolves, we share our kill withour children.)

Many young people seem to think they’re above the small tasks that make our office—or any office—run efficiently. I’ve been
shocked at how many graduates of expensive, private four-year colleges cannot take phone messages. In my office, for example, if John calls, I need his last name. A phone number with seven digits requires an area code or a country code. I don’t want a message that reads: “Pete, 268-7766.” Well, which Pete? What city? What country? Who is this Pete? “Oh, he said he’s a friend of yours.” Gee, that narrows it down!

I can usually tell within the first day or two how an intern or entry-level employee was raised based on how they tackle menial jobs. It’s often the best-educated young people, the ones who grew up in wealthy towns and have been given every opportunity, who are unable to properly affix labels to five hundred envelopes inviting editors and buyers to a fashion show.

No, it isn’t glamorous work, but if you treat it like the utterly important task it is—crooked labels reflect poorly on my clients’ businesses and my own, and I won’t tolerate them—you’ll eventually be trusted with larger tasks. If not, you just may be fired at 2:00 a.m. in the middle of Fashion Week—like three particularly daft assistants in my office two years ago. “Thank you very much, that will be all,” I said, standing up in disgust after they botched a series of small tasks. “What time should we be here tomorrow?” they asked. “Tomorrow? There is no tomorrow,” I said. I cut them checks and asked them never to come back to my office again.

When I open up my office to interns and assistants, I’m not just using them to get my coffee—I’m offering to teach them how
to succeed in my business and, if they work hard, give them my stamp of approval. I’m giving them a front-row seat to the workings of my entire industry, helping them to figure out where they might fit into it and giving them the contacts to progress
toward their dreams. These are lessons and tools you won’t getin a classroom.

TOP TEN CAREER DON’TS—OR, HOW NOT TO GET A CAREER IN FASHION

[1] Don’t send a résumé in May hoping to get hired in the fashion business, as it’s the slowest time of year. To increase your chances of securing a top-level job, try January or August.

[2] Do not Facebook the owner of a company or any prospective boss. Or if you do, make sure you have something
interesting and out-of-the-box to say that warrants her two minutes; don’t just reveal that you went to college and took a résumé-writing class.

[3] Don’t roll your eyes. Or if you do, roll with them toward the exit sign and then head out the door.

[4] Don’t expect equal rights in the workplace without being willing to do equal work, which includes transporting heavy garment bags, loading and unloading FedEx and UPS shipments, and rolling racks of clothing down New York City’s uneven sidewalks. People’s Revolution is an equal-opportunity employer.

[5] Don’t call in sick when you’re not. At People’s Revolution, we give employees the dignity of five personal days a year. I instituted this policy so that I would never have to begin my morning listening to sad stories in faux-raspy voices about not feeling good enough to make it to the office that day.

[6] If you’re going to be a helper around the office and do things you know your boss wants done—for me that means sweeping the floor and taking out the garbage—don’t jump up and down and give her a play-by-play each time you finish a
task. She knows. Don’t underestimate her radar in her own environment.

[7] Do not try to re-create your family at work.

[8] Do not overemphasize your nationality or gender as a way of making a point. You may be a gay man, but you still have
no right to wear a skirt and twirl around in the middle of the day proclaiming you’re king of the fairies. And if you’re from
San Francisco and a closet Zappatista, that does not give you the right to play Rage Against the Machine and scream out
Che slogans.

[9] Do not think your boss owes you anything other than your paycheck.

[10] And finally, don’t cry in the office. Ever. If you have to cry, go outside.

Extract from 'If You Have to Cry Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You', By Kelly Cutrone with Meredith Bryan. RRP $27.99, Harper Collins.

For more information about the book and purchase a copy visit www.harpercollins.com.au

For your chance to win a copy, enter our competition HERE

You can watch Kelly Cutrone and her team at People's Revolution in Kell on Earth, right here on LifeStyle YOU.


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