How I Found Fashion
AUTHORED BY: Kayla Klein
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: Tyler Johnson
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Would you believe me if I told you that from sixth grade until high school graduation, I was dead set on becoming a brain surgeon? At the top of my academic class, I had grown accustomed to people telling me I would make a great doctor someday. I thought a 4.0 G.P.A. and an early graduation pigeonholed me into a “smart” career and years of schooling.
When I unexpectedly graduated high school as a sophomore, I felt helpless. While my peers had an additional two years to commit to a career, I had all of two days. I knew my heart wasn’t in medical school but stitched onto a designer sleeve.
I signed a modeling contract, convinced it was my only way onto fashion that didn’t involve a sewing machine. Nothing in the contract told me I would book nothing at only 5’8” in the not-so-fashion capital of the world, Denver. But, 16-year-old me knew nothing but dedication, so I took a gap semester to become the next Candice Swanepoel. I got a job as a coffee barista, partly to feed my caffeine addiction and partly because I thought it was a money-making stepping stone on my journey to runway fame.
After a few months passed without the slightest notification of a casting, I told myself I didn’t look edgy enough for high fashion. Of course, my absentee modeling career had nothing to do with being short (for a model) or being in Denver. Silly me. One night, in a hasty effort to look high fashion, I lathered my long, blonde locks with $2 black box hair die from Walmart and solicited a top-notch stylist, a.k.a. my mom, to cut bangs. Not only did that not help my chances of booking a job whatsoever, but it ruined my hair, and I started college the next month with a frizzy mane and zero self-esteem.
I settled for an undecided major while I completed my general education courses, but no subject matter jumped out at me like photos from New York Fashion Week. Though my passion for success burned hotter than ever, my passion for fulfillment fizzled.
I came home from class one day and broke down. I couldn’t live the rest of my life in a passionless profession. At the same time, I had no idea how to exercise my fashion zeal having never touched a sewing machine in my life and already crashing and burning as a “model.” To distract me from my vicious, spinning thoughts, I popped my favorite movie into the DVD player, The Devil Wears Prada, and settled into the couch with movie snacks and Kleenex.
I’m a serial realist and a bad believer in fate, but as I watched the scenes unfold, my path followed the same progression. I could be Miranda Priestly. I could be a fashion journalist.
Up until that fateful movie night, I never drew a connection between what I read in the glossy pages of Vogue and a career. I assumed those who wrote for fashion magazines only did so because they were celebrity stylists or clothing designers or creative directors. I prepped for a night of caffeine-induced backgrounding on fashion journalism icons like Stacy London and Suzy Menkes. To my surprise, they had normal degrees. The next morning, I met with my advisor to declare journalism as my major.
Bumps surfaced along my journey. Most significantly, I found that it’s hard to write about fashion in Denver. As the editor-in-chief of The Front Page, the closest I got to covering the runway was a research-based article about dressing for success in school. When I transferred to Metropolitan State University, I took full advantage of every opportunity to write about fashion, and to write, period. I scored an internship as a fashion writer at 303 Magazine, a position as a features reporter for The Metropolitan and a blog contributor job at Denver Style Magazine. With these positions on my resume, I quickly replaced 303 with a fashion editing role at Metrosphere.
A rash and society-driven decision almost cast me in the only role I didn’t want: a life of unhappiness. I’d rather live paycheck-to-paycheck in a shoebox in New York City than come home to a penthouse suite and a six-figure salary from a job I hate. My hair might still be recovering from my edgy phase, and my confidence might still be lacking from failing as a model. I am still a realist, but I also know my work ethic will take me places far beyond the average reality.
I like to think of my mistakes as blessings in disguise, as without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am 18, a senior in college, with six writing jobs and/or internships in my portfolio. My career is an open field of opportunity but surrounded by a fence of inevitable success.