A look into a career in fashion
Hi Folks, we are starting a new feature on our fashion blog. This new feature title “Life after Graduation”, a look at what our Alumni have gotten up to after being capped at graduation. The features will all be penned by Graduates and give a unique look into their career in fashion and life after graduation.
Our first contributor is Candy-Marie van Rooyen who graduated in 2007.
“Late I know… but here you have it. Hope you are well and understand if it’s too long! I tried to keep it short…
After fashion design school
At the end of 2007, after 3 years of Elizabeth Galloway I took a chance interview with a Dutch company, SuitSupply – referred to as SS. I remember the day as if it were yesterday – as I should as it has been such a defining day in the last 6 years of my life. I was running behind on my leather project, and under pressure to finish it. I had kept telling myself I made too much a complicated design for the timeframe I had to complete it but that aside I was sitting behind an industrial machine sewing my heart out when Derek came and asked me why I am not in the garment construction room to meet the people for the interview. I explained my situation of my jacket and he told me to shush and get in there.
I had a small portfolio ready as all Galloway students are instructed to design in their final year, armed with this and a flustered look I went in. The duo – Marie Fleur Hunfeld and Godelieve Beukmeijster ( no longer working for SS), were friendly and asked me a series of very simple questions – to be honest most of it was aimed at life in Cape Town and what are my favourite beaches. Nonetheless I left the room after 20 minutes and returned to my jacket.
One hour later a contract was placed in front of me – an all-inclusive package to be flown to Holland so I could work as a sales assistant for their company SuitSupply. Due to Dutch law they had to provide us with housing, they already paid all travel of their staff and I had to get a certain salary – in fact before even leaving I was given a raise as they discovered there proposed salary was lower than what their country allowed for foreign employees. I immediately drove home, called my brother to let him know – he just said ‘ you lucky biatch, you always land with your bum in the butter – this time you were given paddles too’ and told me to just go for it.
Fashion design abroad
My dad and I went over the contract and in all honesty it seemed too good to be true but I signed it nonetheless within 3 hours of receiving it. I called my best friend Janita Toerien (whom I persuaded to take the interview after I had) to ask her what she was doing and to say I’d signed mine. She wasn’t sure about the contract as she hadn’t fully read it, I explained I had and she should sign it – LETS MOVE TO AMSTERDAM!
I handed my contract in and was asked when I could make the move. I said now however my mom said I must stay for Christmas at least so my family saw me off at the airport on the 27th December 2013.
What was I thinking?
I arrived at Schipol airport with a surfboard and skateboard under one arm and a luggage bag trailing behind me. It was midday but so dark, and unbelievably cold. I had just left Cape Town at 38 degrees to arrive in Amsterdam in 4 degrees. Having never been to Europe I think my body had no idea what was going on. When I woke up the next morning in my hotel to pitch blackness at 9 am I wondered whether I made the right decision, and suddenly my board and me felt very out of place. The other students had yet to arrive from South Africa so what else could I do but wonder Amsterdam streets hopping on and off trams, knowing that whatever happens Tram 2 will take me home. This couldn’t last long as I felt my face was going to get frostbite so I hang out chatting to people in the hotel.
The following week my life at Suit School began – a 2 week process where you get trained in the procedures of the store.
