If you looked into my closet right now, you’d find that one out of every three pieces is from Madewell. I don’t own a lot of clothes, so when I do buy something, I like it to be comfortable and classic, but with a little bit of edge. For that reason, Madewell has been my go-to for a long time and seems to be one of the companies I’m asked about the most these days. Namely, I get emails from people asking how to get a job there and if I know anyone who can help them find one. I don’t have any inside connections, so I decided to reach out to someone who knows what it’s like to work there and what sort of jobs exist on their team. I find that when a lot of people imagine working for one of their favorite companies, they forget to figure out how their skills could be best applied there. So today I’m excited to be talking to Alex Yeske, an in-house graphic designer at Madewell. While she had dreams of becoming a “waitress in a restaurant where you can roller-skate” as a little girl, Alex grew up and studied communications design in college. She’d long admired and identified with Madewell, and through running her own blog, she made contacts that showed her the types of design (in addition to clothing design) that existed at a fashion company. Then she used her networking skills (more on that after the jump) to secure a position designing all sorts of projects for the company, from contributing to window designs and posters to city guides that accompany new shop openings. I love seeing the wide range of design options at any company and I’m so excited to share another perspective on working in the creative community today. Thanks so much to Alex (you can follow her here on Instagram) for sharing her story and advice with us! [Photographs by Angi Welsch] xo, grace
“Every career looks great on the outside, but when you’re really in it you learn the behind-the-scenes hard work that comes along with them. You have to really love what you’re doing to get through the mundane parts.” -Alex Yeske
Click through for the full interview after the jump!
DS: What did you study in college?
Alex Yeske: I went to Syracuse University and I studied Communications Design.
How did you end up at Madewell?
Alex: I started a blog during college (Dreams + Jeans) and it opened my eyes to what I could do after school. I always had an interest in fashion, but didn’t exactly want to be a clothing designer. The online world helped me realize that fashion companies needed graphic designers and that it would be the perfect way for me to work in fashion. A goal for my blog was for it to help me get a job after graduating. I ended up getting my job through relentless networking and right time/right place luck, and the blog helped to show that I was truly passionate about the industry and Madewell.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Alex: I had big dreams of being a waitress in a restaurant where I could roller-skate. And then I wanted to be a teacher.
What is the best part of your job?
Alex: The best part of my job is that I am working on a brand I truly love and connect with as a customer. I’ve followed Madewell since it began and it’s been a dream to watch it grow and evolve over the past three years.
Can you describe a typical day?
Alex: A typical day is BUSY! No day is the same, but I am usually jumping between projects on both the digital and print side. I design our emails, as well as store and print marketing pieces, so I am typically working on many projects simultaneously. On any given day I can be found designing, in meetings, looking for inspiration, at a store visit, art directing still photo shoots, etc!
What have you learned about life from your as a job as a Madewell graphic designer?
Alex: I’ve learned so much working for Madewell, but mostly that it’s so important to be passionate about what you’re doing and to constantly be looking at things with fresh eyes.
What advice would you give someone who would love to get into graphic design – particularly for a fashion company? How should they get started? What should they study in school or learn about on their own?
Alex: For me, getting started was the hardest part. Everyone wants you to have experience and you need to find someone willing to take that chance on you. I would definitely recommend studying graphic design (or branding) if you are interested in that path. Take classes, intern, really see what the field is like. Every career looks great on the outside but when you’re really in it you learn the behind-the-scenes hard work that comes along with them. You have to really love what you’re doing to get through the mundane parts.
I cannot emphasize the importance of networking enough! The Internet makes it so easy to connect with people and I’ve found that most people are willing to answer any questions you might have, especially if you are a student. Take advantage of that while in school and meet with as many people as you can and simply ask for advice. Your network will carry you far in life.
Do you think there are common characteristics amongst people working in graphic design for a fashion house?
Alex: I’ve found that most graphic designers for fashion companies have an incredible eye for good design and are passionate about making beautiful imagery.
What else would you love to do in this field?
Alex: I would love to one day dabble in interior design or possibly have my own clothing or lifestyle brand.
What’s the holy grail in your field – what’s your Oscar?
Alex: I love visiting our stores all over the country and seeing work I’ve done and people interacting with it. I get so excited when someone Instagrams a project I’ve worked on – it’s really neat to see people loving the brand so much.
How do you stay inspired?
Alex: Living in New York makes this incredibly easy. There is no shortage of inspiration and it can be found in the most random of places. Someone’s outfit, an art exhibit, a conversation you overhear on the subway. I also spend an insane amount of time on the Internet and on social media. I love Instagram because it gives me a window to what’s going on all over the world. I can find out about small brands in Australia and cool shops in Paris and see what they’re doing.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on? Or one that you are most proud of?
Alex: For our Upper East Side and Williamsburg stores, I got to work on a local guide for each neighborhood, highlighting places to see, eat, drink, etc. It was a great project to work on because it was simply a fun piece without much of an agenda. I got to learn about new places, we worked with different illustrators and we ended up using a little bit of my handwriting! And, it’s cool to see people pick them up and use them in their own lives.