Michelle Reagan is a Fashion Communications student at Ryerson, but she’s already a total pro – working PR for Toronto Alternative Fashion Week, AIME Luxury, and Catherine Malandrino in New York City. She’s got all the qualities you would expect in a PR star – watch her go far! Besides that, she’s a stellar human being, positive and supportive. I asked her a few questions about work and school.
You just spent the summer in NYC interning for Catherine Malandrino. Do you have any tips for fashion students on getting a New York internship?
Start well in advance. Most companies start looking for summer interns as early as the New Year. Research different companies, see what others are saying about them and determine where you think would be a good fit. Find the best person to talk to – if that means picking up a phone and calling reception, don’t be afraid to do so. Finally, don’t give up – it can be frustrating when people don’t respond but eventually someone will and then that’s where you’re meant to be. If you get multiple responses, you are in the best possible situation – you have options! Get as much experience as you can beforehand so you’re prepared. Internships, especially ones in New York, are challenging and will push you to your limits – you need to be ready, have a thick skin and be able to work through the toughest situations with a smile on your face.
Once you have your internship, make the most of it! You never know what can happen or whom you’ll meet. Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone – you might be surprised at how much you’re capable of and what doors will open as a result.
What did you do in your job at Malandrino? What did you learn?
I think a more realistic question is what didn’t I do?! From creating the run of show for an out-of-town event at midnight to modeling shoes for the production team (also at midnight, it’s a popular time to work before events!) to booking 34 models for our Spring 2010 presentation, you name it, I did it!
Officially though, I did In House PR and worked with the Director of PR & Marketing. That meant fulfilling editorial requests, tracking samples, doing pulls in the showroom with editors and stylists, tracking press coverage and working on events. It also meant trying on the most unbelievable pieces (thigh high purple suede boots and an ostrich feather/sequined skirt were fast favorites), going on photo shoots and working with some of the most amazing, creative, talented and hilarious people I’ve ever met.
If I listed all the things I learned this summer it would be an extremely long list! During the time leading up to Fashion Week I learned what my limits truly were and pushed myself emotionally, mentally and physically harder than ever before. I learned how to deal with desperate situations (like when a confirmed model gets pulled from your show the day before) quickly, efficiently and with minimal freaking out. I think above everything I learned that I truly love this industry and wouldn’t want to do anything else.
You’ve worked in fashion PR both in Toronto and New York. Do you have any comments on the differences between the cities in terms of the fashion PR biz?
While New York is the fashion capital of North America and has an undeniable presence on an international level, I think there are more similarities between the cities than people realize.
The world of fashion PR is intense, challenging and stressful at the worst of times, regardless of where you are. It’s also exhilarating, stimulating and rarely boring. I think you can succeed in whichever city you’re in – the amount you put into anything will always determine what you get out of it.
New York has an energy that is uniquely it’s own. The people working in fashion PR in New York reflect that energy: they’re fast-paced, powerful and at the top of their game all the time. While Toronto may seem more relaxed at times or “nicer”, it’s still dynamic and expectations are set with just as high standards of perfection.
I think whether you’re in Toronto or New York, it’s a ruthless industry and you have to decide whether you really want to be in it. You need to have passion because that’s what keeps you going when it gets crazy and sanity, wits and common sense seem to go out the window. You can’t go halfway with this – it’s either all or nothing.
My summer at Malandrino was an incredible whirlwind of an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. While I love New York, Toronto will always hold a very special place in my heart and I’m happy to be home!
Why is it important to complete your fashion degree?
Completing your fashion degree gives you legitimacy and proves you are well educated about the industry. School offers you a safe place to explore your potential and allows you to make mistakes. It grants you the time to taste the industry, figure out your strengths and then nurture them to the best of your ability. You have teachers who are experts in all aspects of the industry, available to help and willing to answer your questions (however silly they may seem). Most importantly, the friends you make in school will be your allies in the industry. They will guide, help, inspire and entertain you for years to come after graduation.
Can you describe your favourite fashion experience in your career so far?
Watching the Malandrino presentation come to life is at the top of my list. To be part of a team that is giving their all to something and then seeing it in front of you can only be described as a surreal experience. Even now, a little over a month later, I can’t talk or even think about it without having a smile on my face.
Before I left for New York I had the opportunity to be the publicist for Toronto Alternative Arts & Fashion Week (FAT for short), which took place at the end of April. After the final fashion show on the last day the team met at the bar, had celebratory shots and yelled congratulatory toasts to each other. It was a moment I’ll never forget – exhaustion was forgotten and sheer pride and joy took over as we realized what we had just accomplished.
I don’t think it’s possible for me to pick one favorite experience so far. Every moment, no matter how big or small, is unique and I’m grateful that I’m able to be a part of something I love so much. I have been very blessed to have an incredible group of friends who make every experience in this industry a favorite – for that, and for them, I am truly thankful!