Metropolises, overly-condensed cities, appear to be full of promise with endless opportunities. Competition is high, nights are long, the pay is sub-par, and for every step forward, it seems like you’re taking ten steps back.

The allure of the fashion industry – so many want it, few achieve it, and even less have the chance to wear it. Six years ago, I purchased a one way ticket to Los Angeles and, like Carrie Bradshaw, followed my dream in hopes of making it big. My early years could be described as the farthest thing from a walk in the park. As a newbie intern, I quickly learned that I was living in a dog-eat-dog world. My earliest memories in the “City of Angels” were far from heavenly.

Then I met Nashville.

How to describe America’s best kept secret? With a smile. Last week I had the pleasure of attending Nashville Fashion Week. While widely recognized as a Music City, outside of Los Angeles and New York City, Nashville has the largest per capita concentration of fashion designers. While I love to “ooo and ahhh “over the runway shows, pretending to be Anna Wintour, I was most excited to listen to renowned New Yorker, Fern Mallis interview the glamorous, talented Anna Sui. The event took place at the extravagant Union Station Hotel on Friday, April 6th.

*Fact: Anna Sui is an American fashion designer, known for her brightly-colored, Warhol-inspired and bohemian style collections.

The conversation began as standard. Where are you from? Who are your inspirations? When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in fashion? Whilst these questions are key to understanding who Anna is, what most intrigues me is the moment and reason designers decide to bite the bullet and venture on their own. Fellow Parsons peer, best friend and legendary photographer Steven Miesel encouraged the Detroit native to showcase her art via the runway. At the time, Anna was intimidated by the large Italian and French houses that dominated the stage. Both Steven and late Vogue Editor, Franca Sozzani, assisted Anna with her debut show in 1991 at New York Fashion Week. The following year, she opened her first boutique in SoHo due to friend, Zack Carr’s persistence. Zack, whom worked at Calvin Klein at the time, assured Anna that opening her namesake boutique would only strengthen her message and branding.

Anna spoke of the economical and emotional hardships she faced. She mentioned that while talent is great, the importance of hard work should not be undermined. Continued perseverance and a bit of luck are needed to survive this cut-throat business.

I couldn’t help but reflect on the many moments in my past when I was ready to throw in the towel. One such time, I was interning on a commercial job when a senior assistant blatantly told me to forget dreaming of being a stylist. She had been assisting for years and was beginning her transition into a junior stylist. A barely intern like me, dreaming of becoming a successful stylist would be slim and would take at least ten years. After working 18 hours a day for five days, I was tired and felt my efforts were useless. Why work hard to be unappreciated? Why suffer for no gain?

After the waterworks subsided, I realized that this pain could be used as fuel to continue or be the end of my demise. I refused to let one person be the sole determiner of my mood and career. She didn’t know me. She doesn’t know I was offered a job on the 2nd day of my first internship. She doesn’t know I interned for one of Canada’s top stylists. What about my accomplishments? We often dwell on the negative and forget to celebrate our accomplishments. This industry is tough and is rarely linear.

Listening to accomplished people like Anna Sui speak of their journey and passion has always given me hope. You never know where an opportunity will lead you or who you will meet. Always give your best, and never give up.

I left feeling grateful and reassured. Though I have a ways to go, there is comfort knowing that the best of the best face the same trials and tribulations. The difference between Nashville and other thriving cities is quite obvious. There is an overpowering sense of community among Nashvillians that I have yet to experience anywhere else. The city encourages you to create. It pushes you to thrive. Nashville, as a whole, strongly believes in the power of collaboration. Approximately, 56 people move there each day. A music-centered town, booming fashion industry, with plentiful support systems, it’s a wonder how the city has maintained its humbleness.

While having a strong work ethic is important, uniting together and supporting one another is far healthier and beneficial. I hope this is a trend that catches on.

Images via Nashville Fashion Week

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