5 Ways to Fake It Till You Make It" as an Expert

Updated: December 7, 2011
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Shannon Whitehead and Kristin Glenn

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This is a guest post by Shannon Whitehead and Kristin Glenn of Revolution Apparel

It makes us uncomfortable when people call us clothing designers. Neither of us have a background in the fashion industry. And we’ll be the first to admit we basically Googled our way to this point.

Yet somehow, we’ve managed to launch the first piece of our clothing line, {r}evolution apparel. And somehow, people seem to think we’ve done a pretty good job.

For the last 16 months, we’ve built a business in a nontraditional and experimental way, blogging about the ups and downs of being newbies in the fashion industry. We recently launched the signature piece of {r}evolution apparel, the Versalette. It’s one garment that can be worn over 15 different ways -- as a skirt, dress, poncho, hood, purse and more. And on Thursday, December 1st we reached our $20k goal on Kickstarter -- 21 days ahead of schedule.

In college, we studied journalism and business, neither of which prepared us with specific skills for the fashion industry. But as things have progressed, we’ve learned it’s far less about what you know -- and more about what you’re capable of.

You don’t need years of experience before striking out on your own, and you don’t need to have a PhD in your chosen field. You simply need to use the skills you have, ask lots of questions, and tap into that determination.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned in the last 16 months. Consider it “advice from the non-experts.”

Use skills you have to improve ones you don't

When we started a blog and proclaimed to the world that we wanted to design a clothing line, we had no idea what we were getting into. We didn’t know the difference in knit and woven fabrics. We had never drawn a fashion sketch. We weren’t even sure how to present our idea to a manufacturer.

But we knew a lot of other things. Like writing and public relations, and the basics of marketing and finance. And we are problem-solvers by nature. So we focused on those strengths, and used them to cultivate new skills. We didn’t dwell on what we didn’t know.

Ask, ask, ask

Most people (even in the fashion industry!) want to help you. It’s true. But it’s impossible to get help unless you ask for it. This was hard for us in the beginning. We didn’t want to “bother” the experts, because we assumed they were doing far more important work.

But once we began reaching out to sustainable textile artists, business women, eco-designers, and big-name bloggers, we understood that most people are thrilled to help others. It simply requires coming up with the right questions, and getting in touch. No one becomes an expert on their own, and everyone has something to share.

Fake it ‘til you make it

Okay, so sometimes this backfires. But for the most part, especially in business, pretending to know what you’re doing goes a long way. It’s okay to admit when you don’t understand something, but mastering that overall vibe of “I know what’s going on” will open doors. The truth is that no one knows everything, and we are all experts in our own way. Own what you know; fake the rest.

You know more than you realize

Even today, we hesitate to tell people that we design clothes. Because, harking back to our last tip, we’re still very much faking it. At the end of the day, though, we have a multi-functional piece that has been very well received by our fans and strangers alike. That may not make us “experts” in fashion, but it does make us realize how far we’ve come.

The more we learn each day, the more we realize that any industry is penetrable if you have a well-rounded skill set to make up for the knowledge you may not know in the present.

Drive and determination > sheer knowledge

We believe creativity and passion are the driving forces to success -- those two things will get you a whole lot further than knowing everything about one thing or doing something perfectly. Once you are pursing passionate work, the rest will fall into place.

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