- Kianna Leaa
I'm Feeling GUCCI
Don't let anyone tell you what you are and aren't capable of.
"What is your dream job?" is the most common question I've received during job interviews. The answer I always wanted to blurt out was "to work for Gucci". However, you can assume that in an interview at Michael Kors, Prada or Chloe, that attesting your dream is to work for Gucci, would not exactly put you at the forefront of the list of candidates going for this job.
Towards the end of my master degree at Polimoda in 2019, I dedicated myself to actively search for a job. I applied to over 100 jobs online, networked with over 200 individuals and still struggled to land myself a job in Italy -mostly because I needed a working visa and I didn't speak Italian.
As graduation day was creeping up, my teachers often asked me what I was planning to do afterwards. With no job secured, my response was always, "to work at Gucci." And more often then not, their response to me was that I was aiming too high and that I would need to work my way up to achieve this goal. But I had a complete different perspective on this than they did.
Ever since I was 14 years old I worked in the fashion industry working as a personal stylist, in retail, as sample coordinator, customer service, events, digital marketing, buying, international wholesale, logistics and project management, you name it. I've picked and packed orders, I went on several coffee runs and even worked for a reputable fashion company for 5 dollars per day. These were the years that I dedicated myself to working in the fashion industry, paying my dues so that at this stage in my life, I could finally work in the department I wanted and the company I aspired to. Easier said than done.
For 4 months, day and night I dedicated myself to job applications and networking with the relevant professionals in the industry. It felt like a daunting experience. For the amount of effort that I was putting in, I was barely getting any traction. In fact, I received so many rejection letters that by then, I memorized half of them. Despite this, with much dedication, focus and persistence, I sent more applications out.
3.5 months into my search, I got a few promising leads and one of them was for a job at Gucci...
One week before I was set to fly back to Montreal to visit my family for the first time in 10 months, I met someone working at Gucci. I was introduced to her by a fellow Montrealer. Through our meeting, I was in awe of her achievements and learning about her career journey from Montreal to Milan in the luxury fashion industry. While we spoke she mentioned that there was an opportunity in Collection Merchandising at the Italian fashion house. She believed that the role would be suitable to me given the experience I accumulated over the years. She expressed to me that she would be happy to put in a good word for me to the hiring manager.
Having her support was truly the light at the end of the tunnel. I had applied to Gucci over 19 times with no success and had only landed an informational interview. Just when I thought things would get easier, little did I know that I would have to achieve the "impossible"...
December 20th, 2019, I made my way from Rome to Montreal with a layover in Toronto. With all the frustration I encountered applying for jobs, I quickly understood that the only way I would land a job in Italy was if I learned the language. Therefore the entire 9 hours of plane ride, I dedicated myself to reading the first 9 pages of my new Italian chapter book, "I Love Shopping". 9 pages may not sound like a ton, but let me tell you- it was an achievement for me. Even if I spent most of my time underlining every second word I didn't understand...
At 7PM I landed in Toronto Pearson Airport and turned ON my phone. I had 1 missed call from an unknown Italian number. Who could it be? I checked my emails and saw an email from HR at Gucci. My heart was RACING. It was a request for an interview the following morning at 10AM. I nearly fainted of happiness at the opportunity and of nervousness given I had less than a few hours to prepare. Especially because I was sure that a part of the interview would surely be in Italian...
When I got to Montreal, I hugged my entire family and immediately locked myself into the kitchen and pulled an all nighter preparing for my interview. At 8AM, I reserved a boardroom for my call. I set up a row of 8 sheets of paper with my responses to ANY potential interview questions in English and below that 8 identical sheets of paper translated carefully and completely in Italian. I religiously studied all my notes until my phone rang...
The interview was going well. I felt as though my all nighter paid off. I wanted this job so badly that I truly felt my answers came from my heart. Just when I thought things couldn't take a turn for the worse, the interviewer proceeded to ask me if we could conduct the last part of the interview in Italian. Of course I agreed. She spoke so fast that I asked if she could repeat the question. Slowly but surely, I managed to respond to the questions and proceeded to explaining to her in Italian that, "I understand Italian more than I could speak. And although I do not know how to express myself in Italian, if you call me back in exactly 2 months from today, I will be ready to work at Gucci in Collection Merchandising for Women Shoes in Italian." I could swear to you, I heard a smirk and then, "Ok."
I hung the phone and thought to myself -I am ROYALLY FUCKED. How will I learn a new language in 2 months? Not only that, but I had absolutely no security that I would land myself a job at Gucci, let alone receive a phone call and second interview. What was I thinking?
The uncertainty killed me. Especially because my visa was set to expire 2 months and a half from the day I first interviewed with Gucci. I knew I needed focus, work hard but also a miracle.
Everyday for the next two months I committed myself to learning the language. I had a mix of various methods: taking a course 3 times per week with an Italian teacher, reading Italian kids books, listening to Italian music, watching all Netflix shows in Italian (even if I was dead tired and wanted to just "chill"), reading Italian magazines and going to the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment to speak to the Italian Baristas in Italian. I did anything and everything I could. I even worked on manifesting this goal of mine by putting a Gucci shopping bag in the centre of my apartment to subconsciously train my brain to believe I already secured the job. I even added sticky notes on my bathroom mirror that said, "I SPEAK ITALIAN", "I WORK AT GUCCI", "I CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING I SET MY MIND TO".
Fast forward to many sleepless nights and increasing levels of anxiety, I finally felt my hard work was paying off as I received a call back from Gucci for a second interview, this time in person, at their HQ in Florence. This was it. This was my last chance. Go big or go home, LITERALLY.
I went in for my second interview which they promised me would be held in English with 5 minutes in Italian. All of my hard-work in the last two months was going to be put to the test. That along with determining if the skillset I'd acquired in my career journey would be a good match for the role... I knew that if I eventually wanted Gucci to accept me as a Change-Maker that I needed to be one. And this was my chance. I walked into a boardroom in the Gucci HQ in Florence with two representatives from the Gucci team. Luckily I had practiced conducting my interview in Italian because to my surprise, the two hour long interview was conducted ONLY in Italian...
I left the interview completely different than I had walking in. Prior to the interview, I felt invincible, that I could achieve anything that I set my mind to. Post interview I felt completely drained and emotionless. My mother phoned me and asked me how it went. I expressed to her that from the bottom of my heart I have absolutely no idea how it went and that regardless of whether or not I get this job, that I did absolutely EVERYTHING and ANYTHING I could to achieve this. That there was NOTHING I would have done differently. I put my blood sweat and tears into this and regardless of the outcome I was proud of myself.
1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 4 days went by... I couldn't sleep or eat. One week and a half later, I distinctly remember walking home at 6:47pm when my phone rang. It was an unknown number. I picked up the phone and the woman on the line introduced herself as HR from Gucci. "I know you have been eagerly waiting for news after your second interview. I am calling to..."
My heart dropped. I began to shake. My legs became numb. "We would like to offer you the job in Collection Merchandising for Women Shoes at Gucci."
I started balling. I could barely breathe. I was certain that she heard me desperately trying to hold back my tears. I did my best to catch my breathe and let out a "Grazie Mille!"
The sleepless nights, constant anxiety, tears and frustration that felt worth it. I was about to fulfill one of my biggest dreams...