First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at the Fashion Education Workshop
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First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at the Fashion Education Workshop

Anna Wintour: Hello. For those of you that I didn’t
get to meet this morning, I’m Anna, and I’m so honored
to be here today with all of you to celebrate
education and fashion. And it’s a great, great
privilege to be able to say a few words to introduce
the First Lady, whose vision and leadership
have brought us all together. The word that comes to mind
when I think of the First Lady is “nurture,” and not only
because she is such an engaged and loving mother. Through such exceptional
programs as Let’s Move, Joining Forces,
and Reach Higher, she is constantly thinking
about how best to provide all of us with the right
ingredients for a full life, especially our young people. And education in her view is
the key to that whole thing. We have to nurture our minds
and the minds of the next generation, and that’s why we
are here today as she has once again turned the White House
into a center of creativity and collaboration for students
from across the country. Now, nurturing and fashion are
not words you might expect to hear spoken of together;
fashion is often dismissed as anything but. I beg to differ. Fashion provides employment
and opportunity for people around the world. Some of you students learned
today about the nuts and bolts of the business,
which is just invaluable. After all, as anyone at the top
of their field will tell you, it’s almost impossible to
soar without first knowing every inch of the
terrain before you. One of my first jobs in the
states was at New York Magazine. And one of the very first
designers who came to see me there traveled by subway
carrying a small bag of sample designs. He was the CEO of his
own company, the PR, the one that
answered the phone. He was a one-man show. That young man’s name
was Michael Kors. But fashion nurtures our
culture in other ways, as well. As I’ve seen time
and time again, it can be a powerful
instrument for social change, raising awareness of causes from
AIDS to breast cancer to hunger. Fashion also allows us to think
about who we are individually and as a society and to
be creative and bold every single day. In the end, it really
doesn’t matter if you follow the latest trends. What matters is that
you feel your best, ready to tackle anything. I think the First Lady is the
perfect embodiment of this basic truth and as such, she has
certainly been a great, great source of inspiration to
me and I’m sure to all of you. It used to be that I would
come down here to D.C. I felt I represented an industry
that was decidedly unserious. I was the woman from New
York in the funny clothes — (laughter) — who kept insisting
that fashion mattered. The First Lady, with her
confidence and elegance, has shown us all that you can
engage with the vital issues of our time, and you can do it with
a style and authenticity that can make a difference for
families all across the country. But she can probably
explain it the best. And so, ladies and
gentlemen, please welcome the First Lady of the United
States, Michelle Obama. (applause) First Lady Obama:
Well hello everyone. How are you doing? Audience: Great. First Lady Obama:
Okay, all right. We’re just going to break this
up one moment and just say, is this not cool? (laughter) I mean, come on. You’re in the White House. There are some of the most
impressive people in fashion here to teach you all, and to
reach out and to mentor you. And there’s food. (laughter) What more could you ask for? Well welcome to the White House. And let me start by thanking
Anna for that very kind introduction and for her
tremendous passion and leadership in making
this day a reality. We started cooking this up a
little while ago and it’s just been a thrill to be able to
bring this vision to reality. So Anna, thank you so much. I also want to thank
everyone from the Parsons, the New School for Design,
for helping us today, the Fashion Institute
of Technology, the Pratt Institute
of Technology, along with all of the incredible
designers and entrepreneurs, the fashion journalists who
have taken time out of their very busy days to be here
with all of you. Let’s give them all
a round of applause. (applause) And there are two groups
that I want to give special recognition to. First, all of the students and
faculty from Parsons who created the incredible décor that
you see here on the tables in the East Room. Well done. (applause) Thank you guys. Thank you so much. And second, I want to recognize
the two winners of our design competition for this event. The dress that I am wearing
today and the dress that you see here were designed by two
students who are with us today, Chelsea Chen. Chelsea, stand
up please. Chelsea designed
this dress. (applause) Great job. (laughter) And Natalya Koval. Please stand up. Natalya designed
this dress. Well done. (applause) Oh, did it switch around? Natalya designed this dress,
Chelsea designed that dress. Well done. (laughter) Good job. They’re both students at FIT and
Natalya and Chelsea, thank you. Thank you for your creativity,
thank you for your passion, we’re very proud of you. I hope you had fun doing this
and I want to thank the designer mentors who helped them
bring their ideas to life, Philip Lim and Lela Rose. Philip and Lela, thank
you both for working with Natalya and
Chelsea today. (applause) In these dresses that you see
and in this room we see the incredible promise that lies
within our next generation. And that’s really what
today is all about. It’s about all of you young
people who are here in this room with us and all the young people
who couldn’t be in this room, and your dreams. We really do focus on how
you’re going to get where you’re going to go. And that’s what
this is all about. I know that many of you are
hoping to one day pursue a career in fashion and that’s
why we invited you here today because we want you to really
understand what it’s going to take to be successful. And we want you to see
first-hand that a solid education and the willingness to
work hard is really at the core of what it’s going to take
to achieve your goals. Education and hard
work, it’s that simple. Today’s workshop is one in a
series of events that we have done over the past six years for
young people across the country. We have been doing this
since the day we entered the White House
for young people. We want them to be in
this house and experience the things that they
are passionate about. And this workshop
is one of many, whether it’s music
or dance or poetry, our mission is always the same:
to inspire you guys to dream bigger, to reach higher,
and then most importantly, to pull somebody up
with you along the way. Because you’re sitting in these
seats makes you really special, but it doesn’t make you unique
because you know for every kid that is sitting in this
chair, you know probably 10 others who could be
sitting in this chair. So that’s where the give-back
comes in because you’ve got to be thinking, “I was lucky
and blessed to be here, so what am I going to
do to share these gifts with somebody else?” Now when it comes to the fashion
industry so often people think it’s all about catwalks and red
carpets and who wore it best. And whether some famous person
wore the right belt with the right shoes, like I’d
know what that’s like. (laughter) But the truth is that the
clothes you see in the magazine covers are really just the
finished product in what is a very long, very complicated
and very difficult process, as I’ve come to learn
working with many designers. What most people don’t
realize is that there are so many different aspects
to this industry, whether it’s business marketing
or technology and manufacturing, even agriculture, that produces
the wool and the cotton that ultimately
becomes our clothes. It’s a big,
complicated industry. The industry is also a huge
contributor to this economy. Last year alone Americans spent
more than $350 billion on clothing and footwear,
and about 1.4 million American workers are employed
annually by retailers and others in the
fashion industry. So, a lot of jobs, a lot of
income that is generated by many of the people who
are sitting in this room. But for so many of you,
whether you’re already in the industry or aspiring
to be there some day, I know that in the end
fashion is really about passion and creativity. Just like music, or dance, or
poetry, it’s what drives you. It’s what gets you out
of bed each morning. It’s what you write about
in essays in school and what you read
about in the news. It occupies every ounce
of your daily lives. I know this because with
creative people that’s what their passion does. It makes everything
else worthwhile. Fashion is about so much
more than just a pretty pair of pumps or the
perfect hemline. For so many people across
the country it is a calling, it is a career, and it’s a
