From decorating her dorm room with Vogue advertisements to having lunch with executives at Barneys, BYU communications grad Ashley Burnett has lived a real life version of “The Devil Wears Prada.”
With plans to simply work at an ad agency after graduation, and with no sights set on the fashion industry, Burnett suddenly found herself in the middle of New York City working as an intern for Polo Ralph Lauren.
Burnett’s dream job and career morphed from a series of unconventional opportunities.
Burnett was one final paper away from graduation. When a friend asked for help cleaning a house during finals week, she had enough on her plate but hesitantly agreed.
The homeowner happened to be an executive at Ralph Lauren and offered her an internship out of the blue. (Legend has it that this person has never offered an internship to anyone before or after this fateful afternoon.)
She worked on the in-house marketing team for the summer and then was hired full time as an assistant in the Global Marketing Development department. She was having the time of her life with glamorous meetings with Vogue executives to nights out exploring the city.
Dare to discover
Burnett was living the post-college twentysomething dream in a big city, but sometimes, it was anything but fun. There were early mornings, late nights, a tiny fridge and the struggle of living in an expensive city. She realized the American dream in New York City wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
After two and a half years in her position, Ashley traded east coast life for San Francisco, California. She got her fill of the retail world as a manager of a Ralph Lauren store. As any retail worker knows, it’s not always ideal.
“I managed the store for 350 days,” Burnett said. “And then I was out.”
Luckily enough, this almost yearlong position set her up for becoming a merchandise coordinator at Gap.
Instead of selling the clothes, she got to buy them. Then, Burnett worked her way up through the company to be the buyer of all women’s denim at Piperlime. She was the youngest person running the biggest department and managed 20 million dollars in denim.
“I was born to be a buyer,” she said. “It was the career I always dreamed of. Every girl should be a buyer. Seventy-five percent of (Gap Inc.) is women. It’s really fun; the hallways are always lined with clothes and shoes. Being a buyer is the best job.”
Burnett’s job combined her love of fashion with the analytical side of her brain. She was in charge of trend forecasting, managing the budget and hunting for the next best denim for the company to sell.
She was a math major before going into advertising, and never thought there was a career that combined both her passions. Even though Burnett had the time of her life in San Francisco, she felt the career winds change once again.
Feel free to change
Last year, Burnett accepted a job offer as the marketing manager at Vivint, another position she loves. She reflected on her time after moving back to Utah and away from the fashion industry.
“I’d go back to (fashion) in a heartbeat,” Burnett explained. “When you’re young and single, go do the city thing. I do not regret it at all. I made awesome lifelong friends and gained strength and character. But remember to stay grounded in the process. You can always leave it.”
Not having a set plan or idea of the future is scary. Burnett claimed her start in fashion was a fluke. However reviewing her story, it was anything but an accident.
Megan, a public relations major, works as a social media manager by day and shops online clearance sections by night. She’s an advocate for gluten-free treats. You can find her reading the latest Mindy Kaling book or creating a tasteful collage wall.