Updated: Dec 16, 2017
Getting your big break doesn’t have to be always noticeable, and sometimes, it usually comes from the discrete act of others.
You may not know it at that very moment, but you will eventually realize what you have earned because of everything you have done. Life is hard, and when you’re chasing your goals and working smart and are informed, things eventually come your way. Not the other way around. When people say “It’s who you know” or “You just were there at the right time” it’s so completely wrong and deplorable. Just stop. Just because you know someone or meet someone, that itself does not mean that you are smart or talented whatsoever. It’s the work that you put into everything yourself.
Jeffery Felner is an authoritative voice of fashion all over New York City as well as the New York Journal of Books. He has done his fair share of many jobs in fashion throughout his years and also runs his own blog site (jeffybruce.blogspot.com). I was able to chat with him and ask about his learning experiences and what helped him succeed in his various positions during his long career. Here we go.
“My longest running gigs have been about doing things that I was not trained for; I hold a design degree which was geared to advertising as well as majors in art history and French. In retrospect, the studio courses for my design degree were the most helpful, and the others have certainly helped form my personal universe. Just as an FYI, I will speak in hindsight as it best demonstrates the points that will be made here.
As a textile designer, of which I knew nothing other than how to use a ruling pen, a ruler, and T-square, I was fearless, knew no boundaries as this was my first job, but I was a quick study. In a short period of time, I went from neophyte to boss in a matter of 2 or 3 years with a staff of 20 artists under my direction. I never was worried about the glory, fame or my title as I was just doing my job and what was expected of me. In retrospect I came to discover, I was considered a wunderkind in my field who earned great respect from my peers, but that knowledge came years after the fact.
I had always wanted to be in fashion, and so I leaped at the chance to work for free with a small company. Yes free! I again learned my lessons well and met astounding people who would later play major roles in my career trajectory and by the way, I sold, I designed, I packed and unpacked cartons, but I learned and loved it all. One of these decided that I was wasting my time doing this and dragged me off to 7th Avenue and told me that I need to do this and so I did.
At age 30 I was working for one of the top shelf designers working at a premier address and again being taught by one of the greats of that business. Within a short period of time my mentor quit and left me as sales manager. I was never scared, I learned from the best, so I gave it my all and presto... everyone benefited, and again I met so many of the most incredible fashion legends.
After several different parallel positions on the street another of my earlier contacts who I had befriended came to see me and said: “quit your job!”... "Today!” … and so I did, and she told me, I was now a buyer for her three stores who carried the marquee brands of fashion. I never gave any of it a second thought, and soon enough I was in London and Paris at the best fashion shows in the best showrooms and in common parlance, I “held a pen” or in other words, I was now a buyer for a group of stores that every manufacturer wanted to sell.
That was the first 20 years of a career that has endured for decades and if there is something I can pass on it is to be yourself, don’t believe your own press, be fearless, and allow people that you trust to lead the way. After many years of working it occurred to me that I was a great talent on many levels and so much of that is that I just did my job, I worked hard, I had fun, and I knew that all my actions had consequences.
If you want to play by your own rules, then you pay the price...
As I always say, there is no free lunch! I was never afraid I couldn’t do a job even if I had no experience as when I was hired as a VP of design and merchandising for a heritage brand fashion jewelry company that had fallen on hard times. I was never about money. I loved to work. I loved to be creative and meet so many who became huge legends in the fashion business. Yes, I was lucky, but part of that luck was that I must have shown people that I was smart and had something to bring to the table. I was always impeccably turned out and groomed, and I was never one of the flock ... I was the standout.
The end of the story is, it is all about passion! Either you do, or you don’t! Either you pursue, or you wait for it to fall in your lap. In many ways, it is up to you. Blaze your own trail.”