Fashion entrepreneur Stephanie Ramlogan.
If you are unsure about pursuing a career in fashion in Trinidad and Tobago, don’t. This warning comes from stylist and blogger, Stephanie Ramlogan.
The founder of the No More Fashion Victims blog and online store says that if you think the fashion life is for you, be prepared to work hard. Working in an industry that she describes as often lacking structure and proper business systems is not for dilettantes.
“You have to be 100 percent invested in it,” she said. “You have to be extremely passionate, driven, hardworking, serious or you’re not going to last long — I give you a year.”
Both champion and critic of local fashion, Ramlogan has a record of mincing no words when it comes to what she thinks the industry should be doing better.
“I’m very honest about how I see things and how I feel things should be and I’m very open to say these things,” she said. “I think I always had my standards very high. My followers, I think, see that, they connect with that, they respect that and they appreciate it very much.”
According to Ramlogan, too many people entering the industry have a warped idea of what to expect.
“I think for the young people who may be considering a career in styling you have to remember that all the glamour that we see is absolutely non-existent,” she said. “You are buckling people’s shoe.”
Her own reality check came while interning for New York-based stylist Babatu Sparrow, when she had an uncomfortably close encounter with a model.
“On my first day I had to put pasties on somebody. I was like, ‘I don’t know her. This is what I’m doing with my degree?’ The glamour is a façade.”
But with the exploding popularity of fashion bloggers on social media sites such as Instagram, it’s easy to be seduced by the stylised, filtered world of fashion. Ramlogan, who has well over 1300 followers each on her personal and NMFV Instagram accounts, understands the power of social media in the business.
“When it comes to fashion and [being] online, image is everything.” A lesson she said she learned when she created NMFV.
“The imagery needs to be immaculate. It needs to be so clear,” she said. “Before they [shoppers] can even ask a question like what does the back look like? How does it zip? Where does it zip? You have to have all that information.”
What started as a Facebook page to stay connected to her classmates at the Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design during the August break, NMFV slowly grew into a fashion blog and then an online retailer for locally curated clothing and accessories.
“I found the designers to be very inaccessible,” she explained. “As a stylist I could find them, because I knew them, but as a customer trying to reach them directly, it’s almost impossible.” NMFV was a simpler way to connect buyer to designer.
The dearth of distribution channels is just one of the shortcomings of local fashion that frustrates Ramlogan. Another is a lack of support services that could help designers bring more of their clothes to consumers. This gap, she said, could be an opportunity for those wanting to find their place in the industry.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to do certain jobs and those jobs are important,” she said. “You come out of school, you want to be a designer, but nobody is considering opening a factory, or doing production. Fashion is a team sport.” She also listed fashion management, journalism, public relations, event management and law as underrepresented in the industry.
Ramlogan said that she would encourage anyone serious about a career in the industry to get formal fashion education. With that said, she suggested that you spend some time working outside the industry.
“I recommend that you get training in some sort of traditional business organisation to understand just how things are supposed to work so you can apply it here.”
When you are ready to get started in the industry she warned that you not think of fashion as a nine to five job.
“Fashion doesn’t sleep, especially now with the Internet. We are constantly, learning, researching, reporting. Things are happening constantly because we are working in all the time zones simultaneously.”
For would-be stylists, Ramlogan said that working retail is a good way to get your foot into the door. According to her, retail helps you understand customer tastes.
She got her own start interning with an established stylist.
“I think that was probably the most influential and important interaction I had in my entire experience in fashion,” she said. “He really pushed me and raised my standard and had me thinking internationally and not Caribbean only and I think that that was very important.”
Ramlogan encouraged new stylists to seek out photographers, magazine editors and designers to act as mentors.
Today, Ramlogan is a bit more ambivalent about her childhood dream of becoming a designer and sees herself moving into speaking and consulting.
“I would still like to be a designer, but to say that would be my only hat? Probably not anymore. Fashion is much more than design.”