Her Campus Maryland takes over Her Campus Intercollegiate Conference 2013

Day 1: By Natalie Tomlin  

From shopping at the BCBGeneration sample sale to absorbing invaluable advice from keynote speakers, the Her Campus National Intercollegiate Conference was filled with nonstop activities for hundreds of Her Campus women.

As a writer for University of Maryland’s chapter of Her Campus, I knew attending the conference in New York City would be a great way to represent my school and meet other writers and correspondents from universities across the nation. Not to mention, why would I pass up an opportunity to go to my favorite city for the weekend?

The conference immediately exceeded my expectations upon my arrival the morning of July 27. As soon as the elevator doors of the Convene Center in Midtown Manhattan opened, I stepped into a sea of other young women anticipating the day’s exciting events.

After we enjoyed a continental breakfast, co-founder, President and Publisher of Her Campus Media Windsor Hanger Weston greeted us to the second annual conference. Windsor radiated with enthusiasm for the day’s lineup of events, making me more and more anxious to head to the first panel session. Before we could get started, we first got to hear from Josie Natori, fashion designer, and CEO and founder of The Natori Company.

Natori’s story was the first of many inspiring accounts of successful women we heard from during the day. Before breaking into the fashion industry, Natori came from her home in the Philippines at 17 years old to study economics at Manhattanville College and became an investment banker on Wall Street upon graduation.

“It was really a lucky break,” she said. “It was the late 60s. I really was just at the right time at the right place.”

Natori credited her ambition on Wall Street to her grandmother who taught her to work hard and be an independent woman despite growing up in a patriarchal society in the Philippines.

“I always knew I would make something of myself,” Natori said. She had no idea her lifelong dream of being a business woman would eventually land her in the fashion industry.

After spending years working her way up to become the first female vice president in investment backing, Natori’s career and daily life began to feel mechanical.

“I became really restless and did not feel like I was being challenged,” she said. “I was bored … People think I started a company because I had a child but that restlessness was there before I had my child.”

Natori began to explore all sorts of business ventures from owning McDonald’s franchises to car washes in the New York area, but she still felt disconnected from her work.

It was not until she considered importing products from the Philippines that Natori found her calling. She experimented with bringing in baskets and even children’s clothes, but then her friend sent her a sample of embroidered Filipino blouses that soon altered her course.

She loved the fabric and brought it to a buyer at Bloomingdale’s who suggested she make it into a night shirt. Natori didn’t even know what a nightshirt was at the time, but today her company includes lingerie collections, a ready-to-wear line, a home collection, fragrances and eyewear.

Her advice to us young aspiring career women: “You’ve really got to work at every single level – top to bottom,” she said.

Natori also emphasized the importance of lifelong learning. She was unfamiliar with the world of fashion before she started her business, but she expanded her relationships with others in the industry, picked people’s brains and strived to learn more.

“It was a wonderful accident [that I went into fashion],” she said.

As if hearing her inspirational story wasn’t enough, 100 of the conference attendees got a custom bra fitting and a free Josie by Natori bra!

Following the outstanding introductory speaker, the Her Campus ladies headed to the first breakout session. I attended “Does the Devil Really Wear Prada? Life in An Entry-Level Editorial Position,” featuring an assistant editor at WomensHealthMag.com, a contributing editor at Glamour magazine, an editorial assistant at TV Guide Magazine and an assistant editor at Country Living magazine. Each of these women shared their stories about how they reached their dream jobs and how they continue to work their way up. They even offered advice about navigating your way through New York City living and finding your first apartment.

Contributing editor at Glamour magazine Katie Sanders said a great way to gain additional journalistic experience is to reach out to a professor who is also a writer. While she was in college, she helped a professor with research and in return, she improved on her skills while building a great connection.

Sanders also shared her experience as an intern at Vanity Fair through the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) summer internship program.

“It was so fun that I actually didn’t end up going back to school,” she said. “I became an editorial assistant through a sort of serendipitous fluke for this 83-year-old legendary editor named Wayne Lawson, whose assistant of eight years had left, and I stayed on through January and took leave from school to go to what I call University of Wayne.”

One of the many pieces of advice Sanders gave was to remember that we are each other’s friends, references and allies. She also said the job search process has a lot do with timing, and it is normal not to land a job as soon as you graduate from college.

“If you don’t have a job when you graduate, you are the most normal person in the world, and it’s time to go search, but it can also be difficult when all of your friends around you are signing on,” she said. “So really keep an open mind, reach out to people you know in constructive, well-crafted, smart ways and really reconnect with your peers and people you’ve done really good work for. That’s how I broke in as a full-time employee rather than an intern.”

While the normal career advice from professors, parents and nearly everyone in our lives can make our aspirations quite daunting, these ladies’ take on the fashion and magazine journalism industries was refreshing and left all of us anxious to introduce ourselves and exchange business cards – networking at its finest!

The rest of the day at the intercollegiate conference was filled with more panels like these, including “Climbing the Ladder: Journalism Jobs Later On” and “How to Be a Content Queen,” which helped us learn how supply our readers with the best stories that Terps want to read!

In between the networking sessions were chances for us to have some fun. Hair stylists curled girls’ hair using Amika hair products, a Brooklyn-based line featuring hair care, accessories and styling tools. BCBGeneration also hosted a sample sale with bikinis, pants, tops, accessories and shoes marked down to unbeatable prices. I scored two pairs of reversible jeans for $20 each!

Towards the end of the festivities, all of the attendees came back together for a screening of Girl Rising, a documentary with a simple yet impactful message: Educate a girl, and she will change the world.

The film followed the lives of different girls and women in developing countries to show how they overcame the obstacles that stood in the way of the education they dreamed of. It was an inspiring series of stories that reminded us how unstoppable women can be, even in situations where there seemed to be no way out. From abusive child labor and forced marriage to unimaginable poverty and sickness, these girls proved that just one girl rising above the constraints placed on her life is truly the start of a revolution.