Few fashion professionals are as passionate and knowledgeable as Leila Jalili, my guest for this episode of The Successful Fashion Designer. She left positions with global brands such as Under Armour and 686 Technical Apparel to focus on her career as a freelance creative consultant specializing in the design, direction, and development of performance apparel and technical outerwear for women, men, and youth.
Throughout this inspiring conversation Leila shares key insights into how new designers can ensure their fashion portfolios stand out from the masses. She explains how to break into new markets by making opportunities for yourself and has an in-depth understanding of what employers are looking for in new hires.
Be sure to give this interview your full attention and share it with aspiring designers – your career will thank you.
Interviewers know that a student fresh out of undergraduate school won’t have an extensive portfolio. Leila explains that they want to see your process: how you create color palettes, where you draw inspiration from, how you do research on fabric use or an industry segment, and your level of visual organization. Digital and print portfolios each convey different aspects of your personality and talent level, so consider supplying an interviewer with both. Conceptual designs, physical sample garments, and final products all add depth to your application and should be included.
Leila also explains that just as it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, it’s better to include more ideas and information in your portfolio than not enough. No matter what ideas you choose to put in your portfolio, make sure the platform is user-friendly and professional.
There’s a fine line between being focused and not demonstrating the breadth of your abilities within your fashion portfolio. When I asked Leila about striking the balance between the two, she explained the importance of customizing your portfolio for every viewer. For example, she wouldn’t want to see a designer showcase a men’s shorts product if they were interviewing with a company that specializes in women’s business wear. Understand who will be viewing your portfolio, showcase your best work, and always show examples of what you’re capable of at every step in the design process.
In order to share your stellar portfolio with potential employers, you first have to make an initial connection. Too often designers get caught up in the minutia of “professional networking” and forget that it should be about having great conversations with like-minded people.
On this episode Leila and I discuss why working within the fashion industry is about knowing the right people and why taking opportunities to connect with industry professionals is so critical. Leila wants to see up and coming designers attending trade shows, going to conferences, and not being afraid of sharing their true selves. Today’s connections could turn into tomorrow’s employers and colleagues. For more, don’t miss this interview.
One of the highlights of my conversation with Leila was when she explained how a passion project of hers landed her additional freelance contracts. Essentially, she gathered trend research in the outdoor apparel industry not only for her own professional use but also because she’s innately curious about the subject. It’s a story that can only be fully understood by listening to the audio, so be sure to listen.
She encourages designers to pursue aspects of the industry that they are most passionate about, even if it’s not directly tied to their day jobs. By showing future employers that you’re dedicated to pursuing a project even if it’s in your “off time,” you can end up creating powerful tools that will move your career forward.
Leila’s insights and more are all covered on this episode of The Successful Fashion Designer, be sure to listen!