What I Learned In The Fashion Industry
The shocking revelation from the point of view of an outsider on the inside.
I've never been that into fashion. Truth be told, when I first decided to create a woman's fashion magazine, it wasn't to talk Haute Couture, Gucci or Vera. I never thought I could create a magazine that did, simply because all I really saw myself as was a frumpy, overweight mom. When I created a magazine I called "Pinkblitz", it was simply to empower women while talking about the topics most of us loved—fashion, beauty, relationships and wellness. My end game was to show the world that women of all shapes and sizes were beautiful, regardless of what is currently portrayed in the media.
I think my first problem was my location. Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada was definitely not the fashion capitol of the world; in fact, there were people who mocked the idea of this city having a fashion magazine. That wasn't all, though. The fact is, even in a city on the East Coast, the people still have "small town mentality" and it was a huge problem. For those reading who don't know, "small town mentality" means that the people are very judgemental, quick to judge, and closed minded. So much so, that it's nearly impossible to start a new business here.
The whole experience was a learning process for me. I went through a couple rounds of re-staffing volunteers. Because I didn't have any start-up capital, I couldn't afford to pay people and therefore, I took volunteers and interns. The problem is, the volunteers had their own agenda. The first round of people that worked on my project, didn't like the way I ran my business. It took one in particular to plant the seed, and within 24 hours, they all decided to quit and start their own magazine. I laugh about this now, because even though they didn't like how I ran my business, they clearly had no idea what they were doing either. After 4 short months, their business closed up shop and mine was still thriving.
I started over with new people. I will be the first person to admit that I had a big problem with constructive criticism, and listening to other people's ideas. I figured, this was my baby. Why should I take their ideas when I have so many of my own? It all came to a head when we had a group meeting and they literally tried to replace me as Editor in Chief in favor of a new girl they had there. I felt betrayed at that point, because the reasons they gave were not even work related. The co-conspirators whom I considered friends, used the personal details I told them as friends in confidence against me. Thus went the next round of people.
After a while, I had a solid team in place and I myself grew as a person. I decided that to be taken seriously, I needed to do something about my appearance. I gave myself a makeover with the help and tips of the hairstylists and makeup artists I worked with. Soon, I looked the part. At this time, I still couldn't afford to pay anyone and yet people still generously donated their time. I learned to consider their ideas and work as a team rather than just hogging my project to myself.
I had co-worker who became my very best friend after she applied to be on my new television show. That's right, I even scored myself a television show on the local cable network. She was amazing and we clicked instantly, mostly because no matter what hair-brained idea I came up with, she supported it when others shot it down. After a while, people close to me began to warn me about her. They called her a "yes man" and said she was only looking out for herself in the long run. Of course, I didn't believe them because I was totally blinded by our friendship and figured they were just jealous. The joke's on them, because she and I are still tight to this day.
I gained a talented photographer duo, a classy stylist, a studio space to do our photo shoots with, and a group that I thought were friends only trying to help me succeed. Looking back, I should have considered the warnings I got. I never imagined the betrayal I would endure. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Soon, my business turned into something ugly. It had gone from a beautiful magazine that promoted women of all shapes and sizes, to one that was trying desperately to mimic and compete with Cosmo. The girls were all professional or wannabe models around the same size—very petite, and very beautiful. Almost flawless girls, never older than 22. I kept trying to keep the sizes ranging, but with a limited amount of plus size models, I got accused of always using the same girls. No matter what I did, people complained.
Then it got bad. Photographers wouldn't work with me because the people I thought were my friends spread horrible rumors about my business practices that weren't true. Hair and makeup wouldn't work with me because the only thing they got for compensation was the ability to use the photos in their portfolios, but the photographers would never give them the photos. Models didn't want to work with me because of the rumors mentioned before, and it became harder and harder to be around the people I thought were my friends.
I started out wanting to build confidence in women, but each day, I kept getting mine taken from me. And with that, it went from bad to worse. The head of a modelling agency came into the picture, and suddenly the magazine was only featuring his models. We all tried sharing an office space, but being the only woman in a team of 3 with two men, I got treated as though I was a secretary instead of a partner. My business always came in last place, and my ideas shot down. As a fashion magazine, I wanted to host a fashion show but they told me I couldn't. That was the model agency's thing and it'd be a bad move to step on his toes. The last straw for me was when the ones saying I couldn't, created their own magazine but didn't see it as stepping on MY toes. I wanted out, so I got out. What I learned? I learned that that so called agency was a total rip-off. Models didn't get paid for their work for it, and winners never got their prizes. The photographer was an emotionally abusive psycho who partied with underage kids and bragged about abusing his girlfriend. It was a nightmare, and I woke up.
During that endeavor, I lost a lot of friends. I had only 2 best friends left, and soon after, one of them left me to run back to the others. That one would later get mad at me for not wanting to be her friend, and slander my name so badly on social media that it would be impossible to recover. That would result in a lawsuit where I would end up having to pay her for her volunteer work. Yep, that's right. She wanted to be paid for her volunteer work.
So that's my story. I closed up my business after 3 years, 30 issues of the magazine, two seasons of a related television show on a local cable network, and almost 5000 followers on Facebook. After all of that, this is what I learned:
1.People don't actually understand what it means to volunteer. They willingly donate their time to the cause, only to complain that I don't pay people later.
2.Male photographers often get away with sexually harassing female models, using their "creativity" to get them naked. During the course of my business, over 24 different girls would come forward with complaints of the male photographers making unwanted sexual advances, and taking private photos of them and keeping them for "personal use". Not one of them reported it to the proper authorities.
3.People in this industry don't care about anyone but themselves, and will push anyone down to get ahead.
4.The worst thing for anyone in this industry is the jealousy of others.
5.In this industry, you can't trust anyone. Not even your best friends.
Would I do it all again? Maybe. Would I change anything? Definitely. I wouldn't trust anyone. I wouldn't count on anyone and I definitely wouldn't let people with no experience try to tell me how to run my business. I wouldn't change to make everyone else happy and I wouldn't compromise my own beliefs. But I can't go back and I can't change it. All I can do is chalk it up to a lesson learned.