Own Your Own Business!
Better yet, if you can, do not involve your father or mother, best friend, and especially never your husband... as he can threaten you, fire you and even replace you with another woman. The Art of Happiness is the Art of Independence, only be responsible to yourself.
There are two types of people (in general): those Fearless and those Fearful. You know who you are! If you are fearless, find out what talent or work you are good at, whatever makes you happy, even later on in life, and do it!
As for finance, have a good business plan, save or find some money for the basics, and build your business one day at a time. If you can not find any money you are not Fearless... then go get a job!
If you are Fearful, forget about it and don't look back. Enjoy the benefits of a life of semi-security, while knowing who to kiss up to, because you must have the intuition to know who's in your company, what team player's power you can attach yourself to. You could make it to the top of the ladder if your quarterback completes his passes. The team players and company owners have two very different sets of skills.
I remember once in Paris having words with Nicole, the chef d'atelier of my couture boutique. I had been having words to the effect that I would have not left early the day before, as she did. Instead, I would have stayed and redid the beading of a wedding gown until it was perfect, as the bride was expected to come in shortly. Instead of saying, "Oui, Madame", Nicole grabbed scissors and ran after me screaming, "I'm not you, I don't own anything". At that moment I realized we are all created differently -- workaholics, perfectionists, and everybody else!
I recently spoke about fashion at the Art and Initiatives Conference on the color red with Zandra Rhodes and Anna Sui. Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch at ABC Kitchen in downtown New York. There we were -- three survivors of our own fashion houses -- one French, one Brit, and one American, all women owners.
Fashion is the only industry in all the arts that requires four collections a year, four possibilities of failure, four times a year. You and your ego, and your talent are put to the ultimate test. Will someone buy my work?
None of us three were worse for wear. We actually thrived on the challenge and looked as delicious as the food, considering our total age was closing in on the downside of 200!
Like myself, after a 40-year career, Zandra opened her own museum in London dedicated to fashion and textile. She had spent a life in fashion, as her mother had been a fitter at Worth in Paris, and Zandra went into owning her own design company in her twenties, by creating her own fabrics and sewing her first dresses in her unique prints.
In my recently published memoir, It's all about the Dress, I explain what the challenges of owning your own business are. Owning your own business makes you the artist, agent, manager and publicist of your company. You often trade off being at the top of your field for being at the top of your own little world. Anna Sui's little world grew into a huge multimillion dollar empire.
Except if you are Martha Stewart -- who left a 15-year career on Wall Street to cater parties in her posh Westport, Conn., suburb. We all know she is fearless. She ventured into Manhattan and catered my opening party at Bergdorf Goodman. It was 1981 and she served sushi. Martha brought taste and the arts into the modern American home and on her first video she wore my beaded gown, black, on the cover; the same gown that Elizabeth Taylor had recently wore in white. Wearing the perfect power dress for fearless females, Martha knew where she was going.
Changing careers, leaving a secure job with little future, is often the case. My Parsons School of Design classmate, Mary Alice Orito (class of 1964), was an early stylist for music videos, a costume designer on Broadway and of daytime soaps (Search for Tomorrow), until the labor strikes of 1988.
She saw an insecure future in costumes, went back to college and became a psychotherapist. Today, continuing her personal art work has lead to her first solo show with The National Association of Women Artists in New York in March. Continuing her private practice, her lucky patients are often artists and fashion folk, who are grateful to have an understanding fellow designer to listen to their torments.
Melissa Skoog was the real girl Anne Hathaway portrayed in "The Devil Wore Prada"; the Vogue assistant we fell in love with, and who ultimately ended up heading publicity at Prada. After keeping her head on after working with Anna Wintour and Miuccia Prada, Melissa came away with the enough foundation in fashion advertising to launch her own namesake publicity firm in Chicago with a new husband, a new baby in her life, and a marvelous blog, "On My Plate."
I recently ended my four-month book tour in Palm Beach, where Elizabeth Fago, a young, fabulous philanthropist and nursing home developer, threw a party to end all parties. The party included serving a recipe from my book, Sophia Loren's Pasta. The event was thrown by a beautiful young party planner, who also left a career in advertising to open Beth Beattie Events in a town that throws about 10 parties every night. After seven years, Beth's business is a great moneymaker -- proof that a young beautiful woman with a fearless nature and a desire to be her own boss can succeed in a town known for beautiful women, who basically lunch and shop on their wealthy husbands' credit cards. After work she dates a handsome race car driver!
An exception to my rule about working with your man, are the husband and wife team of Amy Zerner and Monte Farber, who left their jobs as fine artist and musician to write 46 bestselling books on spirituality -- all illustrated by Amy. They became a "Mom and Pop" conglomerate. They have no children, their togetherness knows no end, as their team and their work is their baby. After many years, Amy created soft jackets with her art in panels on the back. In 1999 she sold a few handmade pieces to Bergdorf Goodman, and now has grown and added Neiman Marcus. She has also recently designed jewelry. She told me she has lived out Joseph Campbell's mantra, "Follow Your Bliss."
The economy today has no guarantee to improve. 2012 can be the year for the young generation to bite the bullet. As Amy Zerner told me, "For us, our bliss and our happiness has been our journey together on the path to making our life a work of art, and our art a work of life."
As I took a train up the Hudson River, working on this story, I realized that I now had another life as well. I no longer lived in Paris raising my children, with a driver and a cook, or lived in my Manhattan brownstone apartment taking yellow taxis to Bergdorf's to measure my couture clients. Today I had to drive myself, drive up a snowy mountain to my writer's cabin, to my new life, writing, lecturing, and sharing the lessons learned of a life well lived.
I will now fearlessly move on and reinvent myself. I will soon sell my beautifully made dresses on Home Shopping Network. For the first time a French couturier will present her bestselling creations for everybody.
It is a whole new world. It's time to reinvent yourselves too! Be Fearless.