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December 11, 2017
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Silva Shotigian works with popular clothing and accessory lines, including Ugg (Photograph courtesy of Silva Shotigian).

Silva Shotigian is the Vice President of sales for Se Ce Apparel, the exclusive Canadian distributor of many of our favourite clothing and accessory lines, including Rebecca Taylor, House of Harlow, Trina Turk and Eileen Fisher. I met her at the company's "Step into Spring" preview event last week in Toronto, and was struck by the balance she seems to effortlessly bring to the job. Clearly a dedicated professional, she takes her work very seriously, but dressed in a funky fur vest with her long dark hair hanging in loose curls down her back, she also demonstrated a laid-back, friendly demeanour - certainly an asset in an industry that requires her to be everything from event host to brand representative to sales woman. We chatted about how she climbed the ranks at Se Ce, and she offered advice for others looking to follow in her well-heeled footsteps.

How long have you worked at Se Ce Apparel?

I've been here for over ten years now. It's hard to believe!

What's your role at the company?

Officially, my title is VP of sales; however, I wear many different hats at Se Ce and am involved to a certain degree with all aspects of the company. 

Silva Shotigian
Shotigian speaking at an event for Ugg
(Photograph courtesy of Silva Shotigian).

In what role did you start at the company? How difficult was it to move up?

I started at Se Ce in 2002 as an assistant to the account executive (Wendy Hajaly) in the Eileen Fisher division. Six months later, I was promoted to the account executive for 7 for all Mankind. At that time, I was very reluctant to move up, as I was comfortable in my role and didn't want to leave Wendy and work on my own. Catherine Claman, the President and owner of Se Ce Apparel, often jokes about how I begged her not to move me from my position as Wendy's assistant, and 10 years later I'm the VP. 

How did you land that first job?

As they say, timing is everything...  I worked with Wendy at Holts [Holt Renfrew, a Canadian luxury goods department store] for many years, and she knew I was graduating that semester and asked me if I was interested in applying at Se Ce. I went for my interview on the day of my last final exam, and the rest is history. 

What is your educational background and how does it apply to what you do now?

I went to Concordia University for Business Commerce. It doesn't seem directly applicable to fashion, but you really need a strong business sense in this industry. That, combined with my passion for clothing, provided a good foundation. I always was interested in fashion and worked in retail stores throughout college and university, including Holt Renfrew.

What do you think is most important for succeeding in the fashion industry: education or experience?

I am a strong believer and supporter of higher education, but not necessarily in a fashion school. The social aspects of interacting with people, learning responsibility, time management, multi-tasking and strong organizational skills are what I feel are important things gained from higher education. However, experience is essential when looking for a senior position. 

What's a typical day like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day! Every morning I wonder what will come my way. This is such a hectic industry, and there's no way to prepare for it except to be prepared for everything.

People expect it to be this glamorous lifestyle, but it's not glamorous at all. It's a lot of hard work.

What kind of people do you work with regularly?

We work with big retailers like Holts and smaller stores like Honey, as well as specialty shops.

What's the best perk of your job?

Definitely that it's not a routine. It's never boring or mundane. I get to travel a lot. I was just in Paris, which was amazing.

Also, I just love working with clothes!

What's your least favourite thing about the job?

I don't want to sound like a cliché, but honestly, I very much enjoy all aspects of the job: building relationships with customers and suppliers, having the opportunity to work with different brands, being involved on both the fashion and business side of the company as well as traveling to the USA and Europe. If I had to pick one thing that is my least favourite, I would say it would be times that my travel schedule becomes so hectic that I literally wake up in the morning and forget what city I'm in. But on the flip side, I'm almost Super Elite on Air Canada!

Se Ce Apparel represents an impressive roster of brands. Which is your favourite?

I have a special place in my heart for 7 [For All Mankind] jeans, because they were one of the first brands I worked with. I love Vince. And, of course, who can resist the clothing from Splendid?

What advice do you have for anyone looking to break into the fashion industry?

A lot of people expect it to be this glamorous lifestyle, but it's not glamorous at all. It's a lot of hard work and if you want to succeed in fashion, that's something you need to be prepared for.

 

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