On my first Friday at Marie Claire magazine (circa 1996) my boss asked me to “please return all the shoes to their respective designers by Monday”.
I went into the fashion closet (think large ROOM) and surveyed what must have been no less than 1000 pairs of shoes crammed onto shelves. I was instructed to separate the styles by designer and then “polaroid” and label each image with the designer name, shoe size and return date. This way, if there was any confusion down the road as to the whereabouts of a style, we knew exactly what was sent back and to where.
Late that afternoon, the team started leaving for the day as my anxiety started to roll in. I contemplated this massive task in disbelief. How could she possibly think I could do this all by Monday? I would literally have to live in the closet. The worst part was that she conveyed this task with such utter nonchalance, as if she had simply asked me to return a phone call.
But as an assistant, you don’t have a choice. You can’t say things like “are you kidding?!”, you have to nod and just figure out a way to make it happen. No matter what. I did spend all weekend sorting shoes. I actually called my ex-supervisor at Bazaar crying to tell her I was never going to be able to finish this task. She actually offered to help me!! (I said no begrudgingly).
I mentally moaned and groaned as if I had just lost a 30 page paper the night before it was due (yes that has happened to me as well). I let myself do this until I realized the task wasn’t going to go away and what doesn’t kill me will just hurt a lot.
So I mustered all my ambition and set out to start this daunting project. Pulling out my accessories designer market list I wrote each designer’s name on a shopping bag. I lined them up and then went around the room tossing every style into its correct bag. Would you believe (I swear on my closet) that I actually remember doing the DKNY returns? #Irony.
I worked until 3am that night, then worked Saturday 9am- 11pm and Sunday 9am-9pm, completely alone. I got it all done. Every single pair. Perfectly checked out just like I was asked. When Monday rolled around I could not wait to show my boss what I had done. She came into the closet and gasped at the empty shelves and neatly lined shopping bags waiting like little soldiers to go back to their respective designers.
And then she said THIS: “Wow!! You didn’t have to do all for today?! I just wanted you to get it started. But this is great!”
WHAAAAAAAT?!!!! That is SO NOT what she said on Friday!! I am not deaf, dumb and blind! But it didn’t matter. It was done. I might add, I happened to have the nicest boss ever. Truly I don’t think she would have messed with me like that, but yet there it was, all for naught. Or, was it?
That weekend I learned that this job won’t be normal. That working in Fashion has it’s own set of crazy requirements. Sometimes it will be thankless, but what you need to learn is, it doesn’t matter. You do it for yourself, first and foremost.
Looking back now, I realize that what we’re expected to accomplish on a daily basis may change forms, but it never really gets easier. So the next time you’re secretly screaming about a task you were asked to do that seems absurd and unfair, remember that the difference between those who pack up the closet and those who don’t, lies very simply in attitude. So get a good one. It will be your most valued possession…