Megan is a junior at Parsons and has a strong interest in merging tech with luxury fashion as well as PR. She has spent time at Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Luxury Products Master Class and The Metropolitan Museum.
This interview took place between Megan and Tate at her apartment in New York
TVPS: How do you like Parsons?
MJ: I love it. It's a breeding ground for ideas, and you're connected with people from all different areas of the industry and also from a million other creative industries as well.
Cool and I saw that you did The Luxury Design and Strategy course. Can you talk a bit about that?
It's a foundation that's inside of Parsons, and it is trying to cultivate the next generation of luxury brand professionals. It’s all about combining the strengths between Columbia Business School students and Parsons designers, they bring in half and half, and they divide everybody into teams.
You’re brought on as a consultant for a company that you choose off a list. You're put on a team, and that team becomes your family for the semester because it's so work intensive, very detail oriented, and you just pour your heart and soul into the project. I worked with Chanel; they were looking to integrate the omnichannel experience and to reach millennials.
You’re solving a real issue that they have, and there's a press day where you present a presentation.
Any specifics that the class taught you?
Presentation skills. I presented in front of the executives of Chanel, and they're bringing us in next week to present in front of the Paris executives. So in addition to presenting, it is also important to be able to speak and converse with them.
The class teaches you a lot about working on a team and being able to compromise and to combine your strengths to make the best possible product. The biggest learning curve is combining a set of individuals who are very business-oriented and analytic from Columbia with the designers from Parsons who are more creative.
I’m in the Design and Management major at parsons which combines business strategy with creative. So I was the only person who was able to communicate with both of them. I played the middleman. Both designers and business people have their own language which consists of many technical terms. I found that visualizing ideas is the best way to convey a message from one party to the other.
Where was your first internship?
Michael Kors. I met my supervisor at some launch party. I was the first production intern in that department, ever.
The production position is the middleman between having a vision for design and executing the idea. It's taking care of fabric selection and pricing of the fabrics, working with the mills that actually create the garments, making sure the garments are fitting as the designers envision it to fit and basically getting it right to be sold on the store shelves. A lot of my tasks and responsibilities were to do color swatching, making sure that it's a quality thing, making sure the same color tone is present across the collection. So that this particular green looks like that particular green, whether it's a knit, whether it's a cotton, whether it's a silk, it has to match.
We worked with fit models, a lot of Excel spreadsheets, documentation and data. It was a more analytical internship and a lot of archiving of previous seasons, and also digitizing archives, taking fabric swatches and lookbooks from seasons way before and getting them digitized, which was really interesting. Also, just being able to work with other departments. I spent half my time in menswear, half my time in women's wear. In menswear which was commercial, we had a bunch of samples because women's was collection.
What's the difference between a collection and a commercial line?
Collection is luxury, so it's the line that you see on vogue.com, on the runway, but it's not sold in every Michael Kors store. It is the highest tier line. Commercial is a lower-priced target, and it's sold across the board in all Michael Kors boutique shops and also in select department stores. Luxury will be a lower quantity and commercial is a high quantity.
You'll find that with commercial that you do work with a lot more samples that are in the office and with luxury, or we called it collection, you work with very specific, very finite number of samples, so they come in. You fit them, and you quality check them, make sure the embroidery looks right, and basically, those are often sent to the red carpet. Those are the dresses that celebrities, that make it to vogue.com and all the press images in the magazines.
Yeah, how was working with the mills? What are the challenges there?
My boss would actually fly to Italy a lot to do bit sampling over there. She would come back and forth, so that was a big part of her job. There was some manufacturing for the MMK commercial that was done in Asia.
We had embroidery and fur all in New York. One the most memorable moments was meeting the fur supplier that we have for all of Michael Kors. They've been using them for years and years. So charismatic, and they would tell me about what it’s like buying furs in the New York Garment District.
I think this internship, in particular, taught me a lot about how to see quality in a garment and what quality meant in terms of fabric, sewing, and stitching.
I knew from the internship that it was a little bit too behind spreadsheets and I wanted something more social, more creative, more active.
How would you describe the company culture?
Company culture was fun. They were very welcoming as well, and it all felt very close, very family-like because Michael would walk by.
The internship program was really great. They got different people from different departments to come in and talk to the interns like, "Okay, this is my job. This is what I do. This is my everyday... Here's a project I worked on."
A lot of it was showroom organization, sample trafficking, and helping facilitate press pulls.
You have to learn about strategic scheduling kind of like "Okay, Vogue is late in returning this sample, and we need to get into W Magazine now. What are we going to do?"