way they feed their families. So that’s why we thought it was
important to bring the industry to the White House and to
share it with all of you who are coming up in the
next generation. Today in your break-out sessions
you all have had a chance to see all the different
aspects of the industry. And there are many,
many more aspects, we just didn’t
have the time. But you learned the
business sense that you need to strike
out on your own. There’s a very entrepreneurial
aspect to this industry. You learned the writing and
verbal skills that you need to communicate your inspiration
with others because the bottom line is that if you can’t
share your thoughts and ideas, no one
will hear them. There’s no mindreading
in fashion design. You have to be able to
articulate what you want so you have to be a reader, a writer,
a thinker, a communicator. You learned the
highly-specialized construction skills that you all can only
learn through hours and years of education and practice
and technical training. You know, this doesn’t just
come out of just talent, sheer creativity. You have to practice it,
you have to learn it, you have to study it. And those are the kind of
concrete skills that you all will need to succeed. And it’s important for
you all to know that there is a concreteness
to this work. And it’s easy to lose sight
of that because it’s easy for us to look at the
accomplished people in this room and think, “Well, it must have been
easy being Jason Wu,” right? Jason’s like,
“Not so much.” (laughter) Yet the style and creativity
have just flowed from these people since the
day they were born. It’s easy to think
that it’s easy. But these folks will tell
you that that’s never really been the case. What they have learned over the
course of their illustrious careers is that the path
to success is rarely ever easy or obvious. Instead, they know that
in order to succeed, they know that you
have to be prepared, they you’ve got to hone
your skills in college or at design school. You’ve got to be willing
to take some risks and you also have to be prepared
to fail, a lot. All these things are
essential for the journey. And that’s true for fashion, but
it’s true for everything else. Risks, failure, is a
part of being great. So embrace that. Don’t fear it. And the most important thing
you’ve got to do is work, and work, and work,
and work, and work. That’s it. It’s hard work. Sorry. (laughter) Years and even decades before
you can achieve your goals. Just take Sara
Blakely, for example. After she graduated
from college, Sara worked at Disneyworld,
buckling in people into their seats for the rides. Dag, Sara. (laughter) Sara did that for a
while, and then she went on to sell fax machines for
an office supply company. And then she got this
idea and she took a risk. She devoted her entire
savings, $5,000, to start her own company. She spent two years planning and
researching her new business ideas in the nights while she
was still selling fax machines. She pitched her idea to
factories and mills asking them to help her make the
product a reality. And, of course, she was turned
down again and again and again. But finally a manager at a
factory liked her idea and today, 14 years later,
Sara’s idea, Spanx, is a multi-billion dollar
company with products selling in more than 50 countries. (applause) So. And we all wear them — (laughter) — with pride. And then there’s my friend
Maria Cornejo who grew up in Chile knitting and
sewing clothes for her dolls. When she was 11 her family fled
to England as political refugees and Maria didn’t speak a word of
English and she says she always felt like an outsider. But then she realized that
she could make a career out of fashion. So she went to design school
and she studied fashion and textiles and she
started her own business. And today Maria’s got a
company based in New York. She won a national
design award for fashion. She is one of my
favorite designers. She’s earned fans all around the
world and she is probably one of the sweetest, most
gracious people that I’ve met over the
course of these years. So to all of you guys in this
room, I want those stories, the stories of Sara and Maria,
and I’m sure there are many, many others as you talk
to people at your tables. I want those stories to show
you that there’s no magic to being successful in
fashion or in anything else. What is required is a
willingness to work long nights, to suffer through
rejection and failure, to rise above all of that, all
the doubts and the fears and the anxieties, whether you come from, you know, the city, the suburbs, no matter who you are, where you come from, all those feelings
are natural. It’s a natural
part of life. Maybe you do feel
like an outsider. Maybe you’ve been told that
your ideas aren’t any good. Or maybe your family
doesn’t have much money. Maybe you’re the first one in
your family to go to college and you’re wondering whether
you’re even going to make it. Whoever you are, wherever you
come from, I want you, again, to know that those worries
and doubts are natural. It’s okay. Every single person in
this room, including me, everyone who has been
successful at anything, has doubted themselves and has
had someone else doubt them. But what successful people
don’t do is let their doubts and fears shut them down. That’s what you cannot do. They brush off the doubters,
they brush off the haters, they reach out for
help, which is key. They use those emotions
to inspire them to work even harder to create
their futures. So today I want all of you to
know that you belong here. You belong right here
in the White House. Yeah, yeah. So, look, you belong right
here next to Jason Wu and Anna Wintour and Narciso,
and I could go on. You belong here. This is your home
so own it, okay? Because if you can sit at these
tables and spend this day here and meet with all
these great people, then you can do anything. But you have to know that and
you have to tell yourself that every single day. Remember this moment and
remember that the First Lady of the United States told you
that you can do anything you want to and we’re
counting on you. We are proud of you. Your President
is proud of you. He knows this
is going on. He’s just a little busy. (laughter) So I want you to take
advantage of this day. I want you to network
with each other. I want you to continue
working hard, you know, and know that failure
is a part of the growth that you will
need to be great. So we are so pleased
to have you here. And if you feel like this day
was special it’s because we think you all are special and
you all are worthy of the efforts that we put in to making
this day special for you. So thank you, guys. Thank you so much. (applause) So now I’m going to
make sure you guys eat. The plates are — oh yeah, some
people have eaten, that’s good. (laughter) Make sure you continue to eat
and I’m going to pass the stage on to Lilliana Vazquez, who is
going to introduce our panel. And I know you guys are
still fired up, ready to go, ask questions, all
that good stuff. So Lilliana, please
come up and join me and you can introduce
the panelists. (applause) Lilliana Vazquez: So I really am
so excited to be here in front of you and the panel that I
have the honor of moderating today is an incredible
group of people. So they’re all
scattered amongst you. Praval, you step up
here and join us. (applause) Jason — there’s
Jason right there. (laughs) Jason Wu: Thank you so much. Lilliana Vazquez: Diane,
who’s at table nine, it’s a fabulous table. (laughs) (applause) Female Speaker: Thank you. Lilliana Vazquez: Tracy Reese. (applause) And then Edward,
where are you? I’ve been hanging
with you all day. Mrs. Obama: Isn’t
this a great feel. Lilliana Vazquez: I know. (applause) And then Jenna Lyons. She’s right in
the front. (applause) Lilliana Vazquez: Okay,
so really quickly — I want you guys just in
one quick sentence. Female Speaker: Hello, hello. Lilliana Vazquez: Do you
want me to use the wireless? I think Diane’s is actually
not working as well. Diane von Furstenberg:
No, no. Oh, now it is. Lilliana Vazquez:
Okay, there we go. Now we have audio. So really
quickly — nope. Still one more, yeah. Neither is Edward’s. Want to raise your mic
if it’s not working? Praval Gurung: Hello. Hello? Okay. Lilliana Vazquez:
Jen, are you good? Jenna Lyons: I’m good. Lilliana Vazquez: Jason? Good? Jason Wu: Yes. Lilliana Vazquez: All right. So really quickly, if you guys
could just introduce who you are and what you do. Praval, we’ll start with you. Praval Gurung: Hi everyone. I’m Praval Gurung and I’m a
fashion designer in New York. Edward Wilkerson:
I’m Edward Wilkerson. I’m the creative director
of Lafayette 148. Diane von Furstenberg:
I’m Diane von Furstenberg, and I’m an old
fashioned designer. (laughter) Tracy Reese: I’m Tracy Reese. I’m also a fashion designer. Jason Wu: I’m Jason Wu and
I’m a fashion designer. Jenna Lyons: I’m Jenna Lyons. I’m a designer and
creative director at J. Crew. Lilliana Vazquez: All
