Entering the job market as a graduate or thinking about changing roles/industries as a professional can be a daunting idea – even the most confident of us start that awful line of questioning of:
Am I really good?
Maybe I just got lucky?
Am I qualified?
I don’t have the right degree for this role?
I don’t have the right experience for this role?
Sound familiar? It definitely did for me, and if it does for you – you aren’t alone.
In this series of blogs, I am interviewing people of different sectors from the fashion industry to understand more about their professional journey, what path they chose for themselves, advice they might give you today and what impact education choices vs professional choices have had on their career today.
This week we sat down with the brilliant Tina Elias - Creative Director and one of the Founders of MANRAGS and MS SOUS. Hear her story that began as a professional photographer and led to her entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about your career history so far:
I am a Photographer by trade - before MANRAGS 8 years ago now – I got my start in photography working for Australia’s biggest photography studio, where I was doing portrait photography, commercial and fashion photography and retouching.
I then left that job because it started to become a sales role and not enough creative - it really sucked the life out of me!
I always wanted to start my own eCommerce store, something online I just didn’t know what it was. It was really before online stores became massive - I quit my job and within 3 months I had set up a fully-fledged eCommerce store selling Australian Designer brands and was one of the first to do so.
I had never done buying before, I had no idea what I was doing, I just did so much research, cold called brands I loved and tried to get in touch with the wholesale team. I think they knew I had no idea what I was talking about but I just persisted and learnt as I went!
We had that company for 4 years until we sold it – the first brands were Shona Joy and Shakuhachi - which was so amazing. We were one of the first multi brand online businesses and it went so well. I learnt a lot of lessons during my time there about Wholesale and how challenging it can be.
I was friends with beauty bloggers and I would get them to wear the product, and of course I would photograph them in it - but of course all the imagery the brands would end up taking from us and they wouldn't credit me - it was really frustrating! So as a small business it would be so challenging at times. I didn’t go into with a lot of investment at all, and looking back I would take a lot more risks!
Has your career followed the path you thought it would?
It has in a really weird way – although I never thought I would own a sock company! You know I really was at the mercy of my wholesale brands in my previous company so when we sold, I said I would never do this again unless it was my own brand.
Having said that I wasn’t interested in starting a fashion brand as I am not interested in designing a whole collection every season or more often, I wanted something that worked in with my lifestyle. But I love the direction it has taken despite never foreseeing the products and I definitely didn't see us moving into sustainability - but I am proud we have.
Did you complete tertiary study and if so what did you study?
I studied photography and did a double degree!
How beneficial has your education been to your career so far?
I remember having to do business modules and as a creative I never could understand the purpose of it, now as a business owner I can say it is so crucial. Having said that most things that I have learnt as a business owner I didn’t learn at Uni, I learnt through life lessons and actually doing it. On the whole though photography is a skill – its innate, you don’t need to study it - I do believe you either have it or you don't.
When you do the job it builds your resilience, you take the lessons and you apply your learning. I would advise graduates that the first year out of uni - I think you need to find an amazing boss that you can learn from – they will teach you so much and you will take those lessons with you for life.
What advice would you give yourself if you were starting your career again?
Be persistent, go with your gut, don’t be a tight ass and invest money. You only live once, if you cant pay a bill its not the end of the world. Just go for it. I wish we had invested more into certain things that we were so scared too. Take the big risks - it is so worth it!
What is the most important piece of advice would you give someone starting out in the fashion industry who wants to be a Creative Director?
You have to be very confident in yourself and your vision and work. Don’t second guess yourself, there is no time for that.
Accept people’s ideas. Don’t hire people to tell them what to do. Work with people that you have a similar ethic with.
What does an average week look like for you?
Every day is so different. When it is a designing week we will go through all designs, look at each month ensure the designs flow, no clashes or repeats of colours. Our business is heavily based on creative - so these steps are crucial to our success.
We also look at our database as our customer is all online. - so segmenting out to our market to determine what is going out in terms of EDM’s, look at all the creative, updating websites, check the socials for flow and aesthetic.
We merchandise the shop on the website very regularly to ensure that it looks fresh.
What’s been the most rewarding moment since you started MANRAGS/MS SOUS?
Its the always been about working with a team really – so hiring our first employee was so exciting. And then being able to hire a fellow creative has been really amazing, we work so well together and its exciting to see it coming to together. We have this great creative dynamic, it just evolves so naturally.
Tina Elias is one of the Founders of MANRAGS and MS SOUS - they are the only global subscription brand offering Egyptian cotton products, and Australia's first and only subscription club offering a combination of socks and underwear, and this year they have introduced a sustainability program aimed at reducing the impact of fast fashion on the planet. Check them out at www.manrags.com.au