Remember this early scene from The Devil Wears Prada when Andie (Ann Hathaway’s character) was judged from head to toes by her “Runway” peers in the movie?
Sadly, this scene did depicted some truth from reality.
When I visited luxury accounts and met sales people in stores, their initial reaction was checking my appearance from head to toes and then greeted me.
Since I worked in the high end designer world, I expected this scrutiny and took it with stride when I met new people. However, it became exhausting (and costly) because I had to look the part all the time representing designer brands properly.
The truths about working in the high end designer houses are:
1. I don’t get free cloth from designers, and I have to pay tax at the end of the year for my own clothing allowance. At one designer house, my allowance after tax was roughly $800 per season. I could barely afford a its signature suit with this incentive.
2. Besides the apparel, you have to have the right shoes and accessories to complete each outfit. So there goes another half of my pay check for this.
3. People remember what you wear! It sounds crazy but some sales people have photographic memory when it comes to my outfits. If I wore the same jacket, shirt or pant for a repeating visit, they would remind me about it. They were so concerned that fashion police would fine and committed me for repeating outfits.
4. We also have other expenses like dry cleaning bills (designers typically use “dry clean” only fabrics) and getting haircut and manicure (we need to trim our nails constantly when handling these delicate fabrics) on a regular basis to keep up our appearances. My female colleagues also need to buy make-ups in order to look fresh and dewey on every account visit.
Towards the end of my high fashion career, I had a closet full of designer clothes. I donated many of them to charity stores, shared some of them to my friends and sold majority of them to consignment shops.
I had a great time wearing beautifully tailored made clothes during my high fashion days. I am grateful for this experience but now am contend with a nice fitted t-shirt, jogger and Birkenstock as my new go-to uniform. Go ahead and judge my Birkenstock if you want, at least I feel comfortable with my new outfit.