My favorite part, was when a new issue would come out and you would see a sample that you put there and you're like, "Hey, I did that. I helped with that."
It's just interesting to see my supervisors throughout the years have relationships with the editors and everybody's interconnected, and I really like that. You get to talk to people from all these different publications, and I love that social factor of the job.
Yeah, and then how would you describe the company culture at Ralph Lauren?
Really positive, they give interns a lot of responsibility.
Sending out invites, creating a guest list, then creating a seating plan, managing RSVPs, etc. Then also press book, so when looks go down a runway, you basically have a handout that's left on every seat that everybody in the show is able to access that list, okay, Look 1, and they have a description of the look. This is really good for buyers. It's really good for people who are looking to wear something to a red-carpet event, just to say, "Hey, I really liked Look 7, this item. I want to get this in my store," or "I want to wear that on the red carpet."
If you're going to have Jessica Chastain come to your show for the celebrity team, for example, you have to be organized and make sure somebody is there to greet her at the back door, somebody's there to lead her over to her seat, and then escort her out after. For my first show, we had Kanye come, and he came through the back door, and it was just hilarious. He had a little photo shoot with Ralph and was talking to people, but the celebrity team has to manage that.
It's basically making it happen so looking over, "Okay, are the press packs distributed?" After the show leaves, we have 50 minutes till the next show.
We had different shows specifically. One was specifically for buyers. One was specifically for international crowds ...
... and one was specifically for the family, any celebrities, and then just American buyers.
Does Ralph Lauren do its entire PR in-house?
Ralph Lauren's a huge corporation, so we have it all in-house so there are different teams. We have a women's wear team, men's wear team, kids team, and a celebrity team, and basically, it's all done in the company on one floor, everybody works together.
Everything that Ralph Lauren puts out into the media is administered by somebody who works directly within the Ralph Lauren corporation but if you decide to outsource that to a PR company like PRC or KCD, that basically means that that company takes some of the responsibility off of the PR work and sample trafficking and fashion show production off of your shoulders and you might have a couple of PR workers in your team in-house, but the bulk of the work would be done by that company that you're outsourcing to. It’s for smaller companies normally.
Are there benefits to in-house PR?
Yeah, just because everybody's more integrated. I feel as though there's more communication amongst the teams and with Ralph Lauren as well, executives and all. I just feel it's very wholesome and you have every control over every detail. You are able to communicate strategies from corporate or executives with your PR team and make changes quick. If you want to change up the way you archive credits, for example, you have a database of that in-house, and you can change it in-house. I think it also promotes a lot of collaboration.
There's just more flexibility and more say in what you can do but, however, my knowledge is limited since I've only ever been at a in-house company. Louis Vuitton is also in-house for the North America division, but obviously, there's another in-house division in Paris, the headquarters.
Do you want to talk a little bit about your time at The Met? Was that an internship or…
Technically but on a very part time basis. Essentially, our role is to bring college-age students into the Met and to build that audience and to get them involved and to also just allow people from all different colleges in the city to meet in one place and over a mutual passion for art and design. Along the way, I've met a lot of really interesting people on the committee, too. They also want to source people from all different backgrounds, so while I'm a business and design student, there are a ton of people who are in psychology and art history. I think it's an important factor to mix in a lot of different mindsets into the group.
Essentially, what we do is host events, and we do a lot of social media work to draw people into new exhibits in the museum. It's a hefty application process, but well worth it.
Now you're also at Louis Vuitton?
Yes. The public relations seasonal is another title for the public relations intern, but they consider it more of a freelancing position in the company rather than the title intern.
Is it paid?
Look at you.
Essentially, I was just expanding on that love of PR that I have. I am in charge of sample trafficking again, showroom management. They're really particular about organization and bar codes and keeping everything in order. Everything is very meticulous.
What's really cool is that my supervisors recently let me start emailing with editors, I've been able to step in and get a feel for what it's like to take responsibility for an editor's request. Recently, we had stuff for Mother's Day like, "We're looking for gifting items for Mother's Day shopping feature in our whatever issue." What that entails is going through your showroom, looking for samples that match, making sure they're not already reserved to go out, taking photos, sending them in, and then, from there, they'll make a request.
Fashion GPS is a software that we use in fashion PR, and basically, it organizes your life. It organizes every sample. It keeps track of everything that you send out, to which editor. It's a library, and you create notes on, which basically puts items out on loan to this person, whoever at whichever magazine. You can track when stuff goes out, when to expect it back in. When you do get it back in, you return it into the system and then it'll say, "Okay, it's here." Gives you peace of mind and organizes your sanity if you're in a fashion PR spot. I know editorials choose to do it manually rather than the program.
