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September 2 2014

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Best In Class

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With the school year around the corner, budding young fashion designers and journalists—the scholars of the 75th edition of the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund—wrapped up a summer in the city last night with a panel of headlining speakers: Alexis Bittar (pictured, left), Lori Goldstein (pictured, center), Cynthia Rowley (pictured, right), Michael Bastian, Terron Schaefer, and the affable moderator Mickey Boardman who opened with the line, “I started at Paper 20 years ago. With luck, you’ll make it to the middle, as I have.” Much of the panel’s discussion, titled “The Future of Fashion, Starting Out: What I Wish I Knew Then and Other Insights from Fashion Leaders’ Early Years,” was centered on advice for surviving the industry. With the summer heat, the conversation at FIT flowed loose and unedited. For one, Bastian emphasized putting in the grunt work and warned, “Our industry is littered with these people who think they’re born to be only number-one.” The menswear designer was echoed via confirming nods from his colleagues.

Goldstein, meanwhile, pointed out the various strong personalities in the industry, admitting that she was something of a control freak. That wasn’t necessarily a negative, though; as it turned out, direction and execution apparently produced results. The award-winning Schaefer also professed to hold the reins close. “I’m often wrong but never in doubt,” Schaefer said.

And for those looking for a shortcut (a.k.a. the next young YSL), better to look elsewhere. It seemed there was more than one path to fashion stardom but the road was at best murky. “My first job, I was a bartender,” Rowley said. “I was a total dropout,” Bittar, who began hawking antique jewelry on St. Marks Place while still in elementary school, added. But for overcoming roadblocks and to pursue success, Bittar recommended, “Be really honest with yourself about what you want to be. What are your ethics? Your aspirations? And if you don’t love it, then get out.”

Photo: Laila Bahman / KSW

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