Originally published on Her Campus
Lidia Alvarez, a CSULA alumnus, is one of the Fashion and Textiles Program’s go-getter role models. As former-president of FADS, blogger, feminist, and fashion enthusiast, Lidia has been able to get a good grasp of what the fashion industry is really about. Not only was she involved in various clubs and orgs when she attended CSULA, but she also interned in numerous places during her college days. Now, Lidia lives in NYC, one of the fashion capitals of the world, chasing her dream, and slowly but surely getting to her ultimate goal-publishing. Sharing with us her college and post-college experiences, Lidia gives us light into what it’s like to work in the fashion industry.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
It’s not like I grew up knowing anyone who was in the industry, but I do remember the exact moment when I was certain what I was going to do with the rest of my life: the September 2004 issue of Vogue. I read that 800+ page magazine front to back. I remember looking at the masthead thinking to myself, “My name has to be on here one day.” I still have that issue and every time I revisit it, I become inspired all over again.
While at CSULA what were you involved with?
I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really become involved on campus ’til my last year. While attending CSULA, I was president of FADS, the initial student marketer for Made at CSULA and the student marketer for Smart Lab grant where we spearheaded a campaign to encourage upcycling. However, since my very first quarter of college, I began interning.
Tell us a little bit about Made at CSULA.
Made at CSULA is a nonprofit started by Professor Lung, Dean Peter McAllister, and myself to encourage student, faculty and alumni to actively pursue their artistic passions. Made at CSULA is meant to be an e-commerce and portable brick and mortar establishment that will provide a place for CSULA students, faculty and alumni to sell their work.
What is the most important thing you learned from being FADS President?
How to delegate responsibilities! That was a hard one for me. It’s not that I didn’t trust my AWESOME cabinet, but I knew their senior work load was tough (so was mine) so I wanted to make things as easy for everyone as possible. Many times that meant that I did a lot of the work and as much as I tried, I’m not super woman. You get more done in a team than you can alone.
Is there anything else you are passionate about aside from fashion?
Oh yea! Feminism.
Is there a correlation between fashion and feminism?
Absolutely. Feminism has encouraged me to look at the fashion industry with a critical eye. There are A LOT of things wrong with the fashion industry as it stands (ie. Damaging body image expectations to unfair labor practices). So since I so strongly identify as a feminist, it is my responsibility to make the fashion industry accountable and encourage change.
What was life like after graduation? What path did you take?
Two weeks after graduation I packed my bags and moved to New York. I landed an internship with Conde Nast International’s US Advertising Director and began working at Saks Fifth Avenue days after moving. Everything was pretty fast paced. I started my internship just a day after arriving. So the shock of moving didn’t hit ‘til after the internship was over.
What was it like to work for Conde Nast International?
Well, it was NOT like The Devil Wears Prada!! Let’s make that clear, first and foremost. I think that’s a common misconception that many people may have. Though, it was an incredible learning experience. I was surrounded by the best international fashion magazines and corresponding with MAJOR US fashion brands and I was involved with all prep and execution of VOGUE Bambini / Petite Parade fashion weekend where I worked alongside the Editor-in-Chief of VOGUE Bambini and editors of VOGUE Italia. At the same time, this was the toughest internship I have ever had (and I’ve had A LOT). My biggest take away, ‘always be precise’ – Still working on that. Check, then double check, then check again. I was scolded a few times because of that. It’s still something I feel I am continuing to work on.
What is the next step in Lidia Alvarez’s career?
Phew! Well, I am currently working for a fashion jewelry company, and I’m wearing many hats. I work alongside the owner where my responsibilities include copy writing, social media and marketing and managing wholesale accounts. I would love to stay with the company as it continues to grow, but my dream is to work in publishing. So, I’ve been doing lots of networking and sending out freelance writing proposals to different publications.
Who would you say is your favorite fashion designer/brand? And why?
Rodarte and Isable Marant are two of my ultimate favorite designers. I’ve always called them the “fashion students designer”. Isabel epitomizes the ‘cool girl’ look I am always trying to achieve, and the Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte are never afraid to try different couture-like techniques in their designs.
What are the best and worst things about NYC?
Currently the freezing weather is the worst thing. It’s starting to reach the low 30’s. The Winter Time Blues is real. As a native Angeleno, getting used to the bitter winters and the emotion effects has been my biggest challenge. I want to make it clear that it is NOT easy. There have been many, many MANY times where I question my ability to make it in ‘the big city’, but if you have a strong support system, which I am proud to say I do, it helps. I am lucky to have the most wonderful group of friends I’ve made here and the great group of family and friends back home who continue to remind me of my strengthens when I need it most. The best thing (besides 24 hr bodegas) is the energy. While vague, it is ever present. You can just feel it. I am constantly inspired by those around me. Be it subway performers or an ultra-chic girl walking down Bowery. There is a constant rush that keeps you moving. Oh, and sh*t’s expensive! Yet, somehow I’ve managed to make rent every month without a trust fund and have kept (most) of my sanity in-tact.
Are there any projects you’ve been working on? Personal or non-personal.
I keep a fashion media website where I share fashion stories that resonate with me most, www.fashionfocused.net. I have also really enjoyed writing personal essays about New York, growing up, and feminism, that I share on my Tumblr (www.mslidiaalvarez.tumblr.com). In addition to those sites that I maintain, I am always looking for freelance writing opportunities.
What was your favorite part about attending Cal State LA?
By far, the relationships I made. When I realized I was responsible for taking advantage of everything my program has to offer, things began to change for me. Dr. Davis, Dr. Tutland and Professor Lung really believed in me. That gave me so much confidence to be able to take on the industry after college. I have so much respect for the professors in the Fashion Design and Merchandising program. The fashion program is very small, so you really get to know everyone in your program. I think back to my last year in particular and we really kicked ass. We pushed each other, spent long nights in the sewing lab and understood each other’s ‘crazy moments’ during final projects. These people are on my list of favorite people in the world.
Any advice for any students perusing a fashion-related career?
If you are basing your decision to pursue fashion based on reality TV shows and what you see on the cover of magazines, change your major now. It is FAR from glamorous. You also have to have thick skin. While I have encountered many positive and encouraging people, I have also had to learn to deal with bitter, angry and down-right mean people. You can’t take it personally. You have to work harder than your boss and more often than not, take no credit for the hard work you’ve put into a project. You pretty much have to have a masochistic personality. But one thing that I’ve been learning more so now, is that while you must be willing to give 150% at all times, you must also demand that you are properly compensated for the work that you are given. If you show that you value your time and efforts, others will have no other choice but to follow suite. This may mean that you will have to give up a certain job because the company cannot afford to pay you what you deserve, just know that it’s okay. You’ll get there. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Also, never stop learning.