Recently, Fashion Blogger & Stylist Brianna Corlette requested an interview with me regarding my background in fashion. Check out the interview below and get to know a bit more about me!
BC: What is your job title?
KF: Well on my passport is says Fashion Entrepreneur. I don’t think Fashion Consultant/Personal Branding Coach/Blogger/ Designer could fit one that tiny line so, Fashion Entrepreneur is the truncated version.
BC: How long have you been in the fashion industry?
KF: This is an interesting question, I started out in fashion in retail working for Macy's and Old Navy, but entered the more corporate side in 2013.
BC: How did you get into the fashion industry?
KF: I had to start over in order to break into the creative end of the industry because my experience in retail was completely different from working at a corporate HQ. I took an unpaid internship with a small fashion company that worked with celebrity clothing lines along with home furnishings for QVC and the Home Shopping Network. I was fortunate to work directly under the creative director as a design assistant. This position lead to an opportunity through a recruiter to work for Brooks Brothers as a Fashion Assistant and as they say the rest is history!
BC: Did you go to college for fashion? If so, what school and what was your major?
KF: I went to Parsons for Fashion Design under their certificate program and then I went on to the Fashion Institute of Technology where I received my Bachelors Of Science in International Trade & Marketing For The Fashion Industries with a Minor in French and Latin American Studies.
BC: How long have you had your website? What is your overall purpose/goal of your website?
KF: I launched KemalForrester.com on May 1st, 2015. The goal of the website is to establish my brand online while having a platform to promote style advice, a behind the scenes commentary on the fashion industry along with my professional fashion consulting services.
BC: Why did you choose fashion as a career path?
KF: I am sure this sounds cliché, but fashion chose me. It has always been in my blood. Growing up I went to primary school in the Caribbean - the equivalent of elementary school in the states - where uniforms were a requirement, but on Friday’s, we were allowed to wear street clothes. At the age of 5, I would always select my clothes those were my "fun days". It was the one day that I could show off my inner “Fashionista”. My mother tells me now that in those days, I walked like a diva. When I was eleven, I sketched my first full scale collection inspired by the Flintstones so, I just knew it was always meant for me.
BC: Where do you see yourself/business in the next five years?
KF: I see myself fully operational in Paris, France with an elevated version of my branding services for fashion/creative professionals, owning a brick and mortar boutique and consulting for medium sized and large fashion companies. On a more personal note, I definitely see myself as a wife & mother because I believe that having it all is possible. Everything in life is about balance and this stability comes from knowing what to make a priority and when it needs to be at the top of your list.
BC: Do you speak any other languages? If so, how do you think it benefits you career-wise.
KF: French, with limited usage at this time, but I am currently working on becoming fluent along with some Spanish. What I learned in Italian disappeared, but I have a goal to become fluent in Italian as well. Career wise, the benefits of knowing multiple or at least a second language opens doors. It could be the determining factor of getting a position or an opportunity over someone else. You can train someone to have the skills they need to function in your company, but it is much tougher to access someone with fluency in a language that can help to advance or sustain your business, mostly in the US. In fashion, it makes you a formidable candidate for jobs and as an entrepreneur, it allows you to develop business connections that can to strengthen or expand your brand.
BC: What's one career-defining moment?
KF: One career defining moment was, when I was offered an opportunity to work with LANVIN for market week. I knew that the experience and the name on my resume would open doors for me, especially those doors leading to the high end luxury world and it has!
BC: Who are your fashion icons/inspirations? Why?
KF: My greatest fashion icon/inspiration is Audrey Hepburn. She was so elegant and sophisticated in a simple way. My style is very much like that, very minimalist yet I always manage to make a splash. Her style is classic and timeless. I definitely buy into the “less is more” sort of aesthetic. She is the epitome of class and refinement showing that being sexy has nothing to do with short tight clothes and bare body parts. I just love that about her!
BC: Why did I move to Paris? What do you hope to accomplish there--career wise.
KF: I love the energy and lifestyle of Paris. I am sure that people might find my answer controversial, but Paris is highly inspiring and definitely more supportive of the creative arts when compared to New York. A part of my move to Paris is to share my talents with a new market that does not have the levels of access that New Yorkers have. As a result, I believe my work will hold more value. I think it is very easy to lose sight of your “why”, your reason for doing things in a city like New York. I definitely feel that because France has some unique challenges, it will allow me to stay connected to my “why” which, will make my work much more fulfilling.
BC: What tribulations did you go through to get this far in your career?
KF: When you are an entrepreneur, the tribulations are ongoing and never stop until you stop striving for something. In order to get this far, I had to work for free, pawn some of my family jewels to survive and go through periods of trial and error by working for different companies to know that I am not cut out to have a boss.
BC: Did you have any mentors throughout your fashion career, if so, who and how did they help you?
KF: I've had two mentors. The first was David Varon who in part inspired me to move to Paris based on his personal journey to become a successful fashion business Vice President in NY after leaving Turkey at age 30 with a few hundred dollars in his pocket and a dream. He took a chance and his career took an upward trajectory. This inspired me to go after all of my dreams and to stop at nothing until I achieve them because it is possible. The second is Jessica Odle, who is a former Consulate General of Barbados. Her career and professional advice has been a source of empowerment as a female coming from a position of leadership. She helped me to become an even more strategic thinker in business.
BC: What would be some advice that you would offer anyone who is interested working in fashion?
KF: Figure out your passion from early on and work with a brand that will help to cultivate it. One of the worst things that you can do is work with a brand that does not line up with your vision and your personal brand identity. I see too many people trying to work with companies that they do not identify with or connect with on a personal level only to become disillusioned with the industry altogether. It is important to not only love what you do, but with whom you are doing it!