Part One: I Worked In Fashion For One Whole Year And Survived (Barely)

I worked in fashion for one whole year. I was hired in the midst of Fall Fashion Week in 2005, then a year later, I walked out the door halfway through Fall Fashion Week in 2006. I was done. My boss had belittled me for the last time, I was sick of picking away at salads for lunch everyday so as to try to fit in to the body types around me and I was done having my IQ questioned on a daily basis — like I said, I was done.

My job in fashion was my second job since moving to NYC. My first job was at a jewelry designer company that’s responsible for the majority of accessories that you can find at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. My boss there had hired me to be her assistant without getting permission from the owners of the company, so shortly after they fired her, they “let me go,” too.

I was still starstruck with the notion of working among designers that I had seen in the pages of Vogue, so I jumped at the chance to work at this particular company. The pay was obnoxiously low — 28k annually — but being able to tell my friends and family that I was working in the fashion world more than made up for it. Although I had moved to NYC to pursue my dreams of being a writer, ending up as an Office Manager at this particular company seemed like the next best thing. I may not have been able to pay my rent or my electric bill, but I was constantly being sent home for with free goodies, and that’s how I justified the low pay of it all out in my head.

The company was comprised of egos, I had never encountered before, most of whom were agents who were constantly on the hunt for the next biggest star in the fashion world. When they weren’t doing that, they were hard at work creating capsule collections for already well established designers. Think Jason Wu for Target type of concepts, although that wasn’t us. While the designers who came in out of that office for different projects consisted of people like Thom Browne, Vivienne Westwood and Thakoon Panichgul, there was one designer that will forever haunt my memories and to spare myself from her wrath, I’m just going to call her P, for “Psycho.”

As one who had been reading fashion magazines for as long as I could remember, I was well aware of who P was. I was familiar with her work in fashion as well as rumors about her batshit craziness. Before the girl I replaced at the company left, she warned me about P. Not just because P apparently lacked all sense of anything outside of her world and her concerns, but when things didn’t go her way, whomever was closest at the moment would have to deal with her outbursts. Of course, with that in mind, I tried to grow a backbone as quickly as possible so as to prepare for this woman. But as I learned, sometime there isn’t enough spine to go around and the first time she called to talk to my boss, I realized this.

In the way I had been taught, I answered the phone: “Good morning. You’ve reached _____. How can I help you?”

I recognized her voice immediately as she yelled back: “Who the fuck is this? I don’t recognize you! Where’s Meghan (the girl I replaced)?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but she has left. I’m Amanda. How can I direct your call?”

P: “How can I direct your call?!” she mocked in a child-like voice.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I was supposed to be respond, so I stayed quiet as my cheeks began to turn a flaming red. But P wasn’t done with me yet.

P: “Do you even know who this it? Do you even know how important I am to this company!? That I’m the one paying your salary?”

Again, I wasn’t sure who to answer her. So I just sat there speechless and shocked.

P: “You know, you’re wasting my fucking time. Put J (her agent) on the fucking phone now, Amanda!”

I was momentarily flattered that she knew my name. But I also had no idea exactly how many times she’d say name over and over again during the next year, or how just the sound of her voice or knowing when she was coming to the office would bring on a level of anxiety that I had never felt before in my life. I tried to chalk it up to the fact that it was the fashion world that’s just how things are, but sometimes even that reasoning isn’t enough. P was about to make the next 365 days of my life hell.

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    • porkchop

      I’m not expecting you to dignify this with any kind of affirmation or denial, but I’m fantasizing that it’s Georgina Chapman.

    • MR

      Amanda, the picture, is that Michelle? Yeah, it’s good you got out of there.

      • MR

        Amanda, I was just looking at your other ‘Fashion for One Whole Year’ posting. As is usual for me Friday afternoons, I was in a rush to get on the road. But I did look at this posting photo more carefully just before I left and thought to myself: hmm, you know it does look a lot like Amanda, but without glasses. Now looking at your other posting’s photo, I realize now, yes this picture is you. Now I like your glasses – like I like your French nose. :) So I only ask that you confirm that this is you. Thanks.

      • Amanda Chatel

        I’m not sure of what photo you’re talking about, MR. But the only photos of me on The Gloss are for my posts about my drama queen ways and my love/hate relationship with my boobs… so no, it is not me.

        And who’s Michelle? I’m so confused.

      • MR

        Sorry I didn’t mean to confuse you so, Amanda. I was speaking in reference to Michelle Pfeiffer – so now it means I think you look like her. But this would be a photo of you without your glasses. Which I’m not sure even exists? This is what we call in my business, a trainwreck. :)

      • Amanda Chatel

        Ah yeah… photos of me without my glasses do not exist.

        As a former party girl, I fell asleep with my contacts in way too often in college and fucked up my eyes. As a current party girl, it’s best to pass out in a gutter with my glasses instead… as long as it isn’t face first.

        I’m mature.

    • Megan

      Yes blind item guessing game now.

    • Emily W.

      Wow, it’s unfathomable that people can even act like that.

    • Shara

      This basically sounds like The Devil Wears Prada.

    • Avodah

      Before going graduate school I had two different jobs where I was basically somebody’s verbal punching bag. The first of which was a trading floor where I was an assistant. Some of my colleagues enjoyed making jokes about Jews, one lady liked to shove my chair into the desk (while I was sitting in my chair). ONe day, during the trading day, I grabbed my purse and left.

      Most recently, before graduate school, I had a boss who enjoyed telling me I was a “slow learner” and had “never had a real job”. I left that job to go to Israel for a month.

      Looking back, I should have stood up for myself. I’m glad Amanda made it one year. However, nobody ever deserves to be verbally abused and insulted at work. It is easier said than done (believe me), but have faith that you are worthy of gainful, dignified employment that doesn’t involve insults that belong on Howard Stern.

      Go get ‘em, Amanda!

    • Miss C

      Obviously, employers in every other field are a bastion of respect, fairness, sanity and poise – and btw, would you like to buy this fantastic bridge I have on sale?