07 February 2009


I quit my job.

During the worst economic recession of my lifetime, I quit a well paying job.

During my time in New York, I worked as a design assistant to a well-known New York dress designer. The hours were flexible, the pay was good and it gave me the luxury to make money while working for free at an independent magazine.

New York has become the eye of the economic storm. Effects of this recession hit the city in waves, giving small and independent business owners optimism one week and leaving them devastated the next. Manhattan has become the city of egg shells and I have become a professional at treading lightly.

The dress shop I worked for is the prime example of what entrepreneurship is going through during this arduous time. With pieces priced between $400 and $800, residents of the lower east side are more concerned in making their rent and paying their escalating utilities than purchasing gratuitous gowns. When I was hired, the store was in its prime, pulling over $20k a week. When I left, weekly sales were around $5k.

Working became dismal. And the times reflected in the designer's attitude.

My job was in fabric selection. The designer would sketch dresses and I chose what it would be made out of. I spent my days perusing the garment district looking for poly lycras, silks, linens and cotton blends. The 2009 Spring line would be made out of textiles I researched and found. For someone with no background in fashion design, it was exciting.

Regardless of how important I felt I was to the label, the designer made sure I felt otherwise.

Throughout the six months I spent with her, I was treated and talked to like a child. I was a verbal punching bag. The recession took its toll on the designer. It was an illness. She was scattered and decided the reason sales were down wasn't because of the current financial hardships. It was because of me. I was tangible, therefore the spoken barrage was easier to localize.

We came to verbal blows a few times and I always stuck up for myself. I felt bad for her. I knew her entire livelihood depended on the success of the store. She was desperate-- but never wanted to look like it. She refused to put signs in her window or lower her prices. Her form of advertising came from those who reached out to her, like nymag.com.

In November, New York Magazine Online called the store to fact check a paragraph they were going to run on their Website. It covered the basics: our location, telephone number and what we carried. Six sentences total. The designer wasn't around so I fact checked it.

"..and you have silk wrapped dresses," read the fact checker from the blurb in front of him.

After I address that we don't carry such dress, the caller says, "great. I'll take that out and get it right in".

When I told the designer she was elated. She was thankful I was the one who took the call because of my "journalism background". I was treated as an equal for the rest of the day.

The paragraph never ran. The designer called every person she could at nymag.com to figure out why and came up empty handed.

Months passed.

Last Wednesday, I called the designer when I opened the store to inquire about the paintings that were newly displayed on the walls. I could tell they were painted by Christy, a girl who worked primarily selling in the store. I called to see if they were for sale.

"What I need for you to do, Meghan, is to keep your agenda out of my store," she harshly replied to my question.

The biggest peeve I have is when people say my name condescendingly. It is the one thing in this world that will raise my hackles instantaneously and at this exact moment I'm flushed.

"Agenda?" I ask trying to keep my octave at a professional level. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I know Christy is a painter, and you're a journalist, but when you are in my store, you are neither."

Her stance makes perfect sense. Her tone with me at this moment, doesn't.

"Where is this coming from?"

"Well, since I'm over it now I guess I can address it, but it's taken me a long time. I was really upset about this, Meghan."

Again with the name thing.

"Remember the New York Mag article?" she demands.

How could I forget? There wasn't a day in the past two months she didn't mention it, and now that I think of it, mention it directly to me.


"Well basically you cost me thousands of dollars."

My furrowed eyebrows weren't helping my accelerated migraine.

"Oh yeah? And how is that?" I ask, my voice now gaining fire.

"Because I made some phone calls-- because I know, like a lot of people in the publishing business-- and they said the reason why they didn't run the story on me was because you corrected it."

I am now sitting Indian style in the middle of the store. My left elbow is resting on my knee and my forehead is in my hand.

"Uhh, no..."

"-- actually yes, Meghan. I made the calls."

"Did New York Mag tell you that?"


Well of course not.

"And that story, Meghan, would have been seen by millions and the store would have generated a couple thousand dollars off a story like that."

I would like to address, it wasn't a story. Her face was not going to be plastered on Vanity Fair with an accompanying article written by Dominick Dunn. It was shorter than an obituary in a local paper. And I know they didn't run it because of me.

"Well I don't know what to tell you," I say. "I really don't think that's the cas--"

"-- and the things is Meghan, I was going to fire you. But I didn't because you are new to the city and I'm sure you have personal things going on," she interjects. "So I've really done a lot for you."

I start stuttering giving her more fuel.

"So I'm over it now, but your agenda needs to not be in my store. I know a lot of people in the publishing business."

I don't fully understand what she means by her last statement. Was that a threat?

I get off the phone. Sitting on the floor with my scarf and coat still on, I notice I'm in the middle of two racks of her designs. I wonder how I'm going to sell these products after the recent conversation.

I get through the day and call her. I give her my notice. She is surprised, oddly, and starts telling me how much she has done for me.

I ask her if she wants it in writing.

"Can you give me a week?" she asks. I tell her I would.

The next day I open the shop and store my things in the back. A minute later, the designer enters with shopping bags full of the Spring pieces-- the pieces I have researched so hard on.

"I need you to get me a cider," she says handing me a twenty.

Upon my return, I notice my coat, scarf, purse and bag on the front chair. As I approach the desk, I see my key ring two keys short. The designer is writing a check.

"Since you're so unhappy here, Meghan, I'm going to let you go today."

With a full tooth smile I over eagerly reply, "great!".

As I take my personal items out of the pile she put them in, I ask if I can see the Spring line before I go.

"You can come back and see them when they're on the rack."

My back teeth are slowly turning into powder as I'm forcing to keep my mouth closed. I'm positive she can hear the grinding.


As I walked out, I am upset. I'm infuriated. But as quickly as these emotions come, they disappear. And I'm randomly at peace. I'm walking taller than I have in a long time. And I'm proud of myself.

As someone who is anti-cliché, it's crazy how they surface at the most opportune times. If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

The designer's store is destined to fall. And it's incredible to know that it won't be on my shoulders.


  1. Never stay on a sinking ship, it's always more trouble than it's worth. I know it has to be tough over there on the east coast, but good luck finding a new job, Meghan!

  2. Jesus! What a story! Sounds like the Devil Wears Prada. I'm sorry to hear that happened to you, but I'm proud that you walked away. No one should be treated like that. I think you should write a book about your retail experiences...I have my own story to contribute.

  3. The only way to get someone to do something is to make them WANT to do it. Some people lose their best employees because they don't think before they talk. Make them WANT to do it and productivity will be sky high. Talk to them like they are dirt and that is how they will feel and they will perform as such.

  4. I have never understood why a lot of employers think they can treat their employees like garbage and still run a successful business. Good for you for standing up for yourself, so many people I know, girls especially, just take it because they're afraid of losing their job.

  5. Regarding the comment Chanief said, never understanding how employers think they can treat there employees like garbage and still run a successful business. I worked at Les Schwabs for a year and a half and I got treated like crap! And same with all my guy friends and my husband too. I can understand how angry you were. Good job for standing up for yourself. More of us in this world need to stick up for ourselves.