What was the interview process like for Louis Vuitton?
First time I came in for an interview. I talked with two different supervisors that I have now. One on the international PR team, one on the womenswear PR team. They told me a little bit about what it's like to work there, what their system is, what the work entails. I got a feel for it. Afterward, they brought me in for a second interview to meet with the senior celebrity PR manager.
That's must have been super competitive because you're paid.
It's always nerve-wracking when you see someone come out who was before you and someone waiting after you.
How did you prepare for interviews? Generally speaking.
First I make sure that my resume is updated. I print it out really nice on good paper in color. Then I research the company. If it's PR, then what sort of editorial coverage have they gotten lately? What have they done on their Instagram? What does their strategy look like? What is their brand personality? Then just updates with the company, so if they just got a creative director a few years ago, mention that, mention their work. I think it's always important to explain why you personally connect with that brand because you chose this one brand to apply for and to be interviewed by. If you want to work there, what makes you a good match for that brand in particular. Looking at the big picture is something that I like to do before.
Then a brief overview of the Louis Vuitton company culture?
It's very fast-paced, very intense at times, but they're meticulous. It's a lot of fun to see the big features that we get in magazines. There's a lot of pressure at times, but I do admire and really respect their standards for organization and what the showroom looks like. There's a lot of pride in keeping the showroom beautiful and keeping all of the samples intact.
What did you learn?
Organization. One small sample that goes missing or something happens to it, that's a lot of money on the line, and there's a lot of responsibility that goes with that. Just being able to work under pressure, work with a team, and collaborate with them, and to be able to balance mixed personalities, and also just to stay organized and to continually do that and not lose track.
My supervisors once told me, at LV, that they really liked how calm I was and that they trusted me because I was always calm no matter what was thrown at me. It made me realize, even though sometimes I don't really feel calm and I'm really overwhelmed, but it made me realize that if they're really stressed out and if there's a strong personality who's coming at you or accusing you of something that you didn't do, talking back is the worst thing. I have witnessed other interns talk back. I think about it from a customer service standpoint, just trying to calm everybody down, being somebody to take responsibility, even if it's somebody else's mistake on the intern team, but just to acknowledge that stuff happened. Never talk back and just to always keep that level of respect there. It's hard.
It's really fucking hard.
You have to swallow your pride at times. It's too bad that that's the case in a lot of situations.
When did you know you want to go into fashion?
My drive and having a huge initiative to seek out opportunities around me is something that sets me apart. Constantly networking and not just when you're looking for a new position. Never being afraid.
If you’re given a major project, save that power point file or whatever. You can use that when applying to future jobs. Then always ask for a letter of recommendation right after your internship to have on file and use when needed. Also, keep in touch with your supervisors.
We need to focus on sustainability in the fashion industry. That's something that we've been lagging on a bit and being able to contribute to that is a major goal for me.
Also, I'm really interested in wearable technology and how that relates to fashion. I think that we're in the beginning cusps of it and we're seeing the first glimmers of the Apple watch with Hermes. When a new innovation comes out, it takes a while to have everybody adopt it and to accept it into their lifestyles. It's really the way we're going, and I'm excited to see not only with watches but let's think about jewelry. Let's think about smart jackets. Let's think about smart bags. There’s so much potential.
We’re very connected, and everyone has a platform, a voice. That's something that no other generation has experienced. I think this will really change the way that we approach our careers.
The gatekeepers are gone.
Yeah. The gatekeepers are gone. I think that the hierarchy of the fashion industry is going to fade and we're going to probably have a more collaborative ecosystem coming our way. I think that our industry is going to be incredibly important to reinventing that ecosystem with these new connective technologies.
What problems do you think wearable technology is going to solve.
Being detached form real life with our phones.
I think in terms of marketing a huge part of my job is going to be just basically convincing people and getting them familiar with this technology. Encouraging that acceptance because there's so much out there but sometimes the marketing is just wrong, and that’s the only reason why an incredible new piece of technology isn’t accepted by consumers. I’d love to be the person in-between that piece of technology and the consumers.
It’s taught me not to pigeonhole myself. To get involved and to collaborate.
That's a strong no.
Never set yourself short of your dreams. We've all been in that place where our dreams seem so far off and so surreal. You never know. Things can happen. Work incredibly hard. Never lose sight of the bigger picture. I always stress about networking but never be afraid to reach out to people. See what their experience was like.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
All I can say is that just one more word of advice: chose carefully who you surround yourself with and seek out others who are passionate about the same things and you'll be amazed at what comes from that.