After I left Escada and my fashion career behind, I decided to study for the Series Seven exam and become a stock broker. Ha! I have to laugh at myself now for even thinking of that. But at the time, it seemed like the right move. By then, I was fully familiar with commuting into the city, and navigating my way around NYC was no big deal. In fact, I loved it. I became the commuter who got her morning coffee at the local coffee shop, bought all my fashion magazines and tabloids for the commute and ignored the gross smells and strange people around me. But now I was commuting to my job at a stock brokerage firm.
Once again, big fancy offices but this time they were filled with almost all men and very few women -- I was one of only three or four. I was completely amazed by this new setting. If I was too loud for Escada, they definitely could not have handled the bosses at the firm: They jumped on tables and screamed at the employees every day to fire them up. It was wild in every way. And it wasn’t until years later when I watched “Wolf of Wall Street” that I could fully understand what exactly I was a part of.
But after a few months of that, I felt that wasn’t the right direction for me either. I was lost and disappointed in everything -- most of all in myself. I was already dating my now-husband at the time, but he was in law school so we didn’t spend a lot of time together and I felt lonely. I decided I was going to do something cool like the people who worked at Escada always talked about. I thought I would backpack through Europe to see sights no one at home had ever heard of so that I could share my own stories. The idea lasted a full minute (if that) until I tried to explain myself to my mom. She shot the idea down in a fat second and said I better get my ass out there and find a job -- and fast!
At this point in my life, my mom and I had bought a multifamily home together. Unlike most of my friends who were renting apartments with roommates in the city and partying like rockstars, I was a homeowner living in New Jersey with my mom as my roommate. Any and all of the money I had saved I put into the house, so now I was broke as a joke with what felt like no future. My mom encouraged me to go back into fashion because it was a true passion of mine, but I still felt like I didn’t fit. Those fashion people were so cool and beautiful, living fabulous lives while I was just considered bridge and tunnel.
But I eventually decided to give fashion another go. With the help of my mom's trusted best friend Shqipe, I composed my pathetic resume and sent it out to random fashion companies I dreamed of working for. This was the early-to-mid 90’s, so sexy Calvin Klein ads were everywhere and DKNY was a force to be reckoned with, so of course those companies were at the top of my list. As I wrote all the company names I was going to give Shqipe cover letters to fax my resume to, I looked up and noticed my mother’s beloved Gucci bag. She spoke about this bag as if the sun rose and set to it. Personally, I thought the blue GG’s all over it with a blue and red stripe running down the center was so ugly. The only reason my mother had the bag was someone owed her money, and they gave her the (in my opinion) ugly bag instead of the money. Despite having any interest in working at Gucci, I decided to also send them my resume -- just for my mother’s love.
As my luck would have it, of allllllll the resumes I sent out the ONLY call back I got was from Gucci. This time the interview was in New Jersey where the brand’s offices were located. I met with the HR representative first. I wasn’t very sure how things went as I was still scarred from my first corporate fashion experience. But two days later, she called me back to meet with the hiring manager. I wasn’t even very sure what job they had in mind for me because I blindly sent my resume to many companies with the thought that I would do ANY job.
I remember walking into the offices in New Jersey and thinking they certainly weren’t as fabulous as fancy NYC offices. As I walked through the department to the hiring manager's office, I noticed that many employees had ashtrays on their desks and there was smoke everywhere. These people looked nothing like the chic Escada employees. But I wasn’t judging one bit, since I had no other options for employment. The hiring manager seemed kind, and I could tell she took a liking to me. Midway through the interview, though, she got up and closed her office shades. I later found out that the women in the department on the other side of the window behind where I was sitting were holding up signs saying to not hire me because I was too pretty.
I got the job -- not in any fancy department but in inventory control. It sounded lame, but my options were limited. And now I had to figure out navigating this totally different environment.
Check back next week for part 3 of Francis’ “I Dream of Fashion.”