QC: Daniel & Marge from 100% NY Part 2



I can’t tell you how many times I have shown up at a job and there is someone who I know there at that interview or working at that place already or worked at a previous job with someone else I know.  It’s a really small community and we have to believe in each other, so taking interns on and trying to give them real work is important to me. - Daniel 

R: How did your school experiences help you guys out with your experiences and what motivated you guys to start a line at such an early age?

D-  Fashion Institute of Technology is an incredible school and out of all the renowned fashion schools, one of the things that FIT offers to its students above the other schools is an amazing technical skill set.  We left FIT able to sew really well and make production quality patterns.

I interned and worked through college and I took a job in sales, so working in sales made me the part of the 100%NY team that was able to understand what to do with the collections after we make them, after we’ve produced them, and all the next steps that come after it.  I have all of the wonderful industry contacts that I’ve built through my internships and job experiences.  This is something I think a lot of young designers don’t have right out of school simply because they haven’t worked in that part of the industry.

It’s not something particularly special that I’ve done, but I had worked at Marc by Marc Jacobs had done some great marketing and sales events with them as well as doing ready-to-wear.  This company owns a license for Marc by Marc Jacobs which was how I got involved, but having the experience of making a line sheet, actually being in a sales meeting, and selling a collection is what makes me a good part of this team.  However for Marge, her production knowledge and her production skills far exceed mine.

M- So at some of my internships and my industry work experience, I was very close to the production process, so I take on a lot of the production responsibilities including touching fabrics and contacting factories to get the garments made.

R- Where have you guys interned?

D- I did my first internship at Carmen Marc Valvo who’s a fabulous evening wear designer.  I then worked for a mass market company called Republic Clothing group for a short period, and that was really interesting.  I wanted to make sure that my internships met all the different price points and markets so I could really figure out where I felt like I belonged.

After Republic Clothing Group, I began a design internship at Swimwear Anywhere which turned into a sales internship and then developed into a part-time sales internship.  That was a really fabulous experience for three and a half years.

I also did an internship with Carolina Herrera in New York, which was a fabulous experience and that was with my senior internship with FIT.  I then did a short internship with Daniel Vosovic and that was a wonderful experience because he had an operation that is most comparable to everywhere i’ve worked and comparable to what we’re doing.  It’s very small, very hands on, and as an intern I was there for 3 days a week and because it was such a small operation, I felt more like his assistant than his intern and I thought it was a huge growing and learning experience for me.

I had a short temporary job at Victoria’s Secret and I worked in their sweater production for their catalog business.

M- I had an intimates background. I graduated from FIT with a specialization in intimate apparel, so I have had some high end experience including Hanky Panky and Natori and with the licensee that does their foundations and their bras and panties.  I also interned with Betsey Johnson intimates and gossamer for 2 years and I work for them still.

D- Marge still works and I still do freelance work all the time, so it’s really important for us to stay present in the industry with 100%NY and also as an individuals.

R- How have your internship experiences shaped the way you treat your interns? 

D- We just hired two new interns

M- Dan and I thought of terrifying internship experiences that we’ve had in the past.  We can’t afford to pay our interns, but we definitely buy them lunch every day and that’s the bare minimum that we can do to show our appreciation for them.

D- We also give them hands on tasks to do so they feel valued and important. We also pay for their transportation.  I mean I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an internship and I’ve had to run errands on my own Metrocard.

There are other things such as inviting them to be a part of our Fall/Winter presentation.  We had our interns able to interact with people in the industry.  We’re not trying to hide them or be ashamed of the fact that they’re interns.  Some of them are FIT alumni and these are the people we need to be proud of and support.

I can’t tell you how many times I have shown up at a job, and there is someone who I know there at that interview, someone who is working at that place already, or someone who has worked at a previous job with someone else I know.  It’s a really small community and we have to believe in each other, so taking interns on and trying to give them real work is important to me.

R- I feel like everyone should have an internship at a start-up.  I mean this is a place where you could learn the most.

D- Yesterday was one of our intern’s last days, and she was just saying how much she had learned. She’s done design, production, sales, marketing, look books, and so many other projects together. Since it’s such a small operation, she got to be a part of every single step.

Meanwhile our work is play.  We have so much fun here.  It’s stressful, life is hard, and sometimes you want to curl up in a ball and die, but at the same time we’re playing music, we’re joking and laughing, and we have so much fun working. We do this because we love it! If we didn’t love it, it’s too hard.

