Realness with Renata: What Working in Fashion is Actually Like

My name is Kaitlin O’Sullivan and I am a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. I am majoring in Advertising and Public Relations in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media with an intended minor in Entrepreneurship. This is my first year working with Coulture Magazine and I am part of the Social Media team. 

If you are anything like me, you have daydreamed about working in the fashion industry more times than you would like to admit. Backstage passes to fashion week, networking with models, A-list celebrities and top designers and representing the most high-end brands in the world — what could be better than that?

Renata D’Agrella does just that. Renata is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumni who graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations and Political Science in 2019. She has worked for Oscar de la Renta, Tibi and LaFORCE. She currently lives and works in New York City as a production coordinator at Coach. She has earned over 80,000 followers on TikTok, and has become well-known for her New York Minute mini-vlog series where she gives a first-hand look at life in the fashion industry. She also has a YouTube channel where she posts fashion career tips every Monday and NYC vlogs every Thursday. Read on to hear Renata spill the tea about what working in fashion is actually like.

Question: How did you get started working in fashion?

Answer: Through the Media and Journalism School at UNC! The fall of my sophomore year, I went to an internship fair and spoke to a girl who was a graduating senior going to work at PR consulting on the Versace account. I was on the pre-med track at the time, up to my knees in organic chemistry, but after talking to her, I made the decision then and there to switch my major to Public Relations. I maintained a connection with her, and she actually ended up being the person who set me up with my current job at Coach.

Q: What did your journey look like to get to where you are today? Was it unexpected for the most part?

A: Before I answer this one, let me just stress how important networking really is. I got the internships and the opportunities that I did because I networked with everyone who would answer me. During my time at UNC, I did marketing for Coulture, and I was the Instagram manager for a startup company. I got accepted into the Lookout Fellow Program through the Journalism School, I networked a ton, and because of that, I earned my first “real internship” with Oscar de la Renta. From there, I interned with Tibi, and I got to work New York Fashion Week for the first time. After graduation, I worked for a PR agency, and I am very open about saying that I did not enjoy my time working there, simply because I knew it was not the best fit for me. Sometimes you have to move around the industry to find the best fit for you, and I really feel like Coach is a great fit for me. You won’t love every job you ever have, but if you love the industry, you’ll hustle.

Q: What qualities about a brand make it one that you would want to work for?

A: That’s a tough call at this age. When you’re like me and you graduated pretty recently, you’ll take what you can get. If I had the luxury of being more picky, I would probably say benefits, how employees are treated and overall company culture. Something I love about Coach is our focus on diversity. A company that is diverse, and, I hate this word, but “woke”, is one that brings new perspectives together to create a more progressive and exciting company culture. Authenticity is also a big one for me; being truly committed to the morals and values that you claim to uphold is so important. Also, people. It is so undeniably true that people make a place.

Q: Is working in fashion just as fun as everyone thinks it is?

A: There are days when it is, and there are days when it isn’t. Most days are pretty average, you will be busy, and you will be stressed. I feel like the fashion industry is very romanticized, but it is not always glamour shots and runways. The industry is cutthroat, and fashion personalities are real. I have certainly had my share of bosses and coworkers who were catty and mean, and I have been in toxic work environments before. You have to have thick skin to make it in this industry, and you have to be able to not take criticism personally, because you can and you will get shredded from time to time. With all of that said, I still love it. What makes it fun is the subject matter. I love what’s going on, and I have fun with it. I am truly passionate about this industry, and my passion is what keeps me going.

Q: What kind of advice would you give to someone who is still in college and wants to enter the industry?

A: Networking is everything. Especially if you want to work in fashion, networking is basically a second job. You have to be proactive, and you cannot be afraid of putting yourself out there. The Carolina alumni network is a resource that you should absolutely use to your advantage. We are incredibly lucky that our alumni are as willing to help as they are. Do your research. Different jobs are for different people, and you have to know what it is you’re looking for. Salaries and Glassdoor are there, look into that and know your circumstances. Fashion is definitely a career path that a lot of people get burnt out of, so you need to make sure you want this enough to grind for it nonstop. Make sure you’re really meant to be in this industry before you commit yourself to it!

Q: Tell us about your best day working in the industry!

A: I actually have two answers for this one: my first time working New York Fashion Week and my most recent fashion week. My first experience with fashion week was just the coolest experience ever. It was the first time I had ever seen a runway show, and it was a total pinch-me moment. Anna Wintour was sitting in front of me, Bella Hadid was walking the runway and I was just so googly-eyed excited and proud of myself for making it there. My most recent fashion week was exciting because I did it alone. My bosses have been going to fashion week forever, so they saw it as more of a headache than anything else (they were happy to have me handle the job). I went alone, and I was the only producer on the set. I got to film “Why You’re a Coach Original”, I got to meet Megan Thee Stallion, who is AWESOME in person, so sweet and so humble, and was the only production person there. I really felt like I was making it, which was a great feeling.

Q: What resources did UNC offer that really made a difference in your career?

A: UNC gave me everything. I would not be where I am without the University of North Carolina, and there is no question about that. The journalism school is full of opportunities that opened so many doors for me – scholarships, the Curtis Award, the Lookout Fellows Program, the list goes on and on. FashionMash and Coulture were incredible opportunities for me, and Dana McMahan is an amazing teacher and mentor who opened my mind to a lot of things. Once again, your Carolina alumni network is there for you. Our people are good people, and we look out for one another. There is not a huge Carolina network in New York for fashion, but it is a strong one all the same.

 

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