Getting that email reminded me that I hadn’t ever gotten around to reviewing the conference, so here you go!
A Brief Intro
“FashionistaCon is a day-long conference geared towards helping attendees find out, literally, How to Make It in Fashion. Running six years strong, our editors curate the industry’s best and brightest to share their stories, and to offer advice during the career-focused panel discussions and keynote speeches.”
Before getting into a review, it’s necessary (imo) to understand my background, and what I went to FashionistaCon to find. Feel free to skip this section.
I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer during my third (of five) years at Stanford. I graduated with a Bachelors in Product Design Engineering, a sort of combination between industrial design and mechanical engineering.
After graduating from Stanford, I took money from an award I received to take summer classes at Central St. Martins and London College of Fashion. I had done independent studies at Stanford, but there were gaps in my skill set I wanted to fill.
I have also taken a few classes at the Fashion Institute of Salt Lake Community College, where I currently live, as well as Fashion Sewing School, a fashion studio in Salt Lake City.
I went to FashionistaCon to learn what they advertise: How to Make It in Fashion. After talking with various industry professionals, I know, that based on where I am now, it’d be better for me to get a design internship or position in an atelier, rather than go and get another four year degree.
I went to hear from successful people who are currently ~Making It Happen~. I don’t have the connections an undergrad in fashion design could have afforded me, so I went to learn and to network. And, to get started, I need to be where the people ARE I want to work with.
So, I bought a ticket.
Review: The Attendees
The conference took place in a small conference center in the lower floors of The Whitby. There were far fewer people than I expected, based on the clout of the speakers/panelists. All in all, I would say there were no more than about 120 attendees.
The audience seemed comprised of people like me, folks who had recently graduated from college, as well as people in the beginning stages of starting their own brands.
I’m pretty extroverted, but I didn’t really make any connections among the attendees. There was a coffee/snack room, a step and repeat, and a lunch served onsite… But there wasn’t a place where it felt socially acceptable to introduce myself to strangers (and believe me, I’ll talk to anyone).
Review: The Sessions
I think the session lineup, with panelists, was GREAT. Industry leaders were incredibly honest about the state of the fashion industry, their respective journeys, and they also did a good job of giving specific and actionable advice.
When the conference added a panel about the plus size market,I booked a ticket. One of my design heros, Becca McCharen-Tran of CHROMAT, was on the panel, as well as other industry leaders. That panel was so informative, and it provided a lot of “insider knowledge” about the role of plus in contemporary fashion that I never would’ve gotten from just the article on the Fashionista website.
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I wanted to say a big, major THANK YOU one more time to my amazing panelists at #fashionistacon but I still feel like it isn’t enough! I love the fashion industry so much but it is certainly flawed, and I am SO passionate about making it a better, more inclusive space for everyone. One area I’ve been covering since I started is the plus size industry – it is INSANE for fashion to stop at a size 10! I am beyond grateful that these leaders in the plus size space took time out of their busy schedules to come have an honest chat about why it’s time for fashion to catch up with the plus size movement. @patrickherning, Mariah Chase, @candicehuffine and @beccamccharentran, I can’t properly express the admiration I have for the work you are all doing, and I wish we could have gone on even longer. If you weren’t there, @stephsaltzman did a great write up of our panel, live on @fashionista_com. It’s a conversation I can’t wait to keep going thru 2018 and beyond! 📷: @ashleyjahncke
The panel, “How Digital Editors are Bringing Their Print Magazines into The Modern Age” was a close second, and it did make me chuckle to see Phillip Picardi in full color sitting next to other editors who were wearing almost H2T black.
I ended up getting a migraine before seeing Rebecca Minkoff speak, which was a bummer. Attendees were able to chat with panelists after their respective sessions (Prabal Gurung was incredibly gracious after his session and stayed to talk with folks for quite a while), but a few panelists did leave immediately after speaking.
I didn’t see any wheelchair users at the event. The first 2 rows of seating were reserved, and there was no ramp that would make rows further back accessible. I imagine the Fashionista team could reserve a seat for a wheelchair user(?), but there were no spaces/gaps in the front row where a wheelchair could be placed. There were no ASL interpreters onsite.
Review: But What Did People WEAR?!
Obviously, what you wear to a conference about fashion matters. People were put together, in true OOTD form. There were no 3 piece suits, but I (and others) wore a tailored jacket. There were also some great streetwear looks. SO, overall, I’d say, wear your personal brand. People looked unapologetically put together and most attendees were not in black.
I wore a jacket I had designed from my collection, black pointed heels and black slacks (with a good amount of stretch, for comfortable sitting).
Review: Mentor Session
My mentoring session wasn’t particularly helpful to me or my career, but I did enjoy chatting with someone who had their own line. “Being able to talk with a mentor” should not be the #1 reason you attend.
So, Should I Go?
This is a great conference for people trying to figure out how to make it in fashion. However, it is not a career fair. I didn’t see anyone hand out resumes to panelists (but some panelists did seem open to that). Most of the sessions felt intimate, and, again, and panelists were very honest and provided real insights.
Go to gather information and get some Real Talk about fashion in 2018.
Show up with your notebook, business cards, and be ready to interact on Twitter. I’m pretty sure I’ll go this year, but it’s very dependent on the panelists.
If you decide to go, drop me a line! Maybe we can create a group networking opportunity outside of the conference!
Feedback for the FashionistaCon Team
Schedule speed networking or group networking sessions for after the conference ends. I feel like I missed a huge opportunity by not having a place where I could introduce myself without being pushy/weird
Provide accessibility information on the registration page (it’s weird to list “inclusivity” as a topic for panels, but offer no information upfront about how inclusive the actual conference is)
Drive registration by creating and posting quote graphics from the panels during 2017