September 28, 2016

From ads to outfits

Over the past year, Brooke Cartwright has learned the ins-and-outs of the fashion industry, and it was mostly by coincidence. While spending the Spring 2014 semester interning in ALIVE Magazine’s marketing department, Cartwright learned she would be working events in addition to her usual job of copy writing. One of those events was St. Louis Fashion Week, which is one of ALIVE’s biggest events of the year.

No longer an intern, Cartwright was hired as the head dresser for the most recent St. Louis Fashion Week, which took place from Oct. 8 to 18. Being a head dresser meant if a model was on the runway, she was behind the scenes making sure that model looked his or her best. She organized all of the outfits for the designers and models, and managed a team of around 30 volunteer dressers.

“People think the fashion industry is super glamorous, but behind the scenes it really isn’t,” Cartwright said. “It’s blood, sweat and tears. I mean, no blood, but it really is a lot of hard work.”

For a few years, Cartwright wasn’t even aware that St. Louis had a fashion week. She grew up in Hillsboro, Illinois and moved to St. Louis to attend Webster University to study advertising and marketing. She found out about St. Louis Fashion Week while interning at ALIVE.

Kathryn Palacios (left), the presentation coordinator for St. Louis Fashion Week, with Brooke Cartwright (right). / photo contributed by Sandy Gutierrez

Kathryn Palacios (left), the presentation coordinator for St. Louis Fashion Week, with Brooke Cartwright (right). / photo contributed by Sandy Gutierrez

Having worked the front of house at last spring’s St. Louis Fashion Week, Cartwright prefers being a head dresser because her work moved from making sure guests were happy to making sure designers were happy.

Cartwright had no intention to be a head dresser, but she didn’t want to say no to a good opportunity. After being highly recommended by her former colleagues at ALIVE, she was contacted and offered the job by Shannon Lichti.

Lichti is the casting and show director for St. Louis Fashion Week, and she had previously worked behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. Lichti said the two hit it off almost immediately, and she knew Cartwright was the right fit for the job.

“I was looking for someone who is highly organized and has leadership abilities, can operate in chaotic environments, has a professional appearance and attitude,” Lichti said. “Also someone who has a good sense of humor, since we spend a lot of time together.”

Cartwright said although it might sound like a big job for a student to take on, it’s not unheard of for a student to be the head dresser for St. Louis Fashion Week. In addition, the dressers that Cartwright managed consisted of many students, friends and ALIVE interns.

“Being a dresser is volunteer work,” Cartwright said. “And it’s hard because I called people up in August, but nobody really knows what they’re doing two months from now, in the middle of the week in October.”

Cartwright said her choice to seek an internship at ALIVE was a bit unusual for an advertising student. She said Webster is very ad agency-focused, but Cartwright had a lot of “what if?” thoughts on her mind. One of those was the possibility of working at a publication, and she ended up not being disappointed.

“I think back-of-house, behind the scenes is my forte. I’m a total perfectionist, I love to make everything look good,” Cartwright said.

After studying abroad at Webster’s London campus in the Spring 2013 semester, and staying in contact with a professor who did hair and makeup for London Fashion Week, Cartwright thinks there’s always the possibility of more fashion work in the future.

Near the end of this fall’s St. Louis Fashion Week, Lichti asked Cartwright what her next step was. Cartwright was sort of taken aback, because she hadn’t thought about it. After stumbling upon the opportunity to be a head dresser, she put so much time and energy into the job that she didn’t think of her next step.

“I definitely did not see myself doing this at all,” Cartwright said. “This opportunity kind of fell on my lap and I took it, and I definitely don’t regret it.”

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