Confessions of a Fashion University Graduate

(That is... Teen Vogue Fashion University.)

Exactly two weekends ago, from March 13th to 15th, I attended Teen Vogue’s 10th annual fashion university in none other than my hometown of New York City. It was the experience of a lifetime. Not only did I meet incredible people, but I got to listen and truly learn from some of the biggest and most important names in fashion right now. I was a Design/Styling major, and how it works is you choose a major and have seminars over a two day period with speakers who are specifically designated in that major. It’s a mock university setup, which was very cool. My speakers included Brett Heyman of Edie Parker, Cynthia Sakai of Vita Fede, Rebecca Minkoff, stylist Erin Walsh, and Adam Selman. The Teen Vogue editors also hosted a panel, and lastly, my keynote speaker was Zac Posen. My favorite speakers of all were Adam Selman and Zac Posen, of whom I am in constant awe. Though everyone had some great advice and stories to tell, the two of them took the cake.
   Within all of my seminars, I noticed there was a constant theme of pushing boundaries and never, ever giving up. The fashion industry is a very difficult industry to break into. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s even harder to stay relevant. The most common things I remember hearing were to, “intern, intern, intern!” and “no job is too small.” The message of taking what you have and making the most of it rang loud and clear in my ears. Nothing comes with luck—it’s about persistence and hard work. If you really want, you can spin straw into gold and you will succeed.
   When I sat down for Adam Selman’s seminar, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. Most of the seminars so far had been spoken, interview-like, and finished off with a Q&A. Simple, but effective. Not Adam Selman’s seminar. He is the type of person who makes you want to be his best friend when he speaks. He is so passionate and such a visionary, it was incredible to hear what he had to say. First, he started off with some background about himself, and then he got into talking about his past and most recent collections. He showed us film clips and elaborated on the influence of film in his design process. It was a very intimate and friendly seminar, which I liked a lot.
   My other favorite seminar of the weekend was my keynote speaker, Zac Posen. I’ve been a fan and follower of his for years, so this was something I had been anticipating ever since I found out that he would be speaking. Some of the most valuable lessons I learned from this whole weekend came from this specific seminar, and here they are:

1. “The greatest contribution to this culture is that we can self create.” Zac was very adamant about the idea of self-creation, as exhibited in this quote. He spoke about how school is helpful, but you can’t learn everything from it. He explained that design is a process, and even said, “It’s all about the process.” Growth, experimentation, and self-discovery were very big themes.

2. “A love for life. The most lovable thing in this world is generosity.” I can bet that you’ve heard over a thousand times in your life—the importance of being nice to everyone—but that doesn’t mean hearing it once more will hurt. When Posen said this, he was speaking about the type of people he would hire and with whom he loves to work. He was explaining the characteristics that he felt all successful people should posses because in his words, when you’re nice, everyone wants to work with you.

3. “Everything you provide for men, you have to provide for women. There has to be an equivalent for there to be a status quo.” This is by far one of my favorite quotes from all of my seminars. The fashion world has gotten a lot of praise for being forward thinking and largely accepting of all peoples, but it’s true that it doesn’t always feel that way and equality doesn’t always show. Fashion is still a male driven industry, like many others, and to me, it can often feel like I have to choose which side I’m on. Male or female. It was extremely reassuring to hear Zac Posen address equality and the many, many trials that the fashion industry, as a whole, has gone through with its slow, but sure route, to acceptance of all genders and sexes.

4. “At eighteen, I thought I was so damn fabulous! I would have given myself a real reality slap in the face. Pace yourself. You don’t have to be a song and dance for everybody. You can be patient. One has their whole life to create.” (In response to being asked, “What would you say or do to your eighteen year-old self if you could go back in time?”) Another very important thing that was mentioned is the appreciation of youth. The importance of cherishing the short time you have to be young and generally the significance of taking ones time. While it is important to live quickly and spontaneously, and accept all of the opportunities that are set forth before you, it is also so very important to take a step back and breathe.
I found that something I have in common with Zac Posen is the fact that I’m always in a rush. I want to do everything and anything I can—especially in regards to fashion and a career in this industry. At eighteen, Zac was one thousand times more successful than I am, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we both wanted the same thing and tend to get lost in the moment. Sometimes, the most obvious pieces of advice are the most reassuring, and that quote was exactly it.

A quick snap of Adam Selman, mid speech, talking about his love for Faye Dunaway films such as "Beverly Hills Madam".
Being a part of Teen Vogue Fashion University has been a dream of mine ever since I first started worshipping magazines at the ripe old age of eleven. To become a student you have to be at least sixteen, and since I finally was of age this year, I decided to give it a shot and apply. That being said, that weekend was honestly one of the best weekends of my life. I highly recommend signing up and applying, to anyone who has even the slightest thought of wanting to be in the fashion industry [and is of age]. Next year, I’ll do it again, and probably the year after that. The information is invaluable and the friendships I’ve created are unmatched. I feel so lucky, and have learned so much. But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten that luck has nothing to do with it.

Zac Posen teaching us the anatomy of one of his pieces, through dissection and thorough explanation. 

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