Eyes that suddenly brighten. Cheeks that flush. A voice that quickly rises. All of these are physical signs of the one thing that marks just about anyone I’ve met who’s successful in the fashion industry – PASSION. It’s true of most creative industries that project self-expression and creativity. And it’s the first thing that I look for when I’m mentoring someone or interviewing for a position. I want to see that passion (all of those signs above) radiating from them. This isn’t the time to play it cool.

Photo by Tara West, taken at the Lumas Gallery in Yorkville, Toronto.

All of the best people I’ve hired (John, Liz, Mosha, Fiona, Erin, Aya, Julia and more) wore their hearts on their sleeves. They came prepared for the interview with portfolios and plenty of ideas but what won me over was their enthusiasm and excitement. They all pretty much quivered (seriously) with passion. And that wasn’t for the product. Anyone who professed – “I just really love clothes” – would earn an eye roll from me. Work isn’t a fashion show. I loved hearing from the fashion editors who admired certain photographers and came with images of a standard that they aspired to create. Writers hot on the path of the next big new name thrilled me. I always called back models who were excited to create art, not just get a great shot for their book. Retail sales people whom I wanted to hire immediately enthused about their love of helping style customers. Their mission wasn’t to sell a rack of clothes, but to help someone find and express their style. 

Don’t be afraid to show your passion in an interview. It makes you memorable. I think back to the first assistant I hired when I was the new Beauty and Fashion Editor at Chatelaine magazine. A smart young woman sat in front of me. When I asked her what excited her about the job, she truthfully responded that fashion didn’t really interest her. She was anxious to get her foot in the door at Chatelaine so she could prove herself as a health writer. When I cut the interview short, she insisted that she was perfect to be my assistant, and that she would be able to quickly learn the passion that I required. Not a chance. Fashion isn’t an industry where you can fake it ’til you make it – at least not in this area. I don’t believe that you can learn how to experience a “fashion moment” – when you see something that literally makes you catch your breath. A pair of shoes will do that for me. (My friends are all nodding. Others will think I’m nuts.) Can you learn to cry at a fashion show? I think not. Raf Simons’ last show for Jil Sander brought me (and pretty much everyone else in the Milan theatre) to my feet with tears streaming down my face. Can you learn to dream about it? The photograph by Isabelle Menin that’s in the background of my shot above infiltrated my dreams for weeks before I broke down and bought it for my new apartment. That’s passion. And if you don’t find it in the fashion industry, I hope you discover it somewhere along your path.