2015 LVFC Fashion Focus Forum

Note: This article was originally posted on the Las Vegas Fashion Council website and was copied and pasted for my own blog to use as my own content. To see the original post, click here.
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In a city thriving on excitement, Las Vegas always surprises me. As a Michigan native, never in my life did I think that I would live here. I remember the limited view I had of Vegas. I didn’t think there was anything more than the 4 mile long strip filled with fancy hotels and overpriced souvenirs. As a young lady still trying to find her way through life, I wondered what this city could offer me, if I could find something more thrilling than its gambling tables and hot spot night clubs. When I finally did make the move in 2011, it was then that I started to really understand something about Vegas: There’s more to it than meets the eye.

As I journey through this town, it continues to unveil parts of itself to me, like a new friend willing to share its secrets. One special gem about Vegas is its cultural arts offerings, specifically the fashion industry. As a fashion student at the Art Institute of Las Vegas, I wasn’t entirely sure how I would make it. Would I be successful in my field of choice? Would I land a fashion job in this kind of city? Because how does one become successful in the artistry of fashion, a career that tends to be looked upon as “too ambitious” and dubbed to be a pathway for self-destruction if taken? It’s a lot to think about.

It can be difficult to not let doubt cloud your head. However, the doubt fades away when I surround myself with great people. In my 3 years of being a Las Vegas local and student, I continuously meet successful people who have been in my shoes. These are the people who have risen above their doubt and showed that with hard work and dedication, you can really do anything you set your mind to, even in this city of sin.

One of the many perks of being a student at the Art Institute of Las Vegas (AILV) is that we are presented with opportunities to connect with great people in the industry. We are given the chance to network with them, to draw inspiration from their personal successes. One inspiring event the Art Institute recently held on campus was a Fashion Focus Forum featuring a noteworthy organization, the Las Vegas Fashion Council.

To give some background, the Las Vegas Fashion Council (or LVFC for short) is a non-profit association that combines the city’s fashion professionals, society leaders, business owners and emerging artists, each of whom find fulfillment in transforming the community through the advancement of the fashion industry. It’s a wonderful way for these professionals to connect and create a better economically diverse community here in Vegas.

On May 13th, select members of the Las Vegas Fashion Council were invited to the Art Institute campus to participate in sharing their knowledge and experience with students. They gave great advice about entering the industry and how to successfully make our marks. The panel consisted of four exceptional professionals: Jewelry Designer Dee Berkley, Photographer Jerry Metellus, Merchandising Manager Stephanie Pierotti and the Founder/President of the council, Carrie Carter-Cooper. Another member, Crystal Ann Ghanem, is currently the Director of Sponsorship for the Las Vegas Film Festival and was also an outstanding program contributor to this event.

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Carrie started the forum by introducing the fashion council and the successes they’ve reached as an association. She then went on to introduce the esteemed panel. One by one, each person gave a summary on their advancement in the business. As I sat in the audience, I felt liberated hearing each professional speak about their experiences in the industry.

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Jerry Metellus introduced himself as a professional photographer who was born in New York and grew up in Montreal, Canada. He started off as a model and dancer in front of the camera and worked his way behind the lens. His achievements include being a guest photographer for America’s Next Top model, working with top talent from Hollywood (such as Paula Abdul, Mike Tyson, B.B. King, and Jerry Seinfeld) and shooting for many of the hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas strip along with several national publications. His recent project included shooting the cover for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, a very impressive addition to his resume!

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Next was Dee Berkley, a local jewelry designer. She grew up in the jewelry business learning every element of the industry, from design to manufacturing to marketing and retail. In 2000, she decided to build her own label where she has made trendy and classic pieces for Zappos, Jack Threads, JC Penney, The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Zulilly and many other boutiques, spas, and online stores. She then opened Berkley Boutiques in 2014, where she empowers women to become business owners by allowing them to carry and sell her beautifully crafted jewelry while making their own schedules and earning an income of their own. She has successfully opened eight Berkley Boutiques nationwide.

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The next panelist was Stephanie LaBorde Pierotti. Born in New Orleans and raised in Houston, Texas, Stephanie attended the University of Houston where she majored in Journalism and minored in Marketing. Through her college career, she worked as a free-lance graphic designer and simultaneously managed a record store and interned at major music corporations Capitol Records and Interscope Records. She entered the music business as an Artist Development Representative for Universal Music where she worked with many high profile music artists including Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, Marilyn Manson, Buckcherry and Godsmack. She then moved on to working for major websites such as Match.com and Yahoo! She made her way to Los Angeles and decided to enter the fashion and entertainment merchandise industry where she worked for Hot Topic and Bandmerch. Currently, Stephanie works as the merchandising manager and creative team lead for Scott Brothers Entertainment. She also teaches at the Art Institute of Las Vegas as a fashion instructor and is in the process of developing her own apparel company, Avondale Shirt Company.

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Last, but not least, there is Carrie Carter-Cooper. Carrie started off as a model at the age of 15, which allowed her to work with the world’s top fashion designers. In 1997, she opened BESTAgency, which is now the largest talent and entertainment company in Nevada. The company is a model and talent agency that offers event planning, production and décor, while also housing a rehearsal studio and costume department for entertainment programs in the Las Vegas area. The company has been successful in having their hand in many of the attractions on the strip, such as the gondolier rides in the Venetian, the performers in period costumes, night club performers, themed events and the fashion shows at the Fashion Show Mall. Aside from BESTAgency, Carrie is also the Founder and President of the Las Vegas Fashion Council and is an established leader in the industry.

Aside from their outstanding professions, each panelist expressed their thoughts on the local fashion business, ways it’s succeeding, and how to better it. One thing that each panelist agreed upon is that the fashion industry here in Vegas is really taking its form. More people are opening their eyes to the idea of having a successful fashion community in our town. Aside from MAGIC, the world’s largest buyer’s convention, mentions of additional projects that will be established in Las Vegas give me so much hope and excitement for having a successful career in this business.

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My favorite part of the fashion forum was when each panelist gave their personal advice. Jerry Metellus stated that it’s best to leave your ego at the door before entering the industry while practicing humility and respect. He stated that the universe will only give you the right people in your life if you put out a positive and enthusiastic vibe. Dee Berkley stated that you can’t forget about yourself and to do things that give you the credibility you deserve. She also strongly emphasized the importance of establishing your own brand and sticking to it. With this being said, Stephanie Pierotti added that it’s important to stay true to yourself and to stand up for what your brand is. She urged us to be creative and think outside the box to successfully reach our audiences. Carrie noted that diversifying our skills is one of the many ways to enhance our careers. She voiced the significance of taking on new and exciting projects to continually refresh our current skills while identifying other tasks that can help us add to our list of talents. Each piece of advice empowered me, allowing me to examine the ways I could apply these words of wisdom to my own career. It was in that moment that my doubt of making it in the industry disintegrated and was quickly replaced with confidence, determination, and fearlessness.

I have never lived in a city where its art leaders formed a professional trade group to make changes for their collective home. It’s thrilling that such passionate individuals would have collaborated on this endeavor. I believe that a community is only as great as the people who live in it. Although the fashion industry in Vegas is still growing its reputation and creating pathways to success, it’s safe to say that this city is not only a great shopping destination, but a place where its community will benefit from all the aspects of the fashion industry. I know Las Vegas’ fashion industry will only continue to blossom, divulging its contribution to the global fashion industry.

Click through the gallery below to see more pictures from the Fashion Focus Forum.
(Picture credit goes to Donavon Lockett from Dnd Photgraphy)

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