R- What are your thoughts on interning beyond design for fashion students?

D- I would highly recommend doing it.  I think it was one of the things that made if possible for me to start my own business working in sales.  Getting out of my comfort zone and out of my head were two of the most important things for me. I had a boss send me to a foreign country and tell me to sell things.

For fashion students particularly at FIT, it’s hard because it’s practically a commuter school.  The students are living at home, they’re studying something that they’re comfortable with, they’re not trying too hard in their liberals and not pushing themselves too hard in that aspect which i think is fine, but what have you ever done that is getting you outside of your comfort zone? It was doing something that wasn’t on my career path that really opened my mind.

M- I had done exclusively design internships, and I wish I had done something in production or sales- something to just have a better idea of how it all connects.

R- Do you think it’d be better to do it towards the start of their internship career or towards the end?

D- I’ve been interning every year my four years and I had interned in a lot of different markets, because I wanted a good spectrum.  I also worked in companies that dealt with sampling or production in New York City, so I could see more than the department that I was interning in. This way, I worked closely with production and with sales. I think more internships need to focus on spreading their internships out beyond their specialized field.

In a larger business that is more departmentalized, I think there should be some crossover in how people are applying for internships.  Employers need to be more attentive on giving interns a more well-rounded experience.

We’ve had interns who have had different backgrounds- some are back in school in their late 20’s and some have never interned before and didn’t know what they were doing about life, but they’re here to learn and it’s really important that they leave here a different person than they were before they came here.

R- I noticed a lot of students really just want the name and don’t care much for the experience and what they get out of it.

D- It’s funny because for me, going to Carolina Herrera, I wanted the name, but I really wanted the price point more than anything else. I wanted to be working in high-end so I went as high as I could find in New York.  I went super high-end, but it was still small.  I mean their entire company is made up of 60 people, but the name only means something to me and people who it means something to. You can’t go for a name over the experience because it only means something to you.

R- if you were to hire an assistant right now, what would you look for?

D- I have an assistant and she’s amazing.

M- She is amazing because she is willing to do anything for us.  She’s from a design background, but if we need her to make a call for sales, she’s she’ll do it.  She went with Dan on a business trip outside the country and even though we only planned it four days beforehand, she still went. She believes in the brand, and she’s willing to go above and beyond.

D- It’s the energy, the excitement about the projects, efficiency, being a detail oriented person, and  chemistry with the office that are the most important qualities an assistant should have.  Your assistant needs to be someone you can spend time with and understands what you’re saying to them. I mean someone may be able to out-sew or out-perform someone else, but if that person has bad follow-through skills or has negative energy, you don’t want to work with them.  I’d rather have someone whose work skills are a little lower but who has a high follow-up skill. I’ve learned that it’s really important to let everyone know that you want to be there and you’re a team player.  I also needed to have someone who had the same taste level to work in this brand.  We needed someone who had the right energy to be able to work with us because we’re crazy. We’re not dark or super angry people and we’re not quiet; we want someone who’s chatty, loud, and upbeat.

M- For anyone who’s starting an internship or an assistant level job, you’re going to have to accept that you’re going to do a lot of things that aren’t fun and don’t want to do.  You will do a lot of grunt work.  It’s easy to find someone who can do the work, but it’s really hard to find someone to do the work and find joy in it. So if you are interning somewhere and are doing something that you don’t really want to do, just keep a positive attitude about it.  I mean, if you’re doing grunt work for someone else, keep in mind that if you keep working at it, someone someday will do that grunt work for you.  You just have to have the right attitude about it and people will notice and appreciate it.

*Fact: 6 years ago marge lost an internship because they told her she wasn’t excited enough about the brand.

D- I got feedback from a job assignment that stated that I really shouldn’t give my opinion.   And I thought, wow, how could someone say that to me? My opinions mean so much! I have such great taste. But as an assistant and a low man on the totem pole, you need to be able to absorb and you need to be excited about helping everyone get the work done.

M- And that’s something that you have to simply learn. This is why people should be interning their first semester in school.  I mean I totally screwed up my first two internships. I mean I dropped the designer’s scissors, I didn’t know what modal was..

Sometimes you need that experience which could be getting fired or to have someone yell at you and tell you you’re inadequate, so you start learning what people want.  And by the time you’re a junior or a senior, you are the best intern ever.

