Sacrifices for love of fashion

Marissa Kindelspire

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Photo credit: Marissa Kindelspire, Staff Reporter

Ali Baker isn’t like the other girls in class. She remembers this every time she catches a glance of her feet.

Baker, 24, broke both for the sake of her craft, fashion. She didn’t do this by walking the runway in stilettos, but by working behind the scenes of a wholesale show for nine straight hours in four inch heels. Luckily, this painful incident is now just a memory.

“The designer didn’t like the look of women in denim without heels, and I didn’t think twice or question him about having to wear them all day long, I just did it,” said Baker, who studies in the college of family and consumer science. “When you’re given the opportunity to work a show, you do what they ask if you’re serious about the business.”

According to Baker, many fashion students don’t realize that learning in the classroom is only a portion of the proverbial battle. Many enrolled in the program live in a fantasy land where the industry is easy and fun all the time, she said.

Baker’s commitment extends past this particular incident, which took place during Market Week 2008 and landed her in two orthopedic boots. She is a full-time student studying fashion and works full time as a vendor specialist at Macy’s department store in Northridge.

Although balancing work and school is a task many students take on, Baker strives to make the most of both classroom and field experience.

“I’m very serious about going to school and taking classes for my own well-being,” she said. “I’m not going to school so I have that piece of paper to show an employer.”

Part of the reason why she feels so strongly about obtaining her degree has to do with how she’s been treated in what were supposed to be “professional” settings.

“I have been to numerous interviews where I wasn’t even questioned about where I’m at in getting my degree,” she said. “I literally had an interviewer sit down and ask, ‘So, you’re smart right?’ It was awful.”

On the same hand, work plays as significant of a role as school in her life.

As a vendor specialist, Baker’s job is not limited to arranging go-backs and ringing customers up. She is currently planning a fashion show that will take place in the Impulse Premium Denim department at Macy’s.

“I’m doing my best to make it a huge production,” Baker said. “I had to get the models, get the outfits, arrange gifts with purchase and makeover specials and strategize on how to help the store meet specific goals.”

While many would become anxious at the prospect of putting together an event from scratch, Baker is no amateur. She traveled nationally as a retail coordinator for Joe’s Jeans, a famed high-end denim company.

“I worked with four main retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s,” she said. “I’d visit five or six stores in a day, remerchandising the floor, training sales associates on Joe’s Jeans products and even analyzing sales figures to determine why specific products were failing to sell in large amounts.”

The time Baker spent at Joe’s Jeans was cut short due to company layoffs, but itleft her with more knowledge of the industry and drive to continue what she is passionate about.

“I had 60-hour-long weeks and was out of town a lot and if I was at home, I was sleeping,” she said. “But I’m ultimately thankful for the experience because it left me even more focused and career oriented.”

Now back in Northridge after taking a semester off, Baker is focused on her studies and her job. When she gets that rare, golden chunk of free time, she participates in equestrian shows with her horse, Gabe.

“I’ve been riding horses since I was about 5 years old and try to sign up for competitions as often as I’m able,” Baker said. “I’m not interested in getting a prize—last week I won a cup—it’s just another part of my life that I feel very strongly about and always will.”