Every fashion design student has one of two dreams...or both, to work for a big name designer they admire, or have their own clothing line. No matter how talented you may be, those jobs are few and very hard to come by, unless you are exceptionally lucky or happen to be well connected. If you are lucky enough to get one, and manage to keep it for a year, it can open many doors thereafter. If you are a member of the working class however, you will need to continue living with mom and dad, or find a second job that actually pays something you can survive on.
Coming out of college my priority was to get a job period. And I did. No big fancy fashion names here. Financial independence and growing my savings was my top priority. After all you can't start your own business with just a portfolio and a confident smile. After five years in the mass market sector that changed. Unless I won the lottery, I would never be able to save enough to start something without a massive loan. Being young and female also doesn't help when talking to the bank.
So there I was, entering my late twenties, and bored at my day job. A handful of friends were getting married, so I decided, if I couldn't get the cash for a ready to wear line, I would start a custom bridal and evening wear collection. Almost as quickly as I made that decision, I discovered that custom bridal was not for me, or more accurately, I was not for it. I left the wedding gowns behind along with my full time job to chase more prestigious career opportunities.
My next job was for a Calvin Klein licensee. My boss, was and I'm sure still is, a great designer, but had always worked solo. He was forced by his superior to hire an assistant. My new boss was a uniquely particular personality with no experience delegating and very poor communication skills. He seemed to think every department was supposed to cater to him. After asking me to secretly overstep the head of another department and change the info on some files around to better suit him, I decided it was time to talk to HR about it. To my surprise, the two options I was given, were to get over it or to quit. I took a moment to digest. If I stayed and got ordered to secretly alter info on files I don't fully understand and made a mistake that costs the company thousands of dollars, the paper trail would lead directly back to me. So right before my second week anniversary at the new job, I quit. While packing the few personal belongings I had at my desk and feeling extremely frustrated, a coworker who managed another department approached me with a revelation that made me feel somewhat proud of myself. It turned out that I was the only assistant hired in the last four months that lasted longer than two or three days.
I took a breath and got on an airplane headed for France. One of my oldest friends' wedding was held at a chateau in idyllic Normandy. I was the maid of honor and made her wedding dress a few short months earlier. I can't say for sure if it was the wine, the food or France in general, but I felt this odd calmness take over. Forty eight hours later with no sleep, I was on an airplane bound for Bali. Not sleeping for three days and going through at least three time zones can be grueling, but Bali has a way of putting you back together in no time. By day two, with the jet lag gone and a belly full of the most flavorful food I have ever tasted, I didn't just start to see Bali, I was feeling it. It has this presence about it that sweeps you up into this inner peace and tranquility.
Some of the locals were dressed in western clothes, others in the traditional costume. This got me curious about the fabrics so I started walking into as many shops as I could in between my nature hikes and museum visits. I was pleasantly surprised to find that every piece of clothing I looked at was made on Bali, but even more so the styling was as varied as the colors. On my last day, I bought a handful of styles all as different as can be, enjoyed my last out of this world amazing meal and as I walked to my taxi, felt this unbelievably strong urge to slam the door shut, rip up my ticket, learn the language, find a job and never leave. All the way to my gate, I felt that I should just turn around now and walk back. Back to the mountain town where artist and craftsmen and tailors worked on their craft and stayed true to it and still made a living for themselves and their family. I felt that Bali was the place where my soul belonged, in every way it possibly could. But I didn't turn around, and a few too many hours later I was back in New York.
I started interning at a high end bridal atelier while I interviewed. My friend, who's wedding dress I made, told me that the company her husband worked for needed help putting a fashion show together. That was my first introduction to Saint James. Some months and a freelance project later, I found myself employed as a full time designer. The next two years were spent jetting back and forth between New York and Normandy. Never before had I thought that the plane, train, automobile combination would be part of my regular commute. Bali was the first step, but Saint James is where everything changed for me. I learned more than I could fit into any post about the day to day of my industry. More importantly, I learned that there are other ways to do this, than what had become the norm in New York and the states.
A company can be well known, and financially profitable while providing good, well paid jobs for the local community, and good product for consumers. Having seen this in action, the next few jobs I took back in New York (combined with years of outsourcing production jobs and income to Asia) made the companies look like they were doomed to fail. Four of them did. The world like never before has grown both larger and smaller. There are more of us now then there ever were, and we are more directly connected to each other than ever before, whether you realize it, don't or don't want to. We are all standing together on ground that is shifting and quacking to find it's new rhythm, it's new equilibrium. Some of us will be more affected than others, but it is this lack of balance that had me looking for something new and different, especially when it came to employment.