I recently had a chance to sit down with, Lauren Pedley, the Divisional Merchandise Manager and Vice President of Junior Sportswear at Burlington Stores. She shared with me the story of how she got started in the apparel industry and what advice she would give those trying to break into it.
Lauren didn’t start off in fashion. Her original plan was to become a pediatrician, but as time went on and she realized how much school was necessary and how long it would take her to finish, she decided on a different path.
Instead she decided to put her creativity to good use and attend Kent State where she studied design and merchandising. While attending school she snagged an internship with Nanette Lepore, a women’s clothing brand known for its feminine and youthful style.
She loved working for the, at the time, very small company. “They were just starting out and obviously weren’t as big as they are now, which is why I was able to learn so much,” Lauren says.
After realizing that Nanette Lepore could only hire her part-time, upon graduating Lauren started working as a Merchandise Assistant for Alloy, a trendy junior clothing retailer with a catalog and online store. While there she was able to grow very quickly and really gain an understanding of what it takes to drive a business. “It was very much a ‘sink or swim’ situation where I kind of had to learn as I went.”
One of the biggest challenges people face while trying to climb the corporate ladder is dealing with difficult personalities.
According to Lauren, “There are always going to be different personalities you’ll come across that you will have to learn to work with…the key is to manage up to who you’re working for. Look at who they are and figure out how you need to work with them and what they respond to.”
When asked what she looks for when hiring and what advice she would give students working on a degree in fashion, Lauren’s biggest emphasis was passion.
She feels that there are many tasks and skills that can be taught, but if a person is not able to express a true passion for what they are doing it is hard to believe that they will be successful.
“There are no shortcuts,” says Lauren. You have to work very hard and it’s definitely not an easy industry to be in so if you don’t love what you’re doing, why bother?”