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How to tell your loved ones you want to work in fashion (and have them understand why)

Serious life skills.

“I want to be a fashion designer.” 

Cue: quizzical glances and worried expressions from all angles of the dining room. Dad takes a large gulp of his wine. At the other end of the dinner table, Grandma’s probably just choked on hers. 

If you’re attempting to pave a career in the fashion industry, you’ll know explaining this occupational decision to others can be tough. In-laws and family friends don’t always understand. Especially if you have the sort of siblings that want to be humanitarian aid workers or wildlife rescue vets. 

Recently, a friend asked me that omnipresent little question those of us in our teens and early twenties cop all the time: “What’s your dream job?” 

I told her I wanted to be a fashion journalist. She responded with, “but who is that helping?” 

Once again, I was left questioning my career-related decisions. Was my chosen vocation a selfish indulgence? Should I be seeking a more charitable route into the world of professionalism? 

Fashion is an amazing industry. But unfortunately, it’s a field many view as being built on materialism and over-consumption. And alongside the seemingly superficial façade, fashion – as youngsters are reminded time and time again – is inexorably ‘cut-throat.’  

This is why our loved ones believe the decision to enter the fierce world of fashion should be very carefully considered. And reinforced by a back-up plan, or ‘option B.’  

But for many forging a fashion-related career, there is an unexplainable magic behind the mayhem that keeps us pushing on. And in the face of pressing international issues like sustainability and employee rights in underprivileged economies (which previously the fashion industry turned a big fat blind eye to) right now, fashion is doing some pretty admirable things. 

Wondering what to respond with next time you’re asked about your foray into the ruthless world of fashion? Here’s a few explanations we’ve found work wonders. We hope they do for you, too. 

1. “Everybody needs clothes”

This may seem pretty obvious, but people forget clothing is actually a basic human requirement. As desirable as it might be, we can’t all walk around in birthday suits. Everyone needs at least one pair of pants and a couple of shirts. I guarantee the person asking about your profession is wearing at least one of the above. People need to cover their privates, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they look good doing so. 

2. “Fashion is art”

Fashion is a form of commercial art. But instead of being displayed in a gallery or studio, it’s exhibited on the street. Sure, the fashion crowd dress in some pretty outrageous stuff, and to the unfamiliar eye some of it looks rather ridiculous. But consider the wearer the artist, and their outfit the art. Fashion is just another medium in which creativity can be channelled. And similar to musicians, painters and circus performers, it’s an outlet through which we can express ourselves. 

3. “It’s made me really resourceful”

You are the go-to-guy when a zipper splits or a seam comes unravelled. And while your family might misunderstand your career motivations, I guarantee they have you on speed dial when instances like these arise. You and your sewing machine have saved the day multiple times; all those broken needles, tangled threads and failed toiles have amounted to some pretty nifty seamstress skills. Our gifts are usually homemade and we sport our own designs on a daily basis. We can taper, hem and hand stitch like a pro. Heck, we’re pretty self-sufficient folk.   

4. “The industry is more charitable than you think”

No, fashion isn’t just made up of eccentric egomaniacs. There are people within the industry striving to give fashion a more altruistic face. Mother nature is facing some pretty tough times right now, and it’s safe to say the rag trade has caused her a headache in the past. But we’re aware of this, and the new generation of fashionistas are being raised on an intense diet of how-to-be-more-ethical. Philanthropic and sustainable motivations are now at the core of most contemporary designers’ mindsets. So stay tuned scrutinisers, because change is coming from below.

5. “Fashion is a fascinating social and historical barometer”

It’s true. History can be charted simply by looking at what those that came before us wore. Every decade is characterised by a different style of dress, and social historians constantly reference fashion as a means of learning more about society and human behaviour. Nomadic tribes, revolutionary soldiers, royal dynasties and youth subcultures – every historical faction can be identified via fashion. Not only can we tell our Hermès from our D&G, we can differentiate Renaissance from Elizabethan and recite the name of every First Lady, too. 

6. “It makes me happy!”

Remember that little ole’ saying: ‘do what makes you happy’? We used to hear it a lot. As children, it was the only thing worth considering before making a choice. And despite the fact day-to-day decisions involve greater complications as we age, the root of your chosen career should be happiness. After all, we’re going to be doing it for the rest of our lives. And if we’re happy in our chosen profession we’re more likely to make a positive contribution to society at large. If it’s fashion that puts a smile on your dial, why shouldn’t you give it a go?     

You can check out more of Twylamae’s illustrations (including her Seinfeld meets Ai Wei Wei tee) here.

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