It’s not too hard to find a struggling make-up artist, model, hairstylist or designer in New York, despite it being the capital of all things creative and fashionable. If you were a big deal on the Dublin scene take yourself down several pegs, be prepared to do the coffee run and work for free to improve your book before you even consider getting any paid or regular work.
Yes, the so called “paddy book” is what London fashionistas call the crème de la crème of Irish portfolios proudly presented by Ireland’s best talent, and this is easily translated to the American agents, retailers and recruiters. Your eight page shoot in the Dublin Mountains for The Gloss may have seemed like your prize offering to book your debut job in this new market but it just won’t cut it in these parts. Also, any commercial work you’ve done doesn’t count for anything in fashion so no diversity please!
One Irish make-up artist at the top of her game in Ireland was told by a beauty agent here that he wouldn’t look at her book if he had to turn his head when pictures weren’t all facing the same direction! Another friend has been doing public relations internships for over a year but is working in a bar at night to fund her delicious microwave popcorn dinners. A top hairstylist who can take a trip home for two weeks and come back with enough money to fund his American dream for another four months has been working over here for free for the last ten months!
So having experience in the Irish fashion industry might seem like you’re coming to the table with no cards except the joker. But fear not, this card may have more value than you think. Last week, at the Michael Smurfit School of Business Alumni Dinner a very important CEO told me that when he came over he was working as a doorman and had a degree from a college (UCD) that no one over here recognized. He said that Americans underestimate the Irish until they see us in action, and that the greatest asset the Irish have over Americans is our ability to work hard and to not take ourselves too seriously.
The key to success in the States is getting the opportunity to demonstrate your skills rather than hope your Irish qualifications will do the work for you. So if you want to make it in New York put the head down, show them what you’ve got, live on cornflakes for a few months, network shamelessly and take the criticism and knock-backs on the chin. That’s what my hairstylist friend did and he just got signed by a coveted New York agency after ten months of slogging it out! New York wasn’t built in a day!