When Kirstie Clements came to Adelaide to launch her new book Impressive: How to have a stylish career I was lucky enough to meet her, thanks to Westfield Marion. I'll admit it, I had a bit of a fan girl moment, I literally couldn't think of anything to say, lucky for me Kirstie is an absolute pro and broke the ice, but I still walked away feeling like a blubbering fool.
I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to meet Kirstie and hear her speak that I thought I would bring you a few snippets and words of wisdom from the night.
On the misconceptions of the fashion industry:
“I was at a dinner with my friend David Bush who for 30 years was the womanswear and menswear buyer for David Jones, so he’s quite a fashion legend, a bit of an icon in the Australian Industry. And we were at a dinner and this young girl said to me what are you writing and I told her, and she said ‘Oh that would be great, my friend wants to get into fashion and I said ‘What does your friend want to do’ and she said ‘she either want to be a designer or she wants to go into PR’ and then David turned around and said ‘Darling, fashion is a big word’. Because fashion covers so many things, ‘Fashion’ as a job has been marketed to people very heavily via Hollywood, via television, via everything, through The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty and the idiotic movie I saw at the manicurist this morning, Suddenly 30. It’s just thrown at people as this easy, cushy, glamorous job that was all about parties and that’s what I wanted to address in the book.
On Fashion Week now and then:
"I was at the launch of Australian Fashion Week a couple of weeks ago at Icebergs and it was the 20th year so they took me aside to interview me and the interviewer said ‘What do you remember from 20 years of Australian Fashion Week?’ What celebrities, what models, what shows do you remember, and I was like ‘I don’t remember anything’ and I said ‘All I remember is the hard work’. Because pre internet we had to go back to the office and stay up till 2 o’clock in the morning and edit the film that came in strips with the loop and because we were Vogue we had to get it right, we had to make sure that our verdict and our judgements were right. And you know Fashion Week would finish on the Friday night and we would have to have the supplement out the door on the Monday so I don’t remember the parties and the champagne, I just remember being on the floor of the art department with pizza."
"In the 80s and 90s you just went to the shows and we were all in black with flat shoes taking notes and sketching. It isn’t the big thing that it is now where you’ve got 3 outfits a day and your nail polish matches and you know a clutch bag and that."
"Whatever it is that you’re doing you have to be incredibly expert at it, you have to drill down to that other level. Be really good at one thing. Be the best denim blogger that you could possibly be, or a coffee expert or like a leather expert. Because when you get to the stage of hiring people you don’t say lets hire someone who’s a little bit good at everything, you say lets hire someone who’s really fantastic at one thing. You’ve got to be an expert, because that who we hire at the end of the day.”
On dress codes and basics:
"With Vogue we always used to talk about ‘Blue Chip Buys’, not wasting your money on fast fashion. I’m not a big fan of fast fashion, I think you waste your money on cheap clothes, its bad for the environment, I think its better to save up and get the most expensive thing you can, whether it be a bag or a shoe, get a great shoe, wear it out, buy another one. These are just blue chip buys, the go-to pieces; its like a great leather jacket and a beautiful white shirt, a pair of pants that fit you even if you’re having a fat day, all of that stuff that you know that you can pull out and you can accessories it with something ‘of the season’ whether it’s a shoe or a piece of statement jewellery but they’re really just basics and they don’t change."
"After I’d written them I was like well I’ve been writing this for 30 years so aren’t I a bore, so I sent it to one of my fashion editors, and she’s this cool cat who lives in New York, and she’s 27, and I asked her to do hers and she sent them back and they were the same, its just how you wear things. They’re just perennials, they’re not ‘trends of the season’, these are basics."
Additional pearls of wisdom:
Fashion should never be a problem
The way you interact with people is super important because it does come back
Always be willing to help out and learn from others
Its great to go and learn overseas for a while, go and be a small fish in a big pond
It’s the tiniest things that make things luxurious that are actually the most medial
I highly recommend reading Impressive: How to have a stylish career by Kirstie Clements. With a combination of so many years of her own experience and interviews with her colleges, friends and peers that she worked with for 30 years in the fashion industry you will come away equipped with wisdom and insights of this vast industry.