Career lessons learned from New York Fashion Week

Taoray Wang S/S 2020 at NYFW; Joseph Lin / Ladders

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) came to a glittering close recently. The modern iteration of a loosely defined week packed with fashion predictions and aggressive merchandising has gone through numerous makeovers through the decades. What started as Press Week in 1943 as a place for journalists to see the upcoming styles, inspired a host of different fashion meccas launching their own fashion weeks in the 1980s.

Fashion Week as we know it though, complete with supermodels and front-row seats crammed with celebrities was only officially branded as such in 1993. Believe it or not, beyond the obvious lesson of dressing to impress, there are quite a few career lessons to be learned from New York Fashion Week.

Change with the times

While in years back NYFW might have extended well past the parameters of a single week, this year’s festivities were pretty rigid in keeping to the definition of a single week. “We’re conscious of people’s time and budget,” CFDA president and chief executive officer Steven Kolb was quoted as saying in a Fashion Week recap on CNN.com. “We’ve gotten feedback over the last few seasons that the longer schedule was difficult for editors and buyers and guests of fashion shows.”

NYFW career lessons learned: The 1980s were all about excess and the fashion week shows reflected that. More recent shows embraced the style ethos but were tailored to more modern tastes- and budgets. If you plan conferences, events or holiday parties for your company, keep in mind not only the budget you allot for the party itself but how much time or energy you expect employees to devote to the event itself.

Be a comeback kid

American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger showed his collection in Milan last year and elsewhere the year before that. While his designs aren’t exactly couture, his collaborations were noteworthy (including one with model Gigi Hadid) and Hilfiger has long been a Fashion Week mainstay. This year he came back with a bang and showed a retro-fabulous collaboration with pop star Zendaya.

NYFW career lessons learned: Having a great reputation doesn’t count for much if you can’t prove your ability to produce a consistently excellent product. The ins and outs of Hilfiger’s decision to exhibit elsewhere are less important than the fact that he took a break on some level and then came back better than ever. If you feel stultified by your workspace if not necessarily your career, consider a change of scenery for a while.

Does your company have offices in a different state or country? Maybe one of your sister organizations is launching a new product that will allow you to work better. Talk to your boss or supervisor about relocating for a while and then return to your home turf with the ability to dazzle anyone who thought you were losing your professional mojo.

Diversity and sustainability are extremely stylish

While Fashion Week usually exclusively features the preternaturally tall and beautiful, this year things looked a bit different.  Making her catwalk debut this year was fresh-faced 65-year-old “Accidental Icon” blogger Lyn Slater. A mother/daughter duo of actress Debi Mazar and teen daughter, Evelina Corcos walked the runway for Kate Spade.

Along those lines, in place of the extreme excess that’s often associated with the fashion industry, Gabriela Hearst tried to produce a carbon-neutral show. Hot tools like hair straighteners and hairdryers were nowhere in sight backstage and instead, the models’ hair was simply braided. Clothing was made of woven hemp, cotton, and wool. Designer Maria Cornejo collaborated with Hyundai for a display of upcycled fashion nicknamed ReStyle. Leather and fabric from car interiors appeared on stage in the form of dresses and pantsuits.

NYFW career lessons learned: If something worked for you the first time around, try to find a way to make it work again. And if something failed miserably despite your best efforts, try to find a way to break it apart so that you can at least reclaim, if not highlight the best parts in a future project or presentation.

It’s not the only game in town

When most people think about Fashion Week, they immediately think about New York. But while New York is done for the season, there’s still London, Paris, Milan, and places none of us have previously known about.

NYFW career lessons learned: While the day to day life at any job can feel incredibly pressing and like all that exists, it’s a great big world out there. If your job is mostly agony without reward, it might be time to find someplace else to work.