The Apparel Industry “Strategy” That Keeps Designers Down

October 27, 2022

And what trick or treating and being a designer have in common.

Dear Designer,

I’m embarrassed to say that there were a few times in my pre-adult life where we were those neighbors.

You know, the ones that turn out all the lights so the trick-or-treaters don’t come to your door (but even as kids you knew they were home because you could still see the glow from their TV).

In all fairness, it’s probably what our parents thought was a passive way of slipping into the night unnoticed. But even as a child, you could sense an overwhelming unwelcomeness before you even reached the driveway. Sometimes you’d slowly walk past it and other times you took slow, unsure steps towards the front door in hopes that maybe they were passing out candy.

The sad reality is that this is a lot like what it’s like trying to make it as a designer in the apparel industry.

Everyone’s “lights” are off, unwelcoming, passively trying to keep you from coming to them for any help in your career. It’s sensed by all the curious and eager up-and-coming designers and down the line it causes them to dim their own lights too.

You would think that the designers up top would know better because they of all people understand what it’s like. They’ve been there. They too have once been a young and eager designer bubbling over with all the creative ideas. But instead we get this ongoing, toxic competition of “me vs. you.” Like there’s only room for one.

This is absolutely not true.

There is more than enough room for you. For them. For others.

What’s wild is that this “strategy” that permeates the apparel design industry? It keeps everyone down, including the ones perpetuating it. By trying to hold others back, they also hold themselves back too.

So how do we change this?

Leave your “lights” on

Be approachable. Keep yourself open instead of closed off. You can do this by inspiring and leading people around you. 

Even though you may be the one seeking support in your career, chances are so is everyone else around you. 

You don’t have to wait until you are at management level to do this – you can and should do this regardless of what position you hold at work.

Talk about it 

This “strategy” perpetuates because no one talks about it. Like most other problems in the apparel industry (and corporate world), we just kind of grumble and accept things even though we may hate the way they are. 

So bring awareness to it. Bring it to the surface and open by talking about it and having conversations about this in your work circles

Share this post, save it for later as a reminder, or make some “noise” in the comments by letting me know if this resonates with you!

If you’ve been in the apparel industry without a welcoming “door” to knock on, come on over like Christina Aguilera and take this 45-second quiz for some customized tricks and treats for your design career


Your friendly neighborhood designer that always has candy on her desk.

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I'm Grace Kim,

a fashion designer-turned-career strategist, [mis]adventurer and your biggest believer.

I'm a girl who dropped out of college, was told I would fail in fashion, then went on to create my 6-figure design career before the age of 30.

Now, with my 11+ years of experience in the corporate world, I'm here to guide, support, and connect other designers so they can build a flourishing career despite all odds set against their success, and experience more freedom in & outside of work while getting paid what they deserve.

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