right, thank you guys. Well, I’d have to say that
it’s really difficult to have a dialogue about fashion
today without mentioning just one of our panelists. I think we can all agree. They are easily some of the most
respected and recognized names in this business. And I could probably spend
just the next hour listing the accolades of just one of them,
but I only have 45 minutes. Now their companies
represent more than a few billion
dollars in sales. They have a combined
experience of over 125 years in the industry. Now that does not make them
old by any means at all; that makes them experienced vets
that are here to inspire you and show you the ropes. And, of course, their
companies employ thousands, tens of thousands of jobs
across the U.S. and abroad. But enough talking
about who they are. I really want to focus this
panel on talking about who they were. Who were they as students? Who were they as young people
just like you when they were in high school? And, of course, who were they as
young designers when they were really just starting to
make a name for themselves in this business? And what I really hope to
accomplish is to demonstrate that as diverse as they all are
and as different as their paths and their backgrounds may be,
education is the one common thread that really unites
all of their success stories. So you guys have had very
storied careers and I know there’s been a lot
of special moments, but going back to
what Mrs. Obama said, what has been the coolest moment
that just made you stop dead in your tracks and say,
“Wow, I cannot believe this is happening to me”? It could have been when
you were younger, now, what’s that one kind of
moment where you thought, “Okay, I got this.” I’m going to start
with you. Tracy Reese: I think
today is pretty great. Lilliana Vazquez: (laughs)
I echo that sentiment. Tracy Reese: Yeah, I think
we all feel that way. And I think being here and
the path to getting here has been amazing. It’s been tough. It hasn’t always been fun. Don’t get into fashion
if you want glamour. That’s really not — it’s a side
note, it’s not the main event. But yeah, this is wonderful,
we have wonderful careers. And I think — I’m looking
at Zack and, you know, he’s smiling because we all know
we do what we love and I think that’s the most important
thing you can take away: do what you love and
put your love into it. Lilliana Vazquez: Absolutely. Diane? Diane von Furstenberg: Well,
I think the most important thing to know is that
whatever you do at the base, you have to be serious. And if you are serious
first, then you can have fun at the top. Then you can be frivolous,
mischievous, crazy. But what is important is that
the foundation is serious. That’s the most
important thing. We all, you know, when we
start and we are young, unless you know from the very
beginning that you’re going to be a pianist or doctor,
most of us — I mean, a lot of us don’t know
where we are going to go, and don’t know what
we are going to do. And when you are young it is
most important that first you study because that
first moment of studying, that is what will
stay with you forever. And then you kind of have
to — I mean, you know, life is full of possibilities
and there are doors there and sometimes there’s a door that
you don’t think is a good door for you at all, and you push
your door and your life changes. So my advice to anyone is just
keep your eyes open and be open, be open to everything,
just be curious. And, you know, when I met
a man who had a factory, he had a printing factory and
well he also made the jersey, when he came and invited me to
be a and intern and to look at what he did, I had no idea that
this man was going to be the most important person — almost
the most important person in my life. And then I came to America and
whatever and then I made a few little dresses in his factory — Lilliana Vazquez: Or just the
iconic wrap dress that everybody has at least 10 of, yes. Diane von Furstenberg: But,
no, but at first it was just, you know, I was very shy about
it and I was just — and then I walked into Vogue and there
was Mrs. Vreeland, you know, the Anna Wintour of my time, and
she — nobody understood those stupid little dresses that
didn’t look like anything. She said, “This is great.” Lilliana Vazquez: I love that. Diane von Furstenberg:
So she encouraged me. And then I followed the
encouragement and I listened to her assistant, who said,
“Do this,” and “Do that,” and I did this and I did that. That was ’72. In 1976 I was in this
room having dinner. I was next to President
Ford at the time. And I had — and I was also on
the cover of “Newsweek” at 28. Lilliana Vazquez: So
that was your moment. Diane von Furstenberg:
That was the moment. Lilliana Vazquez:
That was her moment. What an amazing moment. Diane von Furstenberg: And
it was just a few years. It doesn’t mean that after
that it was all heaven and roses and this,
because it isn’t. It is never roses and
there’s always difficulties and the challenges
change and everything, but the most important thing is
to be serious and to be true to yourself, because
truth will never fail. Lilliana Vazquez:
Thank you, Diane. That was unbelievable. Now, let’s rewind for some of
you, go back in time here. I want to know, Praval,
what piqued your interest in clothes first? Praval Gurung: Just so whoever
doesn’t know I’m from Nepal, it’s a really tiny little
country between India and China. And so, when I — I went an
all-boys British Catholic school and I was very different
from the rest of the boys there and all I wanted
to do was, you know, sketch and just be — I
was pretty much lost in my own world. And I was told early-on I was
very different in a good way and a bad way, but a
good way for my family, I mean, not so great
way for my peers. And so that’s what I, you
know, kind of understood that the thing that I had
was I was different, I was constantly
told I was different, and that led me to
discover different things. That led me to discover —
pushed me instead of to the sports field, you know,
I went to the library and I started
exploring more. And my first — even in
Nepal, was a “Vogue Magazine,” you know, and it was there
that I think, you know, I just understood or
kind of like, you know, was excited about it. So this was way
back in the ’90s. And then when — so I was always
kind of — I think the thing about fashion — at that time I
didn’t know whether it was going to be my career because
everyone back home in Nepal, I’m probably the first
fashion designer from Nepal. And then, you know, at the time
when I wanted to — when I told everyone besides my family, my
family was very supportive, but when I told everyone that
I wanted to come to America, I’d never been to America, and
I traveled everywhere else. I’d never been America and I
applied to Parsons School and I told everyone, you know,
“I want to study fashion.” And everyone was like,
“Well, that’s a good hobby, but what do you
really want to do?” You know, so that
was the thing. That’s how it
started for me, so — Lilliana Vazquez: And I’m sure
others here have heard that same expression where, “Oh,
that’s a great hobby to have, but how do you really,
you know, start to turn that more into a career?” Now Jason, I know you started
designing doll clothes, is that correct? Jason Wu: Well, it’s — Lilliana Vazquez: So you had
tiny, itty bitty designs. Jason Wu: Well, I mean,
I can relate a lot to Praval’s story — Lilliana Vazquez: Yes. Jason Wu: — because I
definitely grew up different and, you know, my brother was
very athletic and I was very not, I’m still not. (laughter) So, now, I mean, I
just — you know, I wanted to have dolls
like during my birthday and I wanted
pretty things. And it wasn’t really so
cool in Taiwan, you know. People were like,
“Oh, that’s weird.” (laughter) And it was weird. But I learned to accept
that over the years, that being weird is fine
and being weird is good, and being weird
makes you, you. Lilliana Vazquez:
Makes you unique. Jason Wu: And it took
me a very — I mean, it’s easier said than
done, it took me many, many years to realize that. I don’t even think I realized
that until I was in my 20s. I just felt like, “Well,
I guess I’m stuck with me, so I’m going — Lilliana Vazquez: Be
the best you you can be. Jason Wu: — to be
the best me I can be. But, you know, definitely
it was really, you know, coming to America that I
realized that there were so many opportunities that you could do
and be whoever you want to be. And for me to be sitting
here in the White House in front of Mrs. O and
all of you is really — it’s a life-changing
experience. Lilliana Vazquez:
I think it is. Now Jenna, you have
incredible style. Now, in high school I definitely
made a lot of fashion mistakes. What would you say was the
best and worst trend when you were in high school. Jenna Lyons: Oh, God. I had asymmetrical hair. It was not a good look. (laughter) That was probably
the worst one. I feel like I didn’t
get a good question. Can I answer