SuitSupply is a Men’s Suit Retail and Personal Tailoring company founded in 2000 by Fokke de Jong. He begun by going to various factories in Turkey, Portugal, etc. who produce Hugo Boss, Armani, etc. and buying their excess produced suits. For example if a company had ordered X amount of suits, but the retail store had then gone bankrupt for whatever reason their order would sit in the factory useless to both parties. He would then go and buy these suits and fly them back to the Netherlands. There he would take out the labels and hang them upright in boxes to be sold. He also worked with a tailor, so any adjustments needed when purchasing the suit would be done by the tailor. After a couple of years he had become so successful that he then looked elsewhere to begin his own brand which he named ‘ SuitSupply’. It was mostly aimed for Young Professionals and stayed that way with concern to pricing. Quality vs. Price was unbeatable and fast became one of the, if not, the most successful suit company in the Netherlands. He ensured, with regard to marketing, that the campaigns used to promote the new season were edgy and bold. The tailoring serve found in all SuitSupply stores – now international (Netherlands, UK, America, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Lithuania) – is fantastic and probably one of the biggest draw cards. If alterations are needed to shorten or let out waist/seat on trousers it will take 30 min. The maximum time needed for larger alterations on the jacket for example is 3 days. Customer service was of the utmost importance to the point where once you served someone they would receive an email asking whether they thought the service was BAD – GOOD – EXCELLENT. This would go under your name, and even if your sales were soaring through the roof but you never received an Excellent you were frowned upon, and it was known also that people had been fired even though they brought the most money in. A customer was to receive the entire package. If you wanted to receive a bonus at the end of the year you had to get above 85% excellent and below a 2% bad rating out of all your customers.
Suits were the main focus, but all the accessories were sold too – shirts, belts, socks, ties, cufflinks, braces, bowties and nowadays you can also find their recent ranges of bags, shoes, wallets, casual wear, etc. – anything a man would need in his wardrobe.
During your training they would put you though scenarios of difficult customers – and one of the days I had a pretend customer telling me he doesn’t want to pay for his alterations but wants them done. SuitSupply under no circumstance (unless damage but even then they prefer to order in a fresh item) gave discounts. The money made on tailoring went straight to the tailors, so it would be like pinching money from their pockets. It had been a long day and my customer was relentless so eventually I said that actually there is a way you can leave the store with your suit and without paying for alterations – with your pants down at your ankles as they will surely go that way. My fellow trainees all gasped and my trainer and customer began laughing. My training was done.
After learning about the personal tailoring service I was determined to be part of that team – it would look great on my CV!
Saturdays were the biggest money makers with about € 40 000 worth of sales (ready – made suits range between 259 and 299 euros) coming in within the 7 hour trading day. It was always hectic and always competitive between colleagues as to who would be on top of the sales list by the end of the day. You could check this out throughout the day, and it became my one mission to be top each and every Saturday to a point where I’d get annoyed if my Manager put me on to start later as I’d have to play catch up. I succeeded majority of the Saturdays that year.
After about 6 months I was sitting at a bar having a chat with some colleagues and mentioned my desire to go into the Personal Tailoring, and as it happened ( bum in butter) the head of Personal Tailoring was sitting next to me – I thought he was just another colleague. My friend said ‘ oh well, you better start sucking up to him if you want to get in to the training’ and I replied with ‘ No I don’t, I just have to be great at what I do – the rest should speak for itself’. A couple days later I was approached my someone from the Personal Tailoring department informing me I was to start with the training on the following Monday.
Dreams coming true!
Personal Tailoring offered a customer to choose his own fabric, lining, buttons, stitching styles and pocket styles. There were also a couple of different types of jackets – minimal shoulder padding, half-lined, 3-button vs. 2, 2 vents vs. 1 or none and in the trousers – an adjustable waistband or belt loops. As for the fit, it is completely to the customer’s preference. Shirts could be tailor-made as well – and the selection and choice with that often feels unending. I loved it – all of it.
That year the first store had been opened up in the UK – Vigo Street off Savile Row, in the heart of London – Piccadilly. Savile Row being one of the most famous streets of all time with regard to Men’s Tailoring – books are written on the etiquette of Tailored Suits following the influence of Savile Row. The store was smartly placed at the T-junction where Vigo Street hits Savile Row, so not technically on Savile Row but so close it didn’t matter.
