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Interview: Fashion Industry Author, Penelope Nam-Stephen

posted by LIM College

by Victoria Stankus

Career_Fashion_Industry.jpgI had met Penelope Nam-Stephen years ago when I had my first interview with Cache for a summer intern position in New York. I was terrified the entire time. I didn’t like my resume. Then, I really did not know much of anything about the fashion industry, but I wanted to start interning to get some experience under my belt.

With this opportunity I would be able to see if I even liked the fashion industry, and find out what I wanted to do IN the industry. I never thought that two years later I would be interviewing her on the book that she had written titled, My Career in The Fashion Industry: An Insider’s Guide on How to Become a Buyer.

VS: How did you decide to write a book about working in the fashion industry?

PS: About five years ago, as I was in a management level in my career, I was receiving inquiries from young people of how to get into the industry. My husband came up with the idea to write down all of the advice I would give and start to study the different paths people took to get to where they were since there is no clear cut path to be successful in the fashion industry. I wanted to put out a resource for people that they can use.

VS: What are some key points or messages that you have about working in the fashion industry that are not mentioned in the book?

Penelope_NS.jpgPS: The most important thing to remember is to always stay on track, if this is the career for you, don’t get frustrated. Stick to what you are doing and stick to what you want to do. Always remember that you are not in control. There are only certain aspects in which you can control, such as your behavior and work ethic, but you cannot change the big picture.

VS:  Who was the best mentor you had during your career?

PS: This is a hard one; I have had mentors in every position that was appropriate at the time of my career.

VS: I can most definitely relate, I have had so many wonderful leaders in my internships and jobs, I have always found a trait in someone that I would want to have as I continued in my career. Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

PS: Family. At the end of the day that is what matters, because none of it would mean anything if you do not have something important to you outside of work. My family is always motivating me to be better.

VS: Looking back, what would you say was your proudest moment in your career?

PS: I would have to say writing a book and incorporating that new element in my career path. It takes a leap of faith to take a step back and decide to write a book. Not working for a company 9-5 and getting a guaranteed paycheck is hard.

VS: What was the most difficult aspect of starting the book?

PS: Organizing everything. I started off writing random thoughts, met with a publisher and started to organize and outline what I wanted. You have to get focused and get all the experiences that are the most relevant to the reader.

VS: Is there any advice that you would like to give to someone who is thinking about writing a book?

PS: Don’t underestimate the job of writing a book and the length of time it takes to write the book. When you start looking at things from an outside perspective, there is the “merchandising” process and that is the most challenging.

VS: In your book you talk about a transition in your career when you wanted to start having a family. How was that transition for you personally?

PS: There was tons of travel, and you have to make sure that you keep focused on the job and truly know yourself. Change if you need to, but never abandon anything or drop something and keep your commitment. Always devote time to your family because family comes first and they are the most important part of my life.

Speaking to Penelope brought up many aspects of what I want my career in the fashion industry to be. It helped me understand a bit about myself and how many women are able to relate to the challenges they might face when wanting to start a family.

She speaks for many of us that we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for our family and support system outside of work. I am glad to say that I was able to speak with someone who I see as an inspiration for myself and many women.

Order your copy of My Career in The Fashion Industry: An Insider’s Guide on How to Become a Buyer on Amazon or

Topics: fashion industry, fashion trends