their question? Lilliana Vazquez: Oh,
you have lots coming. You want to answer — Jenna Lyons: I want to
answer that because I think it’s amazing — Lilliana Vazquez: You
have an incredible story. Jenna Lyons: Well having —
listening to their stories what is amazing to me is I had
no idea and I’d actually not heard your story. But listening to feeling
different I think — I don’t know if any of you have ever
felt a little bit outcast. I know that I did. I grew up with a genetic
disorder which was awesome. I had conical teeth, which if
you don’t know what that means, my teeth looked like little
posts, little, round, yeah, that was not so fun. And I had huge bald spots
on the back of my head, which I did not even know I
had until I heard the girls whispering behind me saying,
“Oh my God, look at her head.” (laughter) And so I was pretty much teased
pretty mercilessly for most of my young age and I thought that
I was also super skinny and really tall, and so I thought
that I didn’t have any sense of who I was or what I
looked like or my size, and so I would shop in
the big and tall section, which there was no, you know, j
brand jeans and tall and skinny. Like that did not exist. So I looked a little
strange at school. I was dressed in gigantic
clothes and it was strange. Anyway, I took a home ec class,
which I don’t know if you guys know what that is, it’s
home economics where you learn how to
balance a checkbook. I failed that part. Lilliana Vazquez: Do you
guys what home ec is? Jenna Lyons: It’s home — Lilliana Vazquez: Yes. Okay, well, the older people
in the room definitely do. (laughter) Jenna Lyons: And one of
the things we had to learn how to sew. The cooking part and the
balancing checkbook part I never went back to. The sewing part rocked. I was really into that. But what was incredible was
that we actually had to make something for ourselves,
so I had to measure my own body and actually
pick a pattern. And when I did that I made this
watermelon skirt which I really remember distinctly, and I went
to school the next day and like the most popular girl in school,
Darlene Patterson, asked me — (laughter) — I remember —
where I got my skirt. And it was the first time anyone
had ever given me a compliment about something that
I had not only done, but how I looked and I realized
that not only did it — was it fun for me to actually
make it, but I realized how transformative the experience
was and how feeling good about myself was — really made me
feel better just overall and so it made me want to be able to do
that for my life because it was actually something that not
only did it make me feel good, but I realized it was
a way I could make other people feel good. Lilliana Vazquez: I love that. And I think everybody
finds their way to fashion in such different ways. But there’s also, you know, an
emotional connection to it. For you it was very emotional. But let’s go back to talking
about how you transitioned from being passionate about fashion
or design or clothes and — Diane von Furstenberg: Can
I just say something before because I think it’s important
for everybody to know from the story of Jenna, is that what I
think is also important is that you have to realize that your
vulnerabilities are as valuable as your strength and you have
to put your vulnerabilities and your weaknesses and your
sense of differences in the category of assets. Lilliana Vazquez: Absolutely. Diane von Furstenberg: And
that’s another good trick. Lilliana Vazquez:
Incredible advice. So, let’s talk about
someone, you know, your educational
path to fashion. So Tracy, talk to me a little
bit about this because you attended public school
in Detroit, correct? Tracy Reese: I’m
from Detroit. I’m a proud Detroiter. And I went to public
school, you know, from elementary
through high school. And, you know, I was
super-fortunate that my mom was so involved in our lives
and in our education. And it was important to her
that we stay in public schools. And she was always at school
and she was always threatening to be at school — (laughter) — to make sure I was eating
lunch instead of chocolate milk and ice cream
sandwiches and — you know, one time I was doing that and
she was like standing outside the door and I was like,
“She’s really here.” (laughter) But it was important to
her and she shopped around and she changed regions for us
and did all kinds of stuff. But it’s interesting
because out of three girls, I was in the middle and I was
always shy, I didn’t speak, I didn’t talk, I
let my sisters talk. They were both really popular
and that was fine with me. I admired them, I
loved that about them, and I was fine to just
sort of step back. And fashion really brought me
out and it gave me a voice. But going to public school,
I think you have to make opportunities for yourself,
and I think it’s important to be involved in your school
environment as much as possible. I had clubs every morning. I was at school at 7:15. French Club, Honor Society,
American Youth Hostels. (laughter) We go cross country skiing. But I wanted to be involved,
and I had a high school, luckily, that promoted
that kind of involvement, and it was exciting. But I got to meet people from
other curriculums and other neighborhoods and developed
a community of friends. And everybody was doing
stuff and we were able to support each other. And luckily we had fantastic
teachers who enlightened me about Parson’s. And I didn’t think I would be a
designer, because same thing, it’s a nice hobby, is what
you kind of felt or were led to believe. And my mom and I sewed
together all the time. We made outfits and we
had races and, you know, if you finished
your outfit first, you had to buy the other
one a metallic belt. A metallic belt, a
metallic cummerbund belt, because that was the trend. But I always thought
it was a hobby, I didn’t think it was a serious
profession until I came to Parson’s and I won a scholarship
to Parson’s for a summer program for high school students. And I was always very focused
in school and very competitive, mostly in a good way, and it was
important for me to achieve and get good grades,
and that allowed me to get scholarships
to school. So, the summer program for
students was — for high school students, was amazing, and I
encourage you all to look for these opportunities. They’re not going to present
themselves to you, necessarily, but if there’s something
that you’re interested in, do the research and find
out what opportunities are available to you. What can you, you know, how
can you access your dream? Lilliana Vazquez: Absolutely. Now, Edward, I want to talk to
you a little bit about going back to your high school days. You were also very
creative from the start. You’re an incredible artist,
you’re an incredible designer. What are some creative and easy
ways that these students and underclassman in college can
expose themselves to creative environments, or skills if
maybe they’re not offered in their high school. Edward Wilkerson: Well,
you can go to a museum to start, you know? I was constantly in museums. But I wanted to be
an architect first, so design really came second. I basically, the teacher
said, “We don’t think this is for you.” Lilliana Vazquez: Really? Edward Wilkerson: Yeah. Lilliana Vazquez: So
they discouraged you? Edward Wilkerson:
Discouraged me? Kicked me out of
the class (laughs). Sent me to the principal’s
office, and he said, “Well, what else would
you like to do?” I said, “I’m
interested in clothes.” He said, “Well, why didn’t
you go to art and design?” And I said, “Well,
they didn’t accept me.” He said, “I know
the principal. Show up tomorrow.” That’s how it happened. And then I wanted
to go to FIT. I took the test
twice: No. I got into Parson’s
with a scholarship. Lilliana Vazquez: Did
you guys hear that? He just said he took the
test twice and then — Edward Wilkerson: You
go for an interview. Lilliana Vazquez: Yeah. And then he got
— yeah, exactly. Lilliana Vazquez: Right. Then I got a scholarship
to go to Parson’s. But, you know, just going
through that kind of exposure, my wanting to expose myself
to different buildings, it was just natural,
it was innate. I didn’t study architecture. I did for one semester,
but it was just something I had inside me,
like design. And then into Parson’s, my
junior year, they said, “We don’t think you
have what it takes.” I heard that one more time. And I was already working,
I got my first summer job at Anne Klein in my junior
year in high school. And I worked for Donna
Karen for 15 years, and then I went on
to Calvin Klein. And it was a great
experience, because I exposed myself to these people. I actually got my job my
junior year by walking to up and down 7th Avenue,
riding in the elevators, to see who could see
my portfolio, okay? And it’s amazing that I
didn’t get any response from the smaller houses. When I went to Calvin
Klein, they said, “Come back in an hour.” I went down to Anne
Klein, I was hired. Lilliana Vazquez:
Right on the spot? Edward Wilkerson: Yeah. Lilliana Vazquez: That’s great. Now, if you guys can all
think back to when you were applying to college. For all of these student’s, it’s
a really stressful time in life. You know, you’re stressed about
what school you’re going to choose, what program
you’re going to be a part of, how you’re going
to pay for college. There’s so many things that
contribute to being stressed about it. So as these young
people near graduation, what do you think they should
be looking for, specifically, in a program? What did you look
for in a program? Jenna, what did you look
for in a program when you were starting? Jenna Lyons: I mean, I think
when I was looking it was so different than what it’s
like for you guys now. I mean, when I was looking for a
program, there were no choices, there was no — you
couldn’t be merchandiser, you couldn’t be a stylist,
you couldn’t be a hair and makeup person. None of those jobs, I didn’t
even know they existed. So, I think what I was looking
for maybe isn’t necessarily as relative to what you
guys are faced with now. I think there’s so
many more choices. There was no internet when
I was looking for colleges so I couldn’t Google
fashion, or Google beauty, or any of those
things, or magazines. I didn’t know that you could
be editor at a magazine. I just didn’t know. And so, I think, all I would
say is research is probably the best thing. And good news is
there’s Google. Use it healthily, vitally, and
see what is exciting to you. You know, you may not
want to be a designer, you may not feel as
comfortable sketching, but you may love clothes, and
maybe you’d be a great stylist. Or maybe you could actually
be an amazing tech designer, and you want to do more about
how the clothes are made. Or maybe you want to do
something where you’re actually working on fabric, and maybe
textiles get you excited, and maybe you want to
do fabric research. There’s all kinds
of jobs. Lilliana Vazquez:
Ton of opportunities. Jenna Lyons: The other thing I
think is so incredibly helpful, and if you can before you
are looking for college, if you can during
high school years, is try and get an internship. It doesn’t matter what level
their kind of company, anyone can be exposed to
see kind of what goes on. I was actually Edward’s
intern (laughs). Lilliana Vazquez: Was
she a good intern? Jenna Lyons: Twenty
four years ago. Edward Wilkerson: Excellent. Diane von Furstenberg:
And actually, when you are an intern,
remember one thing. Be the first to arrive,
and the last to leave, and they’ll notice you. Tracy Reese: And I
think that, you know, Mrs. Obama talked
about working hard. I think we all have to be
prepared to work hard. I still work hard. I’ve been in this
industry for 30 years, and I know that I’m
blessed to be in it, and I’m happy to do the work. And my parents told me when I
was kid, you know, it’s like, “Be prepared to work twice
as hard as anybody else to achieve what you want.” And that’s no joke, and it’s
not just one of those things your parents say. It’s about you rising
to the level, you know, that you hope to be at, and what
it’s going to take to get there. And also what it’s going to
take to feel comfortable when you arrive. I mean, do you know what
you’re doing, you know? Do every job, do every
job on the way up, and treat every experience
like you own the company. If you’re sweeping
the floor, then be the best floor sweeper. Jenna Lyons: Make it shine. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: That’s right. Tracy Reese: It’s
true, it’s true. You have to do everything. I’ve done every tiny and
mercurial task in my company, outside of — I’m really
not good at the computer. That was before
my time. Let’s be honest. But I’ve done everything. I’ve shipped, I’ve picked
and packed, I’ve written invoices, I’ve calculated
my orders by hand, because it was
before computers. I’ve cut my production,
I’ve sat in factories, I’ve put hang tags on my
clothes and poly bags, I’ve gathered it up and run
to receiving at stores, you know, trying to get
my foot in the door, rented junk vans
to drive them. Diane von Furstenberg:
But also, hard work — don’t scare them. Hard work — Tracy Reese: (laughs) No,
they need to be scared. Diane von Furstenberg: Hard
work is actually fun, okay? Tracy Reese: It is. If you love the work. Diane von Furstenberg:
It is fun. If you like what
you do, it is fun. Tracy Reese: Right. Diane von Furstenberg: And the
most humiliating moments that you encounter will end
up to be your best souvenirs and your best stories
when you’re famous. Remember that. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: Did everyone
on this stage intern during their college experience? Edward Wilkerson: Yes. Lilliana Vazquez: Yes? Okay, so who has a grueling
story about their favorite day as an intern that
wants to share? Female Speaker: On camera? I don’t know. Lilliana Vazquez: This is being
livestreamed, remember (laughs). Anybody? Jenna Lyons: Oh,
you’re looking at me. Lilliana Vazquez: I’m
looking at you because you did say something. Jenna Lyons: I did
— okay, so I was, I barely made it through college
I did not have a lot of money. My mother was a piano
teacher, not exactly the most lucrative
job you can have. So we were, it was
pretty tough at the end, and I was interning
at Donna Karen, and I don’t know if
you guys can really, it’s hard to put this
into perspective. But when I was working at
Donna Karen when Edward was, it’s kind of shocking to hear
the story that you didn’t get in, because he’s probably one of
the most incredible designers I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget walking in and
seeing his sketches on the wall. I was mesmerized. I don’t know if — I
think I told you this, that I took them and
drew over them at night and just sketched up. He was incredible. At any rate, so I was
excited on my first day. And I came in sweatpants,
because that’s kind of all I had, and everyone is wearing
like 40 ply cashmere and like, dripping in it in like
seven layers, and I’m like, “Hi, I’m your intern.” I was kind of mortified. And the room was tiny, so
there was no place to hide, and so I went over and
said, “What can I do?” And Anne Gorfinkle, who was
the founder of Parson’s said, “Can you just go and
clean that closet?” I was like, “Yes. I am on that. I will clean that
closet right now.” So much happier
in the closet. (laughter) And I went into the backroom,
I went and walked in there and it was unbelievable. It was their vintage closet,
so it was all of their archive samples of beautiful beaded
garments and vintage pieces that they had collected
for inspiration, and I got to spend the
entire day cleaning closet. It was the best day ever. Tracy Reese: So see, cleaning
a closet isn’t that bad. You never know what’s behind
the doors of the closet, so. Edward Wilkerson: And Anne
was an intern, too (laughs). Female Speaker:
Everybody was an intern. Edward Wilkerson: I
was not an intern. I was never an intern. I went straight to — I didn’t
know about internships. (laughter) I didn’t know about it. There were no blogs. I said, “I need
a summer job.” You know? Lilliana Vazquez: It
was a different time. Edward Wilkerson: Yeah. Lilliana Vazquez: Now you guys
have so much access to find out about internships online. I mean, if you just Google
the word “internship,” who even knows how many
listings will come up? And I think that the lesson
is that everyone, you know, that’s done it, it’s been an
incredibly positive experience. So, Praval, I want to ask you. What’s one of the most positive
learning experiences that you had as an intern, and where
did you have your internship? Praval Gurung: You know, the
first thing that I think, with internship, or like working
as an assistant designer or design assistant at
different houses, what I learned pretty
early on was — you know, when — a lot of us,
when we were in school, we had this idea about you,
you want to be a designer, you want to be famous,
and all that stuff, the glamorous aspect. I pretty much learned
early on that, you know, fame is the byproduct
of hard work, and that was the first
thing that I learned when I was an intern there. So, my internship was
at also Donna Karen. And, you know, so
— yeah, it was. And, however, you know, it was
pretty much that kind of thing. The internship, what
it taught me was, there were a few things that you
needed to have to, you know, follow your dreams and
everything was the passion, commitment and the grit. You know? I think it’s — there are a lot
of talented designers out there and a lot of
talented people out there. What always question myself and
as a student, as an intern, as an employee, and now as
owning my own company also, I always question, “How long
are you willing to go on?” You know, that kind of
commitment is what I think is going to take you further,
because talent alone doesn’t do it, passion
doesn’t alone do it. I think it’s how long
— the grit factor is extremely important. So, I mean, for all the students
