The Fashion Institute of Technology – BFA, Fashion Design
As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Stephanie Erbilgin knew without a doubt she wanted to create her own brand. However, she figured out early that while the design part was fairly intuitive, the business of fashion was another beast entirely. She also realized this particular struggle was a dilemma for countless emerging designers: how does a young designer bring an idea from the studio to the showroom?
TheCollecte.com was her answer to the “how do you get exposure” equation. A collaboration between Stephanie and classmate Maria DeLisi-Minichiello, The Collecte is an online marketplace that connect designers from all corners of the world with fashionistas — and fashinistos, too. Stephanie and Maria have made it their mission to create a convenient fashion destination for online shoppers to find inspired, unique and exclusive items. “[The Collecte] is about bringing people together,” asserts Stephanie. “About appreciating art in all its forms and about putting more beauty out into the world.
Just start. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business, but my perfectionism or indecisiveness often held me back.
How do you organize your day?
I have an unpredictable travel schedule, so instead of creating a consistent daily schedule, instead I make weekly or biweekly deadlines. One day, I may work 9 hours and the next, just through the morning. As long as I meet the deadlines I set for myself, then I feel on top of things.
What do you like most about your job?
I think the most important aspect of our site is that it benefits such a large number of people. It’s inclusive of designers from around the world, regardless of their craft. It also serves a stylish and curious clientele who are hungry for something new. It’s about bringing people together, about appreciating art in all its forms and about putting more beauty out into the world.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I’ve always been passionate about fashion, design and art. I love creating, but I also love discovering and appreciating new finds — whether it’s an unknown jewelry designer or an up-and-coming artist. It’s thrilling to discover items that are both well designed and beautiful, but still slightly under the radar. Running TheCollecte.com gives me a dose of creativity, while keeping me challenged. I love designing the aesthetics of the business, plus having the opportunity to work with amazing designers and artisans. And it keeps me continuously challenged, because the online world is a new frontier.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I’m a people pleaser, which can be a good and bad thing. It’s good because it keeps me dedicated, and I want both my designers and customers to be happy and taken care of, but it’s one of those things that definitely keeps me up at night! I’m also detailed-oriented, so if a little detail is off with the site, it drives me crazy until it’s fixed.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Sometimes it can be a challenge. The thing that helps me the most is scheduling a set time to sit down and work on my business. If I don’t schedule the time, then I end up doing different tasks scattered throughout the day, and in the end it’s not as productive. But if I set a certain time, it creates clear barriers on what’s work time vs. what’s home or family time.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Be kind, keep your priorities straight and remember: there’s room for everyone. I think in business, people have a tendency to get competitive and jealous, but I like to remember that there’s room for all of us. As long as you’re coming from a genuine, authentic place, then your ideas will be unique enough to stand out.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Determination, optimism and an eye for detail — while still being able to see the whole picture — is what it takes. Persistence also is key. There always will be setbacks and things take 10 times longer than you think they will, but you just have to keep at it and hold onto the belief that it will all work out.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Just start. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business, but my perfectionism or indecisiveness often held me back. I thought I should wait until I knew enough, or had this or that, but what I realize now is that it’s better to just start. Even if it’s not perfect, you’re having an experience; you’re learning something and that, in itself, is more valuable than sitting around waiting for the perfect moment.