D- At my first internship the designer set me aside and said, “you know, working in fashion isn’t all just sitting around telling people how fabulous you are.” That really hurt my feelings, but I’ve learned so much from that.

R- We do get job postings on our site that say full-time, non-paid, and you know there will be long hours, so what do you guys feel about that?

D- I think the long hours is the biggest problem that I have.  I really don’t believe in keeping people for more than 8 or 9 hours and I definitely always give a lunch break.

M- And we don’t really ask people to come in on the weekends. It’s only for events and special occasions.

D- We do most of this ourselves and it is really important for our staff and our interns to understand that if they think they’re putting a lot of time in, we’re putting twice the amount of time in.  Not because we want to make them feel inferior to us, but so we’re not asking them to do anything that we wouldn’t do or haven’t done.

R- What would you tell the companies who are really just taking advantage of the students?

D- It’s fine to ask for something, but companies shouldn’t be surprised when they’re not happy with the performance.  You only get what you give and that goes for both the interns and the employers.  If you don’t give your interns a positive experience and don’t give them something that they can be excited about, then don’t be surprised when they’re not.

R- What do you suggest for interns to do if they really don’t think they’re the right fit for the company?

D- I think it’s okay for anyone to leave any job professionally with two weeks notice. It’s really important to gather contacts and maintain professionalism anywhere you go.  My parents own a business together and the thing that they’ve told Marge and I was to never burn your bridges.

Always keep your composure and never burn your bridges.

You do not want to make enemies. Kill them with kindness.  It feels awful to say yes to something you don’t want to do,  but this is a business and your professional reputation will follow you around everywhere you go. So if you’re having a terrible experience and you need to leave a job, don’t cry or have a hissy fit, just walk in professionally and say, “I need to speak with you, I dont think this is the right fit for me, and I’d like to give you two weeks notice.” Keep your head up high and walk away from it. A lot of the time when you go in with a strong attitude and a good feeling, you’ll be surprised with the positive response you’ll get back. They might even ask for feedback or let you go early.  You never know what you’re going to get, but if you never put it out there that’s time that you will never get back.

R- I know some people who just call in and quit..

D- You should never do that.  That person might go and work somewhere else and you are simply poisoning your own reputation.

R- Do you have any tips for graduating seniors? Should they start applying to jobs anywhere?

D- It’s good to identify what your best skills are. My strength in school was that I didn’t have a weakness. I could do sales, design, patterns, and so on so.  I was well-suited for freelance work. Marge, who’s really detail-oriented and meticulous took an assistant job.  That was really hard for her, because it wasn’t the kind of work she was used to doing. There was a six month feeling for her of, “I was so good at school. Why am I so bad at this job?” So it’s good to identify what you’re best at.  Everyone thinks that they need to get an assistant designer position.  The market is bad. Things are changing.  There are a lot of different opportunities.  There’s this notion that you get pigeon-holed.  That’s not true.  You can really break the mold anywhere. The most important thing is to work in the market that you want to be in.  The number one thing I’ve learned is that you’re more valuable if you have a job. People think, “oh, this person has a job.”  Someone else is willing to hire them so maybe I should hire them. So while you’re looking, have an internship or a job, be open-minded, and think outside of the box.

M- I find that if you are working high-end retail, you can really learn and work your way up that way and at some of the high end stores, the pay is not terrible. I went on a job interview for a small company and I didn’t realize the design office was right behind the store.  When i had an interview for sales, the person saw on my resume that I was a designer and all of a sudden I was on an interview with the design team. You never know.  You should definitely be open-minded.

D- Marge and I graduated with the highest honors, I’ve had some of the best feedback from my portfolio, Marge won 2 critics awards, and while we were some of the best, and we couldn’t figure out why we were crying and miserable and it was because we were trying to fit into a mold that we don’t necessarily fit into.

M- Also 2 years later, I had some friends that were getting promoted.  They switched jobs, received huge pay bumps, so I think a lot comes with time. After you’ve been working for two years, they start giving you your own interns and start hiring people to work under you and then all of a sudden, work isn’t as frustrating anymore.

D- I’d say that your key to success as an intern or as an entry level is your professionalism.   You’re going to make mistakes and you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities where you’ll really be able to showcase your creativity, so if you can handle yourself professionally during the situations in between, when you mess up, it’s not so bad.

Related post:
QC: Daniel & Marge from 100% NY Part 1
Design Internship at 100%NY

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