Here's how this Irish girl changed her career completely
Meet Laura Jordan.
Laura has a unique career story for she took a brave leap of faith and left a permanent teaching job to pursue her dream, fashion.
Dublin-based Laura now works as a stylist, fashion presenter, and personal shopper and also lectures in Image Consultancy, Personal Shopping and Advanced Styling at the Dublin Institute of Design.
What's interesting about her career path is that she was on one road, which had all the traditional benefits including permanency and a pension, but she wasn't happy.
Rather than stay in a job that didn't tick all the boxes for her personally, Laura made the break and she's truly an inspiration to anyone feeling like they're stuck in a rut at work.
I spoke to Laura to see what obstacles she encountered along the way, asked if she had any advice for anyone hoping to change career and of course, there were some fun style questions throw in there too.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I was fascinated with magazines from a young age and inspired by fashion journalists. Teen Vogue was the ultimate goal as a 16-year-old. My dad would buy me a magazine every Friday on his way home from work and I would use my pocket money to invest in the rest!
It is still something that interests me; the power of the printed word is strong. Seeing a mention of my work in a magazine proves that pipe dreams can become reality.
When (the pivotal moment) did you realise that you wanted to leave primary teaching and branch out into fashion?
This is a tricky question. When I enrolled for my course in the Institute of Design, I intended to do some personal shopping alongside my teaching job, purely because I realised that I get just as much of a buzz shopping for other people as for myself. I had no interest in building a business or working for myself.
Slowly that changed. Seeing the potential and possibility in an industry that had a gap for smart style advice for real women, led me to develop a strategy and plan and organise a meeting with the Enterprise Board. Their belief that this concept could work as a viable business meant the world to me. I sat in my car after the meeting and cried.
From that point on, I saw the potential for StyleSavvy to grow and realised it could not be done alongside another career. It took time to build and develop, for two years I was essentially working two jobs, but that time taught me the importance of hard graft and determination.
What obstacles did you encounter along the way?
The biggest fundamental obstacle was perception, which in reality isn’t an obstacle at all. I was quite book smart in school and could see that this less traditional career path would cause a few ripples among family and friends. I was leaving a pensionable, permanent job to work in a highly competitive industry, already saturated with those working in it from a very young age. The odds really weren’t in my favour.
I distinctly remember a receptionist asking me what I was “doing with myself now.” When I mentioned StyleSavvy and the personal styling that my job entailed, she said: “oh, you mean judging a book by its cover?” I was enraged. On the drive home, I thought to myself “no, it’s not about judging a book by its cover, it’s about making the book feel better about itself.”
Public perception of those working in the fashion industry is not good. The Devil Wears Prada has a lot to answer for. I have lost count of the number of women who say “I was really daunted coming to you, but you’re actually really nice,” as though it was a big shock!
Practically speaking, when setting up a business, the skills required are diverse, and trial and error is the only way to learn. From excel spreadsheets to patenting logos and graphics, to pitching and promoting, there is always something to be considered. It can be difficult to really switch off.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
The sheer diversity of my job has provided many highlights. I have delivered seminars in the RDS, styled clients for the IFTAs red carpet and The Late Late Show, attended London Fashion Week and am a fashion contributor with SaturdayAM on TV3.
For me, while the media and press highlights are thrilling, the texts and emails I receive from clients after they attend a special event are possibly more of a highlight, as it proves to me that I am doing my job right. On one occasion, a client became upset when she saw her reflection in the mirror. She had overcome great personal difficulties and her new look symbolised a fresh and inspiring start for her in her life.
Can you offer advice to anyone hoping to make a similar career change?
Fashion Styling and building a business around that is tough. The hours are long, unpredictable and occasionally anti-social, but ironically I feel as if I haven’t worked a day since I left the classroom, it’s a lifestyle and a passion.
Don’t jump until you are turning down work; that’s my biggest piece of advice.