who are going to apply, I think the best thing
to do is research, internship, talk and
explore, and rightfully, all of them have already said,
and I’m just reiterating what they said. It’s the ability, the
willingness to make mistakes, that’s the first thing that
you need to appreciate it, and then to just go for it, and
that’s pretty much it, yeah. Diane von Furstenberg:
And if you get depressed, write your diary. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: You could
turn it into a best selling book one day when you guys
are famous designers. Diane von Furstenberg: I mean,
there’s no better friend than a diary when you’re
depressed, because you can just download it. And I think — Praval Gurung: Just make sure
you don’t write anything, you know, not a burn book. Diane von Furstenberg:
Oh, doesn’t matter. Praval Gurung: You want a
diary, not a burn book. Diane von Furstenberg: As
long as you say the truth. I think the most important —
the other big advice that I will tell anyone, but especially
young people is that the most important relationship
in life is the one you have with yourself. And if you have that and if
you are your best friend, then it’s just much easier, and
any other relationship after that is a plus, and not a must. Edward Wilkerson:
I have to tell you, I learned so much from my
interns that I have, you know? Because of the technology
today, what they teach me, so much — they actually
enhance my work. So, you know, we welcome
interns at our office. Lilliana Vazquez: So, let’s
talk — Oh sorry, go ahead. Tracy Reese: One
more word on interns, because internships
are so important. Because you get to go
into a company and decide if it’s really for you, if this
work really is something that you want to do, if it’s
what you thought it was, if maybe what’s different about
it draws you in even more. And you also get to meet people
and network and show people the best of you, you know? I mean, these are people that
you can call for references. I’ve hired so many
interns in our company, and it’s really if I see
someone who — they’ve got a good personality,
and they fit in well, and they’re willing to
do whatever’s necessary, I will hire that
person over someone who’s extremely talented. Because I know that they’re
going to help me run my company, you know? And they’re going to
take pride in their work. Lilliana Vazquez: So let’s talk
about getting these internships. When these students are
putting together a resume, or a portfolio, what are
the important things that you guys look for that
they can focus on? Whether they can focus their
coursework to kind of help them pursue that, or what are
those buzzwords and what should they be doing
outside of school? Because I don’t think fashion
is just about what you do in school, it’s also pursuing it
through hobbies and interests. What are things that stand out
on a resume, or in a portfolio? Edward Wilkerson: Their skills. Lilliana Vazquez:
Jenna has great — Jenna Lyons: I have some. Okay, rule number one. Spell my name right. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez:
Spell her name right. Jenna Lyons: I mean, the
number of times I’ve gotten letters from people. First of all, they’re not
hand signed, nothing — like, spell the name right,
do some research, find out who the person is that
you’re sending the letter to. It’s so important, I cannot
believe how sometimes people make simple mistakes. That resume goes
in the trash. If you can’t take that
moment to spell someone’s name right,
it’s important. The other thing is,
write a handwritten note. It’s so important, it’s so hard
to cut through these days. And with email, like don’t
email somebody and ask for an internship. Write a handwritten note. It stands out,
people remember you. Don’t write it on crazy
handwriting paper, just pick something clean and
normal, black and white is good. Don’t go crazy, no flowers. And those things, like, they’re
meaningful, they’ll stand out, because it’s so unusual to get
a handwritten note and a hand addressed note in the mail. And I’ll look at that
before I’ll look at the ton of other things that come
through my email box. And I think you
can’t underestimate. And also, write
a thank you note. If you get an interview,
or if you get someone who calls you back, send
a thank you note. It really matters
these days. It matters more
than you will know, because as email and electronics
have become — it’s changed the industry, it has made the
communications and the way that we communicate so much
more valuable when someone takes that time. So, think about that, and
the personal touch is really, really valuable. Most companies, we have them,
have a part on our website that lets you know where to
go to find an internship. I would imagine that most
of the bigger companies that you know do. I don’t know if you guys, some
of the smaller companies, but — and oftentimes,
especially with smaller companies, if you’re interested
in them, you have no idea. They don’t have the time
to go and search for you, so you have to
search for them. If you want to work for Jason,
write him a handwritten letter, and tell him why. Trust me, that will be
more meaningful than like, just putting your name in line
and putting it in an inbox. Jason Wu: I mean,
I agree, I mean, it’s like always take the time
and — to know what you’re getting into, and as to
Jenna’s, what Jenna said, when you write a
letter, double-check. Don’t’ say, “Dear Mr. Woo,
I would love to intern at Donna Karen.” (laughter) Jason Wu: Edit your letters
would be very nice. I’ve gotten that before, and you
know, always edit your letters, and then be personal. Because people, no one can
take that away from you. You are the only you there is,
and just by a simple note that has no frills, can
mean the world. I mean, I keep all of my notes,
and I just think that they are something that I
really remember, especially today when there’s so
much noise and there’s’ so much disposable things, that when
someone send s the time to send me something — and trust me,
it always get to the person, no matter how big the person is,
it always gets to the office. Lilliana Vazquez: I think
sometimes people get worried that it’s not going to get
routed to the right person. Jason Wu: Yeah. Lilliana Vazquez: But you guys
have assistants in departments that will make sure that it
gets to the people that you’re trying to get it to, so
make the effort for sure. Jenna Lyons: Well,
and it stands out. A handwritten note
will stand out, and I think people give
it more care, honestly. Diane von Furstenberg: And
work, work on your portfolio. I mean, your portfolio
is so important. What you show,
and how much love, and the presentation
and the cleanness, and the point of view. And also, your portfolio is
actually not important just for the people that you show
it to, but it’s important to you, because it’s
really your first juice. It’s your first
collection at school, or it’s your first drawings,
and they actually, later, much later, if you look at
it, you will realize that it actually said a lot about who
you are and even who you became. So your first portfolio,
your portfolio is very, very important. So love it, treat it with
respect, make it beautiful, improve it, and cherish it. Cherish it. Jason Wu: It’s a diary. Jenna Lyons: You don’t need to
have one for an internship — Lilliana Vazquez:
You should love it. You should want to look
at it all the time. Now we talked about
technology a little bit, and how it’s really
changing this industry. So with technology, I’m guessing
a lot of new jobs have emerged. And you know, not everyone
in this room wants to be a designer. Female Speaker: (inaudible). Lilliana Vazquez:
And have gone, yes. And I was talking to a
group of students earlier, and just in that group, somebody
wanted to be a stylist, somebody else wanted to
be a fashion merchandiser. So, knowing what you
know about the industry, what are some of the new careers
that are emerging, that, you know, maybe we didn’t
have a chance to be a part of, but that all of these
students, when they enter the workforce, they
will have that opportunity? What are some of the
newer career tracks that maybe they can
think about following? Praval Gurung: I think, I
mean now, there’s a designer, there’s a technical designer
in the design field, you know? There’s like so
many aspects to it, there’s a print designer
and all that stuff. Female Speaker: And 3D, yeah. Praval Gurung: Yeah, 3D. And then there’s — various, in
public relations, and, you know, there’s like a — earlier on I
think they used to just have a PR Director, PR Manager,
VP of Communications, now they have a Social
Media, you know, Director. There’s — the technology
has completely changed how we interact, you know,
in this industry. So, I mean, is there anything
else you guys can think of? Jenna Lyons: I think there’s a
whole — I mean, from where — Praval Gurung: I
wish, I mean, no, I wish the question should be
