I sat down with Kristen Ingersoll for lunch at Brasserie Cognac in New York City during New York Fashion Week to learn more about her career path and her advice for young women interested in working in the fashion industry.
Molly Flynn: You’re the Fashion and Entertainment Director at Hearst International. What was your first job in the fashion industry?
Kristen Ingersoll: When I was in college I worked for a modeling agency. I also worked at Filene’s Basement where we produced fashion shows for various magazines, which included one of Donna Karan’s first trunk shows.
M: Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?
K: Absolutely. When I was 13 years old I helped out at a modeling agency. I overheard one of the agents on the phone needed someone to dress the models at a show. I chimed in confidently that I could do that. I then had my mom drive me to the show. I remember bringing a small bag of safety pins and clips. No one taught me; I just did it.
M: How did you land a job in the industry after you graduated from college?
K: When I graduated I turned down two job offers in New York, and bought a one-way ticket to Paris. It was a huge risk. My parents were not keen on me going. I didn’t have a job offer in Paris, but I knew what I wanted and no one could stop me. I studied French in college so I prepared my resume in French and brought it along with me. I put “styliste” on my resume thinking that it meant a stylist who puts together outfits but styliste in French also means designer.
I was hired as an intern at the clothing company Naf Naf. On my first day they brought me up to their design atelier. I looked around for the clothes but there were no clothes. It was an atelier with about 5 designers in it at their respective desks. I had a rude awakening. Basically, I was joining their design team as a design intern. I sat at my empty desk in a quiet room of people sketching away and I felt sick to my stomach. I figured I better try to draw something—give it my best shot—as I was probably going to go home at the end of the day and never return when they discovered I was in the wrong place. Within the first hour I researched the history behind Naf Naf. I drew lots of pigs, including some pigs jumping rope as well as three pigs hanging out of a helicopter. At the end of the day, all of the designers had to post their drawings on the wall for the owners to see (we didn’t have to sign our work so at least we were anonymous). Two out of my four drawings were selected, which was a relief! I then stayed at Naf Naf for about a year and learned so much. When that internship was over I started another internship at French ELLE.
M: How did you get the job at French ELLE?
K: I sent my resume wrapped as a present in a big box of confetti. To my surprise, they called me.
M: Do you think that would work today?
K: I doubt it. I think today I would probably send a horse. That being said, it’s really important to take a risk. Looking back I have no regrets at all because I put myself out on the line and it paid off.
M: Your job is what many would call their “dream job”. What is your favorite part about being the fashion and entertainment director at Hearst?
K: My favorite part is working with all of our international editions. It’s fascinating to work with other cultures and get new perspectives. It draws forth a lot of inspiration.
M: From an outsider’s perspective, people only see the glamorous parts of your job. What are the critical parts of your work that most people wouldn’t consider?
K: I don’t have a lot of time to myself and you can’t always get the sleep and rest you need. I’m constantly traveling and meeting new people, which I love, but it can take the energy out of you. In addition the fashion industry is filled with many creative and unique people. Collaborating with all these personalities can be challenging, but the end result is very beautiful.
M: Who has been the most memorable celebrity you’ve worked with and why?
K: I’m a huge fan of rock and roll so one of my absolute favorite shoots was with Lenny Kravitz for Esquire. I was sick with a fever that day, but it was still an amazing experience. I’m a huge fan of his, and it was so much fun to spend the day with him in his home.
M: We’re in the midst of NYFW. What’s this week like for you?
K: Fashion week is really more like fashion month. After New York, I will be continuing on to Paris, but many of my colleagues will also go to London and Milan. It’s always a time for new trends/new ideas, which is exciting, but the travel schedule is extremely rigorous and almost everyone comes down with colds at the end. We’re working at least 6 months in advance by seeing next season’s collections. For example, we will now start working on Summer 2015 and it’s not even December 2014.
M: What are some emerging trends that you’ve seen this fashion week?
K: It’s just the beginning, but I can tell you that the 70’s are definitely making a comeback.
M: What advice do you have for young women who are looking to land a job in the fashion industry?
K: Take risks and put yourself out there. Don’t take a job just for the money, when first starting out. You need to consider the takeaway value and consider what this job could potentially lead to and if it’s what you really want. You have to be willing to put your time into it.
Also, attitude is very important. I’ve had people say to me, “I don’t do photo copies”. That attitude really shocks me. You have to start somewhere and have an appreciation for the whole work process at all levels—try to keep ego out of it. For me, it’s all about the team--everyone and their contribution.