One a Wednesday night towards the end of October 2008 I was called in and asked if I would mind flying out to London the following day. The personal tailor working there at the time had been caught stealing money from the cash register and fired, the other tailor was on holiday and they were desperate to have a personal tailor due to an important customer flying in from Germany (before the store in Germany opened) to make an order. I again found myself in a situation where as my brother said – I landed with my bum in the butter. I flew to London for the first time and after defeating the London Underground I emerged onto Piccadilly Square in darkness, with the famous SANYO LCD boards lighting up the square in an array of colours. It looked beautiful. I was ushered along quickly by a friend and colleague Ruben Fust – who was also my manager when I first began in Amsterdam but had moved on to London. The customer was waiting. I ran in still giddy with excitement and began. He was so friendly and ended up spending £ 7 000 with me in an hour and a half. He left, store closed and the following day I flew back to Amsterdam.
For a few months it continued – weekends were spent in London and weekdays in Amsterdam.
Besides work, the travelling opportunity from and within Europe is just phenomenal. After Janita arrived in Amsterdam (a month after me) we began our travel plans, starting with a day off to Belgium. A DAY OFF?! Amazing to think that in 2 hours you are in an entirely different country, I loved the sound of that for weeks – ‘So what did you do on your day off? Oh not much – just went to Belgium.’ It just sounded cool. We travelled to Majorca Spain, Paris, Belgium, and I went to visit South Africa, Peru and of course London in one year.
At the end of 2008 I was asked if I would like to move to London – a new store was to be opened in what was to be at the time – the biggest shopping centre in Europe. Janita and the other girls had decided to head home after that year so I thought why not, packed my bags and soon was living in a penthouse company apartment in Mayfair, London. My roommate was to be Ruben Fust.
After about 3 months the new store was getting on, slowly – the big bang didn’t seem to have arrived yet. A manager was needed for the store and again I was just in the right place at the right time and asked for the position – I was told they would give me a trial run of 2 months to which I agreed. 2 months flew by and the store was getting busier, I was officially made Store Manager/Personal Tailor. The hours were long – averaging 10 hours a day, but as a manager they say your work only stops when the doors are shut and with opening hours of Monday – Wednesday 10:00 – 21:00; Thursday – Friday 10:00 – 22:00; Saturday 09:00 – 21:00 and Sunday 12:00 – 18:00. I had plenty on my hands. It was full on, day in and day out – dealing with admin as well as customer complaints/requests and staying on top of stock, ensuring that it is regularly checked. Dealing with staff, making timetables, dealing with the money – ensuring it was brought to the bank and deposited into SS accounts and on top of that managing Personal Tailoring. My social life became non-existent, I found myself in the store on my days off, and when I was home I was constantly thinking about work. London became a cold place – those flickering lights in Piccadilly I saw the first night just didn’t seem to flicker as brightly.
After one and a half years in London and 2 and a half years with SuitSupply, in the September of 2010 I quit SuitSupply, packed my bags and moved to Thailand to fulfil another dream.
Initially before SS was ever an option I had looked into moving to Thailand to do volunteer work for a year. This proved more difficult than you think and therefore went to Amsterdam instead. However when I moved to Thailand in 2010 it was not to do volunteer work but to obtain my Dive masters.
After 1 and a half months I was contacted by SuitSupply asking if I would reconsider, and return to the UK to take back my position. I declined.
I spent 10 months living predominantly on an island called Koh Tao. It was a very small island – from north to south 7 km and from east to west 3 km. I bought myself a moped and rented a house – and so my island life began. My dive masters included not only the fun practical side of diving everyday with sea life that still to this day makes me happy, but also had to pass about 6 exams – Biology and Physics being among them. This I must say took quite some motivation when you have an island beach as your back garden and endless summer days. For as long as you are involved in the course you are given unlimited diving for free, so I stretched this course out for as long as my money would allow and after 10 months I took up a second offer to return to my previous position with SuitSupply as store manager for SuitSupply Westfield, London.
