When menswear industry buyers (the folks who buy the clothing/accessories you see in big name department stores or trendy boutiques) want to meet face-to-face with brands, they go to a tradeshow. But not just any tradeshow. When they’re looking for the best of the best, they attend the Liberty Fairs Tradeshow. And isn’t it a breath of fresh air to know that one of the driving forces bringing buyers and brands together is a Black woman?
Brooklyn-bred fashion maven Sharifa Murdock is a force to be reckoned with. Having worked work for a number of internationally notable fashion houses—like Louis Vuitton, DKNY and Michael Kors—she is now the co-founder and partner of the Liberty Fairs Tradeshow. The well-respected annual show houses some of the most influential brands in the menswear industry (think Brooklyn Circus, Art Comes First and Street Etiquette).
EBONY.com caught up with Sharifa at this year’s presentation, to gauge a day in the life of the mastermind behind menswear.
EBONY: I attended this year’s show and I must say it was phenomenal. How do you keep the tradeshow experience so fresh?
Sharifa Murdock: I think it’s important to bring more culture and community to the tradeshow experience. Sometimes events like this can fall flat, and there’s no sense of community. We encourage the designers to get to know each other. We actually put together a bowling night a few days before the tradeshow kicked off to promote this idea. Creating culture, community and a true brand experience for the buyers has helped this tradeshow stand out amongst the others.
EBONY: When did you decide or realize that your career path would be in fashion?
SM: I would have to say it began very early in my childhood. I was always into fashion. I loved to dress up, loved shoes, and I really enjoyed being a girly-girly. I guess you can say it was only a matter of time before I got into the fashion industry.
EBONY: What was your first job in fashion?
SM: My first job was at a fashion store called Atrium. I remember walking in the store, looking around, and then asking to speak to the manager to see if they were hiring. I was interviewed right on the spot, and I got the job. My secret words of wisdom: always be prepared.
EBONY: Let me get this straight: you walked in the door, asked for a manager and got the job. Did that ever work for you in other job situations?
SM: It’s actually worked several times. That’s how I started working with Louis Vuitton, and DKNY.
EBONY: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
SM: Do the research. If you’re considering the fashion industry, think about an internship. It’s one of the best ways to gauge whether you really want to be in the industry or not. I launched BKYLN Intern to support that idea; I wanted to give young teens the opportunity to pursue careers in fashion, and provide mentorship throughout their journey.
EBONY: You have a lot on your plate: the tradeshow, mentorship, managing a foundation. How do you keep up with it all?
SM: Life is about balance, even though I do have a number of obligations. You have to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Every weekend is dedicated to my husband; it’s key to my overall success. I tell people, “Don’t chase things, don’t force it. Things tend to happen organically. Timing is everything in this industry.”
EBONY: Do you face any particular challenges working in the menswear industry as an African-American woman?
SM: I believe everyone faces challenges regardless of their ethnicity, but here are a few things I can tell you. If you’re looking to work in this industry, you’re going have to work really hard. No day is the same, and I’m often going from meeting to meeting to connect with various up coming brands, which can be inspiring and draining. Secondly, hone your craft, don’t rush it, and remember: patience is crucial. Lastly, you must always network! As cliché as it might sound, it is about who you know.
EBONY: You’re always on the go. What’s the one item you can’t leave the house without when you’re getting business taken care of?
SM: I love a great pair of flats. To me, there’s nothing better. Well, maybe a nice pair heels. But you have to have your flats. My favorite ones are these black and gold pair by Céline. I love them. My second favorites are my Marni’s flats; I love the detail on the tongue. They’re sleek, and super comfortable.
EBONY: You’re such a hard worker. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
SM: Being able to help people and then see how they grow from it. There’s no better feeling.
Check out all the influential brands featured at the Liberty Fairs Tradeshow at LibertyFairs.com.