answered — I mean someone like Eva Chen, you know? I think you might have a —
she’s very prolific out there. Lilliana Vazquez: Yeah. I’m going to come out to Eva. Because do you mind if
you take that question? Yeah. Eva Cheng: Yeah. (laughs) Praval Gurung: Sorry. Lilliana Vazquez: Not
to put you on the spot. And then I’m actually, as soon
as I ask her the question, I want to hear from you guys. I know this morning I asked you
to think about some questions. So if you have a question,
please raise your hand and find me, or there’s also two people
with mics circulating around, if you can grab one of them,
they would love to take your questions, right guys? Yes, okay. Female Speaker: She has a mic. Lilliana Vazquez: Oh, you do. Okay, great. Here, I’ll bring you mine. Eva Cheng: I love being
put on the spot very spontaneously with
absolutely zero preparation. Praval Gurung: I’m sorry. I think you’re brilliant at it. Eva Cheng: But that’s
why I love you, so. Praval Gurung: I think you’re
brilliant at it, that’s why. Eva Cheng: So, you know,
Praval brought up the very, very good point of social media
and all of you guys in this room being high school and college
students are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I know all the designers here
in the room are all obsessed with Instagram. So that is a career path
that’s opening up for so many young people right now. In our office, we have
a Social Media Director named Virginia Nam. She came to us from
Rebecca Minkoff. And it was her job, literally,
to be behind the scenes with Rebecca, tracking her every
move, taking pictures, Tweeting, Instagramming, doing Vine
videos, Snapchatting for her. And it’s a 24/7 job. All of you guys that are
on social media know, it doesn’t turn off, ever. But it’s an amazing opportunity,
and every designer sitting up there, they have a social
media department, as well, and all the designers
are on social media. One word of caution. AS students, you know, if
you are on social media, just remember that you’re
leaving kind of digital bread crumbs of your personality. This is kind of not really
answering the question, but — Diane von Furstenberg:
You’re on record. Eva Cheng: You’re on
record, basically. And it’s not uncommon for us. For instance, when I —
my assistant, actually, I found through social media. She followed me on Twitter, and
then she sent me an email that basically was like —
this is so embarrassing. So she — I had Tweeted, like,
“I can’t get this horrible song out of my head.” Just to be honest, it was Maroon
5, like Adam Levine song, and it was stuck in my head. And I was like, “If I hear
this song one more time.” And she wrote me an
email that was like, “I have that song
stuck in my head too.” And she introduced herself, and
she talked a lot about Lucky and why she loved the magazine,
and she made it personal, as Diane mentioned. And so we kind of connected
through social media. So, if you use it wisely,
you can find a job as well. But don’t use it
indiscriminately, don’t post pictures of yourself
doing things you wouldn’t want your teacher, or your mom,
or your future boss to see. That is all, so — Diane von Furstenberg:
Your children. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: And can I add
one thing to the social media? I can’t even tell you that
some of the best people on social media are incredible
journalists and writers. So these are not people
that are just funny because, or interesting because. A lot of them studied
English in college, a lot of them are
story tellers. So you get to craft
a voice in college, and study and take classes
that create that for you, so that you can go on to do
the social media path as well. Thank you so much,
sorry to do that. Okay, you’re — she’s
Tweeting right now. So who has a question,
because I know — oh, here, I’ll come to you. Will you say your name and
introduce yourself and tell me what school you’re from? Female Speaker: My
name is Heaven. I’m from Richard Wright. And I just want to know, like
when you make your outfits, or your designs, what
goes through your heads? What do you think about? Tracy Reese: You know, for me,
a lot of times I’m thinking about the customer, the
person that I hope is going to wear the clothes. That’s a big part of it
and super important to me. Sometimes you have
an inspiration, you saw a beautiful painting,
you traveled to someplace amazing, there are colors that,
you know, you saw on the beach, or in the city that inspired
you, or wonderful textiles. But ultimately, I want
the clothing to get worn, so I’m thinking, “How can
someone wear this fabric? How can I make this a beautiful
dress or a coat or something like that that someone can
wear and enjoy and really get some use out of? Edward Wilkerson:
I immerse myself. I travel a great deal. So I basically immerse
myself, whether I’m in Bali, or I’m in Asia, or you know,
I just make it come to life through prints, through fabric,
depending on the season. I try and be creative
as I possibly can, and then like Tracy said, I
have a customer that I sell to. So I try and stay — keep her
in mind at all times, you know? Depending on her body type,
there’s so many different body types out there, and you
can’t really dress everybody, but that’s where the
challenge comes in, is figuring out how can
you maximize a garment, and how many people
can wear it? I’m constantly thinking like
that, because, you know, I just can’t go off into my
— the dreaming has to stop at some point, and it has
to land into reality, so that’s where the real
challenge comes in for me. Female Speaker: Thank you. Jason Wu: For us designers,
it’s generally, you know, I always call it —
like, I call myself, we’re like kind
of like blenders, and we take all the experiences
that we experience, not just visual things, but
things that we experience, things that we hear,
and things that we see, and things that we feel
that may or may not happen within our
industry, in fact. Don’t look for inspiration
just in your field, look for it outside
of the field, because I think that’s when
you really find fresh ideas. And you take all of that, and
that’s what I’m thinking, and that becomes
your work, you know? You put it all
together, and — Diane von Furstenberg: And
every designer approaches it in a different way. We talked about Maria Cornejo. She’s all about geometry. I mean, were you
good in geometry? I mean her construction of
her clothes are so incredibly clever and wonderful. Somebody else comes from
another — you know, everybody has a different point
of view how they get there. Me, I just like to make
it practical and sexy, and somehow combine
it, you know? And everybody goes
their own way, and everybody finds
their own, you know DNA, and then after that you call
it a DNA or brand, or — shut up, you. Lilliana Vazquez: Alright,
we have one more question, table nine. Make it a good one. Stand up. What’s your name? Female Speaker: My
name is Lauren Mejia. I’m from High School
of Art and Design. And my question is before you
guys were fashion designer, did you guys have any
inspiration that motivated you to want to be a
fashion designer? Edward Wilkerson:
I’ll answer that, because I’m from Art
Design (laughs), and Art Design
has great teachers. You’re in the fashion
design department? Oh, it’s wonderful. And my teacher, my draping
teacher is the one who actually encouraged me to get out
there, familiarize myself with different designers. So she was really a big help. She actually got me my first
interview with Mary McFadden. And from there, I felt
like I could do anything. Lilliana Vazquez: Okay, and I
actually think we have time for one more question. You had a question? Hi. Go ahead and stand up. Tell us your name
and your school. Male Speaker: Hi. My name is Edison. I go to the Baltimore
Design School. And I was just wondering, one
thing that’s always worried me when I start to think about it
is how do you get started in this whole process of getting
an internship and getting your first job? And in a way, I suppose,
how much paperwork is there going to be? Jenna Lyons: I’ll
take that one. So most companies, like I was
talking a little before on like, on the website, if you go
to most company’s websites, at the bottom of their website,
there will often be a little thing that says, “Contact Us.” Just click on that and write
an email to — because you’re going to get just an HR
Department at that point. And you can say, “Is there
— who do I write to? What is your
internship look like? Do you have an
internship program?” Because you first need to
find out if the company even accepts interns. Not all companies can
take them, so you can — that you can do
in email. And then once you get that
information, you can ask, “Who do I in fact
address this to?” At that point, then when you
find out that there’s somebody, a point person, then you
can go ahead and write that proper letter by
hand, spell their name, ask the spelling ten times,
and go ahead and then send a formal request letter. And I blanket