It took me a little while to get back into the routine of London, the busy schedules and responsibility to keep a store running. With SuitSupply, from the beginning already, once you are a store manager you are expected to run the store as if you own it. Anything goes wrong whether it is in regards to a customer, lighting, a leak in the roof, electrical, etc. it is completely up to you to solve the problem within your budget restraints. If at the end of each week I reached my target in customer service (between all staff), money, office supplies, packaging material and maintenance costs, and I managed to do this for 4 month consecutively then I would find myself eligible for a bonus. However if only one subtitle within my budget conditions were crossed I could consider myself out of getting a bonus. What I found difficult about this is that a large part of my potential bonus relied solely upon the performance of all my colleagues whom I managed – and keeping them as focused as I was did not prove an easy task at times. I have learnt a lot in my time with SuitSupply – and I will be eternally grateful to My Parents, Elizabeth Galloway and SuitSupply for making this opportunity happen.
A few months after returning from Thailand to the buzz of London my friend Ruben Fust, asked if I would be interested in going on a Round-the-World trip with him. After some thought I agreed and so in between the heavy schedule of work I spent what free time I had researching and planning this trip. It took a lot of patience and discipline not to spend your entire pay check but to rather live and eat like a homeless person, work exceptionally hard and save the money to fulfil what had always been a dream of mine.
25 August 2012 saw me jetting off to Amsterdam to meet up with my friend Ruben before we embarked on the journey of a lifetime – and to attempt to see the 7 wonders. The journey is to go as follows:
Amsterdam to Tallinn, Estonia. Estonia to Russia – both St Petersburg and Moscow. In Moscow we would board the Trans-Siberian Express Train that would take us through Russia, stopping at Irkutsk and Lake Baikal before going on to Mongolia where we would spend 4 days in the mountains before finally heading to Beijing China. Then we travelled from East China to West China, including the Great Wall of China, into Tibet via train before driving to Kathmandu, Nepal. Unfortunately a week before we were supposed to depart for Tibet we were told that the Tibetan borders had been closed to foreign nationals so we had to resort to flying from Kunming, China to Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal we are lucky to stay with a Nepali friend from London’s family before beginning the 18 day trek of the Annapurna Circuit. From Nepal to India to do some social development work on a specific project called the Chulha – a ‘no smoke’ cooking system designed by the brand Phillips to help decrease the high rate of deaths by smoke inhalation in India – it is the second highest cause of death in India. Also to see the second world wonder in Aggra – the Taj Mahal. After this taking our first major flight from india to Brisbane, Australia and road tripping down the East Coast to Melbourne where we’d fly out to Christchurch, New Zealand. We rented a car and travelled the South and North Island – over 4 000 Km in 3 weeks and were able to do the epic skydive over the volcanoes in Taupo. From New Zealand we went to Fiji where we proceeded to spend an incredibly relaxing 2 weeks snorkelling, shark diving and doing as little as possible. From Fiji to Mexico, to see Chichen Itza and swim with turtles. From Mexico to Guatemala via Belize. In Guatemala we were fortunate enough to see a live volcano erupting massive amounts of lava, as we watched from a safe distance. From Guatemala we went El Salvador to an amazing beach town called El Tunco where you couldn’t eat enough lobster stuffed with shrimp. From here we went on to Nicaragua to go boarding down the side of an active volcano because we thought it looked cool. From Nicaragua it was time to see Costa Rica filled with white sandy beaches, amazing surf and huge waterfalls among green lush forests.
I am currently in Costa Rica and the rest of our journey shall continue as we hope to do the following (money dependant):
Costa Rica – Colombia – Ecuador – Peru( Machu Picchu) – Bolivia – Chile – Argentina – Paraguay – Brazil (Christ the Redeemer). Flying out of Sao Paulo on the 5th August 2013, and land in Cape Town on the same day. From Cape Town we will fly again to Jordan (Pettra) – Egypt ( Pyramids) and possibly Israel. From here we fly to Kenya and begin a 2 month overland trip through Africa and arrive back in Cape Town on the 17 November 2013.
This should be fun and I should be poor by the end of it – but then again I would have fulfilled a dream and lived a lifetime “.
Thank you Candy-Marie. We look forward to inviting you onto campus for a talk to our students later this year.
If you are an Elizabeth Galloway Alumna and you would like to share your story with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org your story or complete the Alumni form on this site. Please include a few pictures of your fashion adventures.