How to Revolutionize Your Career in 6 Steps

Follow one designer as her career jumps from living-room trunk shows to retailers across the country.
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How to Revolutionize Your Career in 6 Steps

Anne Cramer loved to wear skirts to the playground. “My friends used to tease me by saying, ‘You’re so proper’,” she said. “But my personality is not real demure.” In fact, the mother of three boys considers herself more of a tomboy—with an eye for the feminine form. So it’s no surprise her first anne m cramer design, the Flynn skirt, was '50s-inspired, no corset required. “The clothes of that era showed off a true waist and the bust line,” she said. “Everybody wasn’t so androgynous.”

 

When her sewing spilled into every room in their home, her husband Paul nudged her to rent studio space—and give her designs a shot. With her youngest in kindergarten, Anne realized she had time to start her own revolution. “I’ve been fascinated by how French women dress—it’s elaborate, yet simplistic. Which feels like an oxymoron,” said Anne. “But I’m always putting together opposites, like in my tag line: Elegant and irreverent. I pair my Converse gym shoes with skirts.”

 

Here’s how she revolutionized her career, from trunk shows in her living room, to retailers across the country and her Flynn skirt featured in Lucky Magazine.

Liz Banfield

1. On the job training is just as good, if not better.

Anne learned how to sew from the best: her mom. Her grandma had owned a tailor shop in Chicago, and passed the skill down. “I made clothes for myself, for my dolls, for my friends, for my friends’ dolls,” said Anne. “I even made the dresses my bridesmaids wore at my wedding.”

 

But it wasn’t until she was in her 30’s that she had the confidence to pursue design. “Before stripes took hold as a trend, people would say, ‘I’m not tall enough to wear stripes.’,” Anne said. “Years ago, even though I loved the Flynn skirt, I may have changed its horizontal stripes.” It’s sold out three times.

 

Now she trusts her instincts. “I’m not afraid to fail,” she said. “If the clothing line flops, it doesn’t define me. I’m more afraid of thinking I could have done something and never even tried.”

Liz Banfield

2. Get your own space to create your strategic plan and execute tactics, even if the overhead seems a bit much.

Before her Flynn skirt took off, she taught sewing as well as etiquette classes to pay for her studio space. “People asked, ‘Why sewing and etiquette?’” she said. “But the image you project—how you talk and dress—it’s all an indicator of your personality. And I think that’s fun to play with.”

 

Having her own studio space has helped her focus on her work—and separate from it. “I don’t really burn out now that I have a space dedicated to my business,” she said. “When my business was at home, it was constant. Now I can focus on family and friends when I’m not in my studio.” 

Liz Banfield

3. If your business seems to go in a different direction than originally planned, don't be afraid to follow it

Shortly after Anne released the Flynn skirt, the popular Oh Joy! blog covered it, which led to a lifestyle piece on another blog, Design*Sponge—as well as numerous online orders. Anne wasn’t prepared from a production standpoint. “I got a little scared, which is so unlike me,” she said. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone who had placed their faith in me—a retailer, a friend.” She thought of returning to trunk shows in her living room, but turned to her friends instead.

Adrienne Page

4. Embrace the army/community/friends behind you.

Anne’s friends came to her rescue in droves. A stylist. A publicist. And Katherine McMillan, who had started a tie line called Pierrepont Hicks a year before.  “For any stumbling blocks I’ve had, she’s been able to tell me what she did,” said Anne.

 

After her first photo shoot, Anne held a gratitude dinner for her friends. “It wasn’t to celebrate me, but to celebrate our group—how we’ve all come together,” she said. “I’m surrounded by awesome women.”

Adrienne Page

5. Take inspiration from past icons and leaders in your industry.

Although risky, Anne decided to launch her business with just one piece, her Flynn skirt. She got the idea from Kate Spade. “When she came out, she had that one box purse,” said Anne. “I loved it; I got one, and I kept waiting to see what was next. Was she a one-hit wonder?” But leading with one piece allowed Anne to see if there was a market for her designs before she became financially invested. 

Adrienne Page

6. Try new and wacky things with confidence and don't apologize for it.

Without formal training, Anne had no idea how to get her clothes into shops. “People said, ‘You have to get a rep,’” she said. “I didn’t have the money for a rep.” So through friends she connected with Caryn Kelly of Melly, a Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store in Minneapolis.

 

“It takes a certain personality to wear her clothes, and that’s the personality of my store,” said Caryn. “Polished, yet chic. Not trendy, but on trend.”

 

Caryn helped Anne put together a line sheet, which manufactures use to provide information on their product, and gave her insight into how retailers buy. But rather than sending just a line sheet, Anne went against the tide and sent each retailer a Flynn skirt in a wrapped box with a personalized hand note saying, “This is a gift for you. You don’t need to return it.” Nine retailers signed on immediately.

 

Now, thanks to the success of her Flynn skirt, Anne’s rolling out a complete fall collection with her favorite fabrics: Silk, cashmere and wool. Her most important revolutionary lesson? “Present yourself well and with confidence, but don’t lose your little sparkle,” she said. And find the support you need to succeed.

 

Jennifer Jeanne Patterson is a freelance writer and author of 52 Fights. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. Find her blog at Unplanned Cooking

 

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Adrienne Page
First Published June 27, 2011

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