Breaking into the fashion industry with Kevin McIntosh
Kevin McIntosh Jr is originally from St. Croix, WI, and later moved to Charlotte, North Carolina with his parents in 2001. He attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he majored in Communication Studies.
McIntosh Jr is a Global Fashion Publicist. He is the Director of PR & VIP Services at Karla Otto New York. Prior to joining Karla Otto New York, McIntosh Jr worked at Ralph Lauren, KCD, Mr Porter and Interview Magazine.
McIntosh Jr’s line of work has given him opportunities to work with large names in fashion such as Virgil Abloh and Abloh’s Off-White clothing line.
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Written by: (Brandon Alexander)
tell us about your childhood and how it was growing up?
Kevin: I was raised in St. Croix most of my life. In 2001, my parents and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where I went to college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. When I was a kid I thought I wanted to be a doctor in hopes that I would cure cancer.
What did you study at in UNCG?
Kevin: I studied Communication Studies. My grandfather has a Master's degree in Economics and I always wanted to be like my grandfather. Ironically, economics was hard for me. For the first time in my life, when I got to college, I felt dumb because I couldn't pass this economics. I changed my major to Broadcast and Television.
One of my role models was at the time was Tavis Smiley because I wanted to do news or radio. I often thought to myself, “how do I navigate this industry.” I ultimately looked into it a bit more and decided it wouldn’t be a good fit. I didn't feel like I was getting a good spectrum and needed something a bit broader. My third major was Communication Studies and that was perfect for me. It was vague enough and then I was also able to work in the program which I needed.
College teaches you to grow up and help you maneuver life.
How did you get into the competitive fashion industry?
Kevin: I remember applying to all these jobs and no one would call me back. I would email, fax and mail my resume and cover letter. I did that to about 15 places. One of the places that did call me back was Interview Magazine. That's honestly how I got started.
Why did you fuse your communication skills with the fashion?
Kevin: I think it's a little bit of that but it's just also having willpower and really wanting it. I thought to myself, “I live in New York, I can do anything here. Why would I be basic?”
I have always been intrigued by fashion. When I was about 15 or 16 I was lucky enough to get three new expensive things a month and I would always get a pair of shoes or two and a hoodie. I've always been intrigued by fashion, I've always known the designer brands.
My first job was an internship at Interview Magazine. I interned there for about eight months and then I became a freelancer.
Tell us about your experience at Mr. Porter and Ralph Lauren?
Kevin: I learned that when going into fashion, you have to have an eye. I had no clue what I was going into. I didn't know the way a fashion magazine worked. I didn't understand the way a fashion team worked. I was able to properly learn that and I think that gave me the foundation that I needed to move forward. I learned how everything works, how a run through works, how getting clothes works, getting the set, the importance of advertisers. I think it's not as easy as people think. Luckily, I have these parents and I also have a strong support system in my family. My grandparents and my parents worked extremely hard to make sure I didn't have loans in college. My parents like took care of that. My grandparents take care of that. I went to school for five and a half years and that was never a problem for me. I never had to worry about financial aid.
My grandparents are a bit more successful than my parents but it was important for me to go to college. I knew that was non-negotiable. I always thought that was important but it was also important for me to go to college without having to worry about money and that was something that I can never thank my parents and grandparents enough for.
Do you feel RESPONSIBLE for helping the next generation?
Kevin: Yeah that's important to me. It’s because of their hard work that I'm able to be here. That was another reason I could go into interning for five dollars a day and not have to worry about college loans. I was able to properly have a support and a foundation.
I would be doing an injustice to her if I were to just be a basic person and for me like she worked too hard and have given so much for us for me not to properly go out there and chase my dreams and to I make everything that I want to be at myself. So I have this very strong foundation and I think that's the root of where this all comes from.
Shed light on being a fashion publicist at Karlo Otto New York.
Kevin: At Karla Otto New York I'm Account Director and I oversee the Off-White by Virgil Abloh account. That's one of my main clients and my biggest brands. I oversee the communications on a global scale. So that in itself is a lot and it's challenging but it gives you a lot of room to grow, and understand the industry and what fashion means in today's society. I think for me every day is different but there's a lot of traveling. It’s about being decisive, and having a lot of faith in yourself. By putting that outward, people not only believe in you, but understand what you're saying.
My role is important because I am one of the people who understands the culture that everyone talks about. We're helping to bring them together. You're putting together the list, helping publications and communicating with the designers. That's basically what I do. I oversee that and make sure that the brands are putting their best foot forward but also, being as diverse as you could and bringing that within the industry.
Do you have any mentors that have hlped you along the way?
Kevin: I would say some of my great bosses before me such as Vergil Abloh. He is one of the people that I worked for. What I like about Virgil is, he doesn't talk about it, he just does it.
What's something that you wish you knew when you first started?
Kevin: I wish I knew how much work it took. I would’ve still done it. On the outside looking in, you'll never know, and on the inside looking out, I could never properly even explain it to you. Life is good and fair, but you have to put in the work. Things change. It's not going to always be a hundred hours a week.
What you would say is your passion and when did you know?
Kevin: My passion is fashion. I'm challenged by this lifestyle and I'm intrigued by it. I get up, I enjoy going to work. I enjoy having this career and knew on the first day I started. I remember this thing happened on my second day at Interview magazine.
I had to walk to the 601 building and Interview Magazine is a smaller company. As an intern, I had to walk and pick up about 6 garment bags. I had him on shoes that really hurt my feet and weren’t meant to be walking with seven garments bags. But in that moment, I knew this would all lead to me going to Paris. This would lead to me working in Paris. I always knew that I wanted to. When I was 19 years old I had the opportunity to go to Paris. I declined because I didn’t want to just go to Paris. I wanted to go there with a purpose. I wanted to work towards my goal.
What has the fashion industry taught you and what could change?
Kevin: I think the fashion industry is doing its job to become more inclusive and I think it's moving a little bit slow but the job is happening. What works for me is being assertive. Throughout my career, what I've learned from my bosses, who are great, was to be assertive. They taught me to believe in my work and work on things I believed in. Last but not least, I learned to use my voice an opportunity is presented.
What frustrates you the most about today's culture?
Kevin: A lot of people do a lot of talking and I believe it's about action. People spend way too much time talking about things before taking action. I would love to see people do less talking and more moving.
What advice do you have for the next generation?
Kevin: I would say, start today. Email that letter, fax that letter, or put it in the mail. You have to reach out; you have to actually do it.
You may hear no a lot. If you don't get the answer you want right away you have to continue until you get what you want. I think that's the only way it's going to work. You have to form relationships or do your research. The Internet is a big space and now we have social media that increases your access to people. I receive emails from my Gmail and my Gmail isn’t clearly displayed anywhere.
I respond to whoever hits me up. There's a kid from the other day who emailed me. I was like, “How did you get my Gmail but I still responded to them as anybody would.” I always try to teach my interns or assistants.
I give the ones that look like me a bit of a harder time because I want them to succeed. They're all doing well and have jobs. They call me for advice, we can go back and forth and we can talk about things. I think that it's something that keeps me going. I did a lot of work to get here and I want them to understand that and I want them to see that they can do the same too if you put the work in. That's why I always have them make sure their spelling. I tell them all the time, “If you want to be good you want to be cool. Someone needs to know that you're thorough and if you're not thorough no one wants to work with you.”
Let everyone know how they can find you online.
Kevin: You can find me @KevinMjr on Instagram.
Interested in learning more or connecting with Kevin?