Fashion bureaucracy: why it’s all about who you know and why that’s a GOOD thing (instead of something to whine about)
Developing relationships is crucial no matter what industry you’re in. Having a trusting relationship is a necessity whether it is with your clients, stylists, makeup artists or agencies. If you have friends within your network, well, then that’s the greatest job security you’ll ever have; and if you’re self employed, like most creatives, then having a strong social circle of friends is all the more important – who knows when you’ll need a referral to a certain client? Being in a community of people, with connections, is essential and it’s that exact community that will allow you to network and build long-term relationships. This long-term relationship works in favour for both persons, for example, if your friend knows someone who needs a photographer or stylist, they can recommend you as opposed to googling random photographers or contacting agencies – we all know that can be a pain. Even if you have an agent doing this, a personal referral works in your favour (which I will discuss later in detail) and they are more likely to work with you again, especially if you were easy to work with the first time around.
Fashion bureaucracy Sui He Photographed by Chen Man
Every once in a while I meet a creative that complains about the industry being about who you know and on one level part of me thinks, “thank God it’s all about who you know”. Let’s face it: there’s always going to be someone whose work is better than yours, who can outwork you, networks better,has bigger budgets than you, has access to locations and people you can only dream of working with and has more connections than you. But despite this, networking in the fashion industry isn’t competitive at all. When I met one of my mentors, who by the way is a photographer, I wanted to figure out just how many more creatives I could suggest to him, ones that I knew would add value to his portfolio and vice versa. Adding value was what got one of my mentors to be represented by one of the top agencies, even though doors have been shut in his face over and over, you can find a way to do the same and get your foot in the door. And those people who are protective over their contacts? Well, I call that the scarce mentality. Chances are you’ll meet people that you otherwise never would have met but through that one, simple introduction from a friend. You might end working on a really awesome project as a result of this; and of course, this is beneficial because if they’re grateful they’ll reciprocate and that, my friend, is what I call a gold mine network.
Find the RIGHT kind of people to connect with at events, parties, fashion shows etc. There are some people who write a blog, have a huge following on social media, go to events and network but don’t put an emphasis on building human to human relationships – if you ask me, that’s a failed strategy no matter what industry you’re in. You may have read my previous article which questioned how important social media is in the modern photographic industry. I discussed how the goal is to build real relationships online like you would offline. As an editor I’m learning to take my own advice. I should probably follow more of our contributors online and use twitter more actively. But as I was saying, the point is to create real connections with real people, not robotically accumulate likes and followers. Tweet people when they tweet you or if you find a certain artist’s work interesting, tweet them – let them know! The point is not to show up and be that guy who might as well be saying, “book me, book me; use me for your project!” Let’s take an example – pretend I’m a fashion photographer wanting to network. I would look up the owners of my local salons, local designers on LinkedIn, and then I’d try to attend an event they’d be at or host a seminar. The next step is to befriend a couple of people and find ways I could add value to their business. You don’t need to shove yourself in front of them, just say a few words on how you think you could help their business. Now say the salon, which I previously made a connection with, needed a photographer, not only would they contact me for ease of access but so as not to violate or disturb the business relationship that has already been established. I hope you get this kind of mindset. While most other creatives are focused on getting thing their name known, you on the other hand should focus on how you can get clients to show up at your doorstep. To put it simply, attract clients and soon after, your name will be known.
I know there are creatives out there that think “but I’m a great artist, I should be booked for my talent and experience!” On the one hand, that’s why we created Flawless Magazine; we want to make sure choices are based purely on talent rather than who you are or who you know. But the fashion industry doesn’t always work that way. Nonetheless, I’ll tell you how to have an advantage over everyone else. If you add values, like I’ve previously mentioned, you can help others to succeed and in turn, they might mention your name enough times that before you know it, your name is starting to get out there! Don’t stop yourself from helping others succeed for selfish, personal gain: if they’re grateful, they will refer clients back to you. The same also applies if you’re the kind of person that stabs people in the back – word will get around and repel potential clients.
Fashion bureaucracy Photographed by Elizaveta Porodina
I read about Missy Woodford in the H&M magazine summer 2014, page 71, from an article titled “How to Land a Fashion Job” which read: “Missy Woodford is a casting director working with major brands such as Chanel. At 21, she landed a job as a stylist’s assistant through a friend. That led to working with important editors and stylists, such as American Harper’s Bazaar’s Brana Wolf, and Jane How. Another friend of Missy’s jumped right in. “I really had to learn on my feet, but I loved putting together the perfect line up of girls for the designers.” More than ten years later, Missy convinces Chanel to use a girl Called Cara Delevingne for their cruise show in London. “Poppy Delevingne was Chanel ambassador, and I thought it would be amazing to have both sisters in the show – they were so excited that Cara was in the Chanel show! A year later, Cara was the face of Chanel, and the rest in fashion is history.” Missy and Cara are just two examples of success made through contacts and networking. Study other people in your field, study those who came before you.
What’s not publicized about a lot of people in fashion is how they got to where they are. Really read up on the people who inspired you, and learn their journey. Find out about them, and find out how they got from point A to point B. It can be really inspiring.
Fashion bureaucracy Jvdas Berra Photographer
Let’s say I meet Kristian Schuller or Steven Meisel at a shoot, I’m not going to try and talk about photography like a thousand other photographers have before me, but instead, use a more personal approach that touches on their interest outside photography. I might ask, “Hey how’s your kid, how’s everything going with…” I’d focus on befriending them without getting too personal, and often that might provoke them into sharing some insight into their techniques especially if they don’t see you as a threat; so as you can see, simply having a chat can lead to gaining some knowledge from their skilled mind. Not only do you get to work with them but they might also recommend you to clients, bookings you probably would never have gotten in the first place. What you want to do is take people like this off the high pedestal and relate to them on a human level. A good example of what not to say is, “Hey you teach seminars on photography, I should teach that too because I’m really good at photography!” To sum up, just ask questions about the people you want to network with and don’t forcibly sell yourself; people like talking about their passion and it’s a great way to develop a bond with them. Because people having a normal conversation in the industry makes you stand out from the last 50 people they’ve met that have tried to sell their work.
Fashion bureaucracy Jessica Stam Photographed by Michaelangelo di Battista
Now put this information into action! Make a list with the names of people you want to work with and the people you want build a relationship with that will potentially put you in front of that photographer you want to work with – these ideally would be top designers, photographers, editors, agencies etc. If you set aside 20 minutes to do this it will literally save you years of wasted time and effort. Most people just randomly network with people that are not even related to their field of interest. Follow up with connections and make them feel important. Keep in touch every once a while to keep them in your circle. You might look into getting a CRM program to manage your connections, as well as being organized you can avoid the awkward ‘who is this person’ situation. I recommend checking out http://www.intros.to/ when building your network.
The funny thing is that Flawless Magazine was founded by two guys who met at a fashion event and decided to follow up afterwards. If we didn’t make that contact after the show, I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. There wouldn’t have been a magazine to begin with. That being said, if you have any suggestions for more articles like this, then please email:firstname.lastname@example.org.