Caroline Rooney’s impressive resume is astounding to behold; she has only turned 26 and yet, she has achieved plenty. She signed her first modeling contract at the ripe age of 14 years old, then went on to start a socially conscious T-shirt company whilst studying at the University of Michigan. After that, Caroline served two years in Bloomingdale’s buying program before becoming an in-house stylist for Levi Strauss & Co as well as a fashion styling instructor at the Academy of Art University – all located in San Francisco! Truly unbelievable accomplishments from such a young woman who wears so many hats.
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If we could only walk in Rooney’s stylish shoes, it would be a dream come true. But the truth is that fashion isn’t all about glitz, glamour, and shopping trips – there are plenty of tough aspects to consider too. Before you pursue a career in the industry, make sure your passion for fashion runs deep and not just skin-deep! If you’re ready to take on this path? Make sure to keep these eight tips in mind as you embark upon your exhilarating journey:
1. Read a lot.
“The first thing I recommend to anyone interested in fashion or considering a career in the industry is to start reading. There are fantastic resources available—including Women’s Wear Daily and Business of Fashion—as well as an onslaught of media sites and blogs that cover the industry. And it’s not just about reading fashion magazines. I read magazines like Bon Appetit, Architectural Digest, and GQ monthly to see how fashion, food, architecture, and design, are constantly influencing each other. I also constantly recommend that anyone interested in fashion—especially on the business side—read Deluxe by Dana Thomas. I learned so much from that book and it exposed me to how broad, complex, and far-reaching the fashion industry is on a global scale.”
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2. Absorb everything.
“I try to listen to everything going on around me so I can fill in the blanks. I like to anticipate what’s next or what those around me will need or ask so I can be better prepared to help or answer questions. I also try to be open to new experiences and learn about a lot of different topics and industries. Moving to California has been great in terms of pushing me out of my comfort zone, and I think having a broad base of knowledge and interests helps me to be a better stylist, inspires me creatively, and helps me find common ground with everyone I work with.”
3. Keep in mind that no job is too little.
“One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone thinks a job is below them, or says ‘That’s not my job.’ I think it’s always better to pitch in and be the one finding a solution and solving the problem, whether that’s coming up with a great creative idea or simply doing the dishes at a photoshoot. Someone needs to take care of the more mundane tasks. Taking care of what needs to be done shows me you’re serious about doing whatever it takes to be an integral part of the team.”
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4. Be prepared for the obstacles.
“People assume a career in fashion is very glamourous, but it’s a competitive, global industry like many others. My job may include shopping, but this is quite different from shopping as a hobby. Stylists often shlep lots of heavy product all over for shoots, are negotiating contracts, and are racing to find and return items during small windows of time. I often recommend that if you just love to shop, make a salary elsewhere and enjoy shopping as a hobby. It’s one thing to buy a handbag—it’s a whole other to understand how to design, market, distribute, and sell it.”
5. Try different things—and gain knowledge from them.
“I applied to only one job during my senior year, and that was for the Bloomingdale’s buying program. When I received an offer I had to decide—taking a position at Bloomingdale’s meant giving up modeling completely, closing down my company (my t-shirt company, The Bearon, was a conflict of interest as an apparel buyer), and veering off course from my ‘plan.’ But it also offered me a low-risk way to move to New York, a stable salary, and the opportunity to train and ultimately work with a very well respected brand in the fashion business. My time at Bloomingdale’s was an incredible introduction into the New York fashion industry, and a great chance to learn both what I wanted and definitely didn’t want in my career.”
6. Embrace the surprise.
“When I moved to San Francisco, I never intended to teach. But after a chance meeting over a cocktail, I learned that there was a position at AAU open and they were looking to quickly fill the role before the semester began. I had never taught, knew I would likely only be a few years older than my students, and was technically new to focusing on my career on styling. But I also knew that I had a unique set of experiences, an interesting story, and a really strong desire to mentor young people looking to enter in to the fashion industry. I just finished my fifth semester teaching at the Academy—an opportunity that I never anticipated, and yet it has been so rewarding.”
7. Move on from what doesn’t make you good.
“One of the biggest reasons I have accomplished what I have— and why I wake up every morning loving what I do—is because I have chosen to move on when something was no longer an opportunity for growth and a source of personal happiness. As scary and intimidating as it can be, making the conscious decision to step away and make a change has, repeatedly, been imperative to my growth.”
8. Try to meditate.
“Life is so different, and so much better, than you think you’ve perfectly planned it out to be. You go, girl!”
Photo: Courtesy of Caroline Rooney