1% Glamour, 99% Grit: CFDA Winners on Making It in Fashion

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Photos: Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com

Before toasting the brand new CFDA x J.Crew capsule collections, the last five years of CFDA winners spoke to students last night about what it really takes to helm your own brand.

Last night at 91 Fifth Avenue, the CFDA held a panel, called “On the Rise: The Last Five Years Look to the Next Five Years” attended primarily by students of Pratt and Parsons, and a few members of the press.

Read designer Chris Gelinas’s take on making it in fashion here.

Consisting of the past five years’ CFDA winners, this group of young designers is in many ways a lineup tantamount to a need-to-know of recent fashion history. It included Prabal Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, Tabitha Simmons, Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne and, the latest winner, Paul Andrew.

The set-up of the room, (the third floor of J.Crew’s flatiron store) made the panel’s title almost glaringly obvious. At the front, the luminaries answered questions from Marc Karimzadeh, editorial and communications director at the CFDA. They faced the students, some of whom might very well speak on such a panel in just a few short years.

With questions tailored to a future generation of designers, they spoke of the lessons they’ve learned from an impressive roster of mentors (when asked about his first job, Andrew deadpanned, “Alexander McQueen,” to great laughter, before clarifying he meant first “fashion job.”)

It was Gurung who noted that one of the fastest lessons he had to learn was to disabuse himself of the idea that working in fashion would equal a life of endless glamour. “1 percentage is the glamour. It’s passion and dedication, but really it’s the grit,” he said, a sentiment every member of the panel quickly echoed.

They were just as fast however, to dispel the constant 4-word myth (The Devil Wears Prada) that hangs over the industry, contrasting the rumors of bitchiness with a portrait of community support, and a camaraderie that exists “especially in New York.” Gurung noted that it is in fact because of the support of the industry, and the CFDA that his line exists.

Speaking to words of wisdom that resonated, Simmons spoke of her mentor Stefano’s (yes, Gabbana) advice–“Don’t be afraid of repetition.” This was another point on which the room quickly agreed. “It’s easy to look at other brands because maybe a retailer tells you ‘well, this other brands is doing really well,’” Altuzarra concurred, “but repeating a look actually helps associate your brand–and that’s how you build a voice.” And considering that these are brands that have been established for less than ten years, it’s striking just how loud and clear their voices already are.

Paul Andrew’s shoes, as well as capsule collections from runners-up Ryan Roche and Eva Fehren are shoppable now at J.Crew.

On the Rise: The Last Five Years Look to the Next Five Years with J.CREW x CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund On the Rise: The Last Five Years Look to the Next Five Years with J.CREW x CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund On the Rise: The Last Five Years Look to the Next Five Years with J.CREW x CFDA/VOGUE Fashion Fund