Hallway & Runways: Teens Get Fashion 101 at BFW


From back to front and left to right: Gihan Amarasiriwardena, Tatiana Tejedor, Magdalena Stokalska, Joel Benjamin, Julie Desimone, & Jill Radsken. (Photo from the Boston Fashion Week Facebook page.)

Haley Macray, Veritas Web & Features Editor

“If you have [a] sense of what you want to do, follow your passion,” says Joel Benjamin, a Boston fashion photographer who spoke at the 2014 Teen Talk: Fashion 101 panel.

The panel, facilitated by Jay Calderin, the founder and director of Boston Fashion Week, was held on Oct. 11 at the Boston Public Library. Benjamin, Calderin, and other industry leaders gathered to inform teens of what it takes to make it in the world of fashion.

The panel included:

  • Gihan Amarasiriwardena, Co-founder & CEO, Ministry of Supply
  • Joel Benjamin, Photographer, Joel Benjamin Photography
  • Julie Desimone, Assistant Head of Wardrobe, Cirque du Soleil
  • Jill Radsken, Fashion Writer, Boston Globe
  • Magdalena Stokalska, Designer, Magdalena Stokalska Jewelry
  • Tatiana Tejedor, Designer, and Co-owner of Caramelo Clothing Co.

Each of the panelists has ties to Boston, bringing an understanding of the local fashion and business scenes. This understanding made their stories even more relevant to their audience.

Amarasiriwardena got his start in the fashion industry at a young age. He described stories of looking at athletic equipment at the sporting goods store REI. He realized that the equipment and items were pricey and set out to make some of his own. He and his friends experimented with trash bags and used skiing trips as test drives for their designs.

“This was a hobby throughout most of high school,” he said.

After studying at MIT and the Sports Technology Institute, Amarasiriwardena set out to solve a problem that he had noticed.

“There wasn’t really stylish clothing that functioned well.”

With this in mind, Amarasiriwardena and his business partners created Ministry of Supply, a Boston based company designed to merge performance wear and fashion.

Amarasiriwardena continues to keep the Ministry of Supply business located in Boston – you can visit their shop on 299 Newbury Street, Boston, MA – because of the culture.

“I think Boston is a great place to start a business,” he says.

His advice for those looking to start a career in fashion?

“Don’t let lack of experience stop you from starting.”

This was a common theme throughout the panel.

“You don’t have to worry about your experience,” said Benjamin, “You should be using your inexperience to get experience.”

Benjamin’s success as a fashion photographer came at a crucial time in his life.

“I had one month left of money to live in New York,” he said. Luckily for him he took a job at Macy’s and his career flourished from there. Nowadays he says, “Everyday is like art class to me.”

To sum up his ideas and words of wisdom Benjamin advised the audience, “If you have an opportunity just take it.”

Desimone, a graduate of the School of Fashion Design, and the current Assistant Head of Wardrobe for the famous Cirque du Soleil, also spoke on the panel.

“I grew up drawing sketches in notebooks,” but she did not believe she could make a career out of her passion.

Desimone received a degree in Marketing and International Business from Fairfield University and has held other jobs in the world of fashion such as a buyer for Filene’s Basement and a manager at Neiman Marcus.

“It’s never too late,” says Desimone about following one’s dreams, “If you have that feeling just stick with it.”

At Cirque de Soleil Desimone is responsible for making fashionable garments that the performers can move and function in. She cites language barriers as one of very few struggles she finds with her job. Currently, she is doing her best to learn the languages of the performers in order to better accommodate their needs when it comes to their costumes. Other than that Desimone is quite pleased with what she gets to do for a living.

“About 3,000 people a night get to see what I do,” she says, “I cry everytime.”

Desimone advises budding fashionistas to show their face and stay humble in their fields.

“You’re an image, not just a person making a piece.”

Radsken, fashion writer for the Boston Globe, like most, struggled a bit with finding herself towards the beginning of her career.

“I couldn’t really figure out how to find my voice,” she says.

Once she found her groove Radsken immersed herself into her work. She explained that her job is to translate stories involving luxurious clothing and fashion to audiences that may not be able to relate to such expensive designs.

Radsken explained to the audience that details will set them apart and that they must be able to present themselves.

Rasken was able to talk about the industry in a different light than the other panelists. She explained that in order to be talked about in the media by journalists such as herself designers, business owners, and others must be willing to set themselves apart from the rest.

“New is always what we are looking for.”

She suggests that up and coming fashion industry members must “be willing to do everything” and “throw themselves into it.”

Stokalska, a jewelry designer, who’s work was featured on the television show The Carrie Diaries, discussed the importance of organization and planning. She sets goals for herself and researches how they can be achieved.

She also believes that those looking for a career in fashion should “take advantage of everything [they] have in [their] city.”

School of Fashion Design graduate, Tatiana Tejedor, recently opened her own menswear store, Carmelo, in Jamaica Plain and has been dedicating a good portion of her time to running her new business along with continuing to design for her own line but she has been enjoying the process. One of  her favorite things is to be able to wake up every day and say “I am going to my store.”

Tejedor believe that feedback from customers helps you grow and that one should never “be afraid of failing.”

Overall the Teen Talk panelists stressed one common theme put nicely by Stokalska, “Don’t give up and just do it.”


Posted on October 29, 2014, in Features and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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