bombed, I sent many. But the other thing is most
often the schools will help you do that as well. I went to Parsons and Parson
had a Board and a person in the office who would
help you get connection to the people who were
looking for interns. So oftentimes the schools, the
colleges will have access. If you’re in high school
and you’re looking to get an internship, you’re going
to have to do a little — but there’s not a
lot of paperwork. It’s not hard. We’re not looking
for paper pushers. We’re looking for people who
are interesting and creative, so we’re not really interested
in making you fill out a bunch of forms and all that, it’s
pretty straightforward. We will work you
hard, to the bone. Lilliana Vazquez: And Diane, I
think you wanted to add to that. Diane von Furstenberg: Yeah,
I just want to say one thing before we wrap up. Because we talk
about many things, but we forgot to mention
the word “dream.” And I think that dream is
the most important thing. And we happen to be sitting
today in the White House that was built on a dream, and with a
President and a First Lady who made that dream come true. And we are very privileged
to have you as a President and as a First Lady, and I
wanted to thank you very much, because it’s dreams that
will make us go forward. And so, don’t ever
forget to dream, and just — you’ll make
your dream come true. (applause) Lilliana Vazquez: So before
we end the panel today, I want to play a quick
rapid fire question game for your guys. Prepared very, very important
questions to have you answer. So we’ll just go
down the line. I’m going to
start with you. So I’m going to call
out the question. Pretty much a one
word answer, okay? Because we’re a little
pressed for time. Ready? Favorite class
in high school? Praval Gurung:
None now, sorry. I would say draping. Lilliana Vazquez: Draping? Okay. First record or CD you bought? Don’t date yourself. Edward Wilkerson:
Stevie Wonder. Lilliana Vazquez:
Oh, I like that. Who should everyone follow
on Instagram, Diane? Diane von Furstenberg:
Oh Rihanna. Lilliana Vazquez: Oh. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: This
is their audience, they’re into that (laughs). Oh she was banned
from Instagram? I don’t know. Yeah, okay. Who should everyone
follow on Instagram? Diane von Furstenberg:
Michelle Obama. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez:
Michelle Obama. Yes, I love that. Okay, here’s a
better question. What did you wear
to your prom? Tracy Reese: I made a
dress in white took file with gold piping. Lilliana Vazquez: Oh,
do you have a picture? Tracy Reese: It was
a flapper dress. Somewhere. Lilliana Vazquez: You
should post it on Twitter so they can see it. Jason, if you were a teacher,
what would you teach? Jason Wu: Pastry. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: He
has a sweet tooth. Jenna, which book did you read
in school that really positively shaped who you are today? Jenna Lyons: Positively. Oh. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: Or
just that you loved, that they should
all read. Jenna Lyons: A book that
you should all read? I’m going to say “The
Fountainhead,” by Ayn Rand. Lilliana Vazquez:
Okay, back to you. Which language do you
wish you could speak? Praval Gurung: Chinese. (laughter) Praval Gurung: No,
seriously, I do. I mean, I think it’s the —
that’s the thing that’s like the most important. Lilliana Vazquez: Absolutely. Edward, favorite dessert? Edward Wilkerson: Mango sorbet. Lilliana Vazquez:
That’s a light one. Jason, favorite dessert? Jason Wu: Macaroon. Lilliana Vazquez: Okay, Diane. What person do you wish you
could take a road trip with? Diane von Furstenburg:
Alive, right? Lilliana Vazquez: Yes, alive. (laughter) Diane von Furstenburg:
Otherwise I would say Leonardo DaVinci. Alive, the President? Lilliana Vazquez: I’m wondering
if she can make that happen? (laughter) He would go along for
a ride as a passenger. What is the last
song you downloaded? Tracy Reese: The
last Prince album. Lilliana Vazquez:
Was it good? Tracy Reese: Like,
I — you know, I’m an old school
Prince fan. Yeah, it is good. Lilliana Vazquez: What’s
your favorite word, Jason? Jason Wu: Cool. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez:
Okay, and Jenna, what’s a surprising hobby you
have that we may not know? Jenna Lyons: I was
going to say, like, that I can say in public? Jason just told me I
should say lumberjack. I’m going to go with that. Lilliana Vazquez:
Lumberjack, okay. Then, besides your
IPhones, what is one thing that all of you do not
leave home without? Praval Gurung: My backpack. It has everything
there, so yeah. Lilliana Vazquez: Edward? Edward Wilkerson: Oh, gosh. I kind of take everything
with me all the time. Lilliana Vazquez: Tissues
today, your allergies (laughs). Edward Wilkers: Yes,
my allergy medicine. Diane von Furstenburg:
My camera. I mean, that’s the most
important — my Canon camera. I always have it on me. Jenna Lyons: Mints for me. I just threw myself in there. Go ahead. Tracy? Tracy Reese: Lipstick. (laughter) Jason Wu: Man purse. (laughter) Lilliana Vazquez: A man purse. Jenna? Jenna Lyons: Oh God,
I thought it was going to be a trick question. I don’t know. I always wear this ring. It never leaves my hand. Lilliana Vazquez: There you go. All right, well thank
you guys so, so much. Female Speaker: Thank you. Male Speaker: Thank you. (applause) Lilliana Vazquez: And also,
thank you to all of these incredible students for letting
us be a part of your day. This is, I know, an amazing
experience for you, but it is really a privilege to
have spent this day with you. So thank you guys so, so much,
and thank you for everyone who asked questions. I’m going to pass it over to
our beautiful host, Mrs. Obama. (applause) Mrs. Obama: Thank
you all so much. Let’s give our panelists
another round of applause. Lilliana, thank you. You did a great job. (applause) Well, I don’t know
about you but that was pretty fascinating. I mean, I am not interested in
developing a career in fashion and I found it riveting,
so I hope you all did, too. Now, let me just say one
thing: If I were you, you all — students sitting
in here — I would be either writing somebody in this
room, I’d be getting a card. I would get my personal
notes together right now, because my letter would be
addressed to whoever — I was one of the students that was
at the White House panel, I attended this workshop,
we sat in the lunch, I mentioned something that
they heard or a quote. And I’d say I was — you know,
now is the time to get — this is an opportunity. This is a door. And so all of you, you’re
competing with each other. And now you’ve got
to think about, how are you going to
use this opportunity? Just don’t sit here and eat
the lunch and take a nap and go to the next workshop,
but figure out how you’re going to turn this into the next
thing that you want to do. You guys have the easiest step
into a lot of these internships. Because my guess is that they’re
going to remember you, right? Panelist: And don’t be shy. Mrs. Obama: And don’t be shy. Networking is the key. The people who are successful
are the people who are willing to reach out and say, hi, my
name is X, you met me here, let me tell you
something about myself. Look a person in the
eye, speak clearly. That’s what’s going to
get you to the next step. So the question — now
you’re next challenge is, what are you going
to do after today? What are you going to do
with this opportunity? And if you’re not
going to do anything with it, then give it
to somebody else. Give it to somebody else
— somebody in your class, somebody in your school, a
sister, but don’t waste it. This is really special,
so make the most of it. It won’t be the last door
that you have access to, but this door is
real different. And you have to think,
when is the next time I’m going to be invited
to the White House? Because I think about
that all the time. (laughter) I tell my kids,
take a look around now, because you may never get
invited back here again. (laughter and applause) But I want to thank
everyone here for making this dream — this was
really a dream of mine in so many ways, to have
this industry and all those who have supported me, who do
so much for people to make us feel beautiful and
ready to get out there. Let me tell you, fashion
plays an important role in my confidence. My ability to do my job is
really linked to how I feel about what I’m wearing. So this is some big stuff. So I’m grateful to all of you
for everything you’ve done for me, everything you’ve
been willing to do for these young people. And let’s keep thinking
about what more we can do. That’s always —
what’s the next step. So I am grateful
to you all. I hope you guys have
enjoyed the day. I think there is
more stuff to come. I was supposed to
say something. Have I said everything I’m supposed to say, Meredith? (laughs) Okay, all right. You guys take it easy. Enjoy yourselves.

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