Sammy Cashen, 29, knew that a career in fashion was her destiny toying with the idea of launching her own fashion label, but it was a chance encounter while attending a runway show that really kick started her career in fashion. Westfield Stylist, Sammy chats to us about making it in the fashion industry and creating a backup plan when you don’t make it to your dream uni.
There isn’t an exact moment in time I can pinpoint when I knew what my future career title was going to be. However I did always know it was going to be a creative role within the fashion industry. I attended Berwick Secondary College which, lucky for me, has a large arts department. Fashion for me seemed like a natural progression or as some call it – destiny. From wearing my mother’s heels, changing outfit 5 times a day to receiving my first sewing machine for my 16th Birthday – I always knew I wanted to do something in fashion, I just didn’t know what the end goal was at that stage.
My school had a Careers Counsellor, so with their knowledge along with the research and guidance of my mother, I narrowed my selections down to three viable courses which included both University and TAFE options. My top two options were fashion-based, and the third option was my backup pathway to lead me into my second preference. My first two preferences were unsuccessful, however having my backup preference – an advanced diploma in Engineering Technology and Jewellery Design – provided me with a stepping stone to move onto the Certificate of Applied Fashion and Footwear Design six months later.
While I was studying I toyed with the idea of fashion design and launching my own label, but it was a chance meeting while attending an industry runway show as a friend’s plus one that saw me land an internship at the Bowerbird Fashion Agency. I commenced the internship one week after the show. My role included things such as; planning and setting up for season fashion parades, dressing models for runway events, showroom set up for major client showings to the more mundane activities such as data entry, steaming garments and doing the old coffee run.
I was exposed to brands like Tigerlily, Cameo, Style Stalker, Rise of Dawn, Shona Joy, Minkpink, Staple the Label and Peeptoe shoes just to name a few. It was during this internship where I discovered the fashion wholesale industry – or known as the rag trade industry. I never really knew too much about this industry nor had I even considered it as a career path.
After completing my internship I was hired as personal assistant to the agency which worked perfect around my school contact hours. I was 19 years old and had officially began my career journey. At the age of 21, I deferred my studies with only a few subjects left to complete in order to accept a fulltime position in the wholesale industry.
I now manage one of Australia’s leading youth fashion houses Melbourne office – House of Quirky. HOQ are the umbrella company for Minkpink Staple the Label, And Co the label, Twiin and Somedays Loving. Although working for HOQ keeps me extremely busy, I have never been the type to only limit myself to one position. This isn’t due to financial needs, it’s the need to continue expanding my knowledge, having multiple skills and creative outlets.
This led to the inception of my blog, Unzipped Fashion Source in 2013. What started as a hobby posting in lunch breaks and weekends has now evolved into an online space for women to get a daily dose of inspiration while learning and understanding key season trends. I found myself thrown into styling by default when working for a fashion agency. It was something which unfolded naturally over time and more recently being approached by Westfield Southland as one of their resident stylists and personal shoppers.
I’m fortunate that I have had a working mother who has a very successful career as a senior marketing head. She is hands down, my biggest inspiration, my google search engine, my manager, my life coach, my copywriter, my teacher and my biggest supporter. She has always encouraged me to dream big, work hard, stay true to myself and strive for what I want in life whether that be personal or professional.
Melbourne fashion stylist Lana Wilkinson was one of the reasons I undertook a diploma in Film, TV and Professional Styling. In my early twenties as a retail assistant, I was lucky enough to have met and assisted Lana with some of her celebrity clients for events such as the Brownlow, TV week Logies and Melbourne Spring Racing events. Up until this point, I haven’t even considered dressing and styling people as paying career.
The fashion industry is very competitive and considered a dream industry for most teen girls. I would strongly recommend anyone trying to get into the industry to work on securing as much work experience and internships as possible. Read and watch everything fashion and business related, attend runway shows, industry events, seminars, workshops etc. Knowledge is power and never a waste of your time. There is no right or wrong way to achieving your goals, if you do not succeed at first, try again, try another way, look for back doors and always believe in yourself.