Also, don’t bury your head in the sand; you can be determined and focused without being naive....not everything will work out, your competitors will gain clients or contracts that you wanted; the most important thing is to know about it, and keep an eye on all aspects of the industry. A well-researched stylist knows the name, face and recent work of all those in the Irish market, it allows you to speak knowledgeably at industry events.
This time of year, transitional dressing is key. Can you offer style tips for Autumn Winter 2016?
Layering is the most important trick for transitional dressing. Choose finer layers closer to the skin and build up to thicker fabrics. Separates are always a winner, go with some tailored trousers or skinny jeans in berry tones that can be worn with brogues or loafers now, and ankle boots in the winter. A warm scarf over a leather jacket or blazer will give longevity to these pieces rather than bringing winter coats into the mix just yet.
Accessories are going to be big and bold for Winter, with the choker trend still going strong. Invest in some round neck fine knit jumpers (TopShop are a good bet for these right now) and add some statement sparkle to complete the look. Layer a shirt under or faux-fur gilet over when the temperatures drop further.
Tell us about your lecturing work in the Dublin Institute of Design and what a typical day involves.
Having completed the course in Image Consultancy and Fashion Styling at Dublin Institute of Design in 2012, I was delighted to return to teach the programme last year. I suggested offering a professional styling course to students as I had experienced myself the stress of ‘learning on the job’ and was eager to impart my practical wisdom from working in the industry. I wrote the course in January 2016 and started delivering the 8-week module later that month. We now run Personal Shopping and Image Consultancy on Monday nights from 6-8pm and Fashion Styling on Wednesday nights from 6-8.30pm, you can check everything out here.
As I am in the college two evenings a week, I leave my office off Baggot Street about half 4 and walk to Kildare Street, usually answering emails on route! I grab something to eat and set about photocopying notes and organising powerpoint slides for that evening’s lecture. DID offers me a link to my previous teaching life; the content has changed, I now teach all about shape and colour and fashion trends rather than tens and units and irregular verbs, but the skill is the same.
I love seeing my students develop the interest and passion, as I did 4 years ago, whether it be to inform their own image and style, to advise friends, or to work professionally in the industry.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your work?
It’s that moment when you are in a changing room and a client looks at themselves in the mirror and smiles and stands taller and something crucial changes within them and their perception of themselves. That’s it. Quite simply, that is why I do what I do.
It doesn’t matter if it is a red carpet actress, a businesswoman, a stay-at-home mother…the principle is the same, my job is to make every woman feel comfortable and confident in what she wears and how she wears it.
If you could style ANYONE, who would you choose?
This is a great question. I’d choose Adele. Her classically elegant clothes are a clever counter balance to her fun-loving personality. I’m a huge admirer of her style and talent.
I am often asked about style icons and style crushes and people are surprised by my answer. It’s real women on the street, people who are going about their daily life and looking damn good doing it. Fashion spreads are inspiring and a crucial aspect of the industry to show us new trends and seasonal pieces, but I love nothing more than to see outfits being worn in reality, in person. I have been known to stop strangers on the street to ask them about what they're wearing.
The fashion industry is a competitive one, what’s your number one tip for budding style queens?
Determination and perseverance, and a solid grounding in why you want to do this work.
Yes, of course, you will love the clothes, but you also need to love carrying clothes, cataloging clothes, describing clothes, pinning clothes and most importantly, making sure people feel good in their clothes. 80% of this job is not glam, it’s preparing for the glam.
StyleSavvy is a full-service Style Consultancy, offering Personal Shopping, Wardrobe detoxing, Style Nights and a range of Corporate Dressing and Style seminars for business, colleges, and schools, as well as in-store retail events and 1:1 personal image and branding training.
Dublin Institute of Design is now enrolling for its Autumn term in Image Consultancy and Personal Shopping and Fashion Styling. Courses begin the 3rd and 5th of October respectively and run for 8 weeks.