Birkin or Beckham or Both?... Mariah Carey's Designs...

Victoria Beckham denies saying her handbags are the new Birkin.

FASHION’S MASTER CLASS: The topic at hand at the MAC & Milk Panel Wednesday was “How to Start a Business in Fashion,” but the subtext might have been all about taking one to the next level. Lesson number one: Play it cool when you’re speaking on a panel with someone who might write a big check to acquire at least a large part of your baby.

Shirley Cook, chief executive officer of Proenza Schouler, who together with designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez owns 55 percent of the company, with private equity firm Permira holding the balance, talked about the early days, when the odds were stacked against the brand and profit margins were “so small.” “Our friend’s father said to us, ‘Make your mistakes with other people’s money,’” she said.

Just the other side of the panel from Ed Filipowski of KCD, Zanna Roberts Rassi of Marie Claire and Darcy Penick of Shopbop sat Andrew Rosen, president and founder of Theory, who is said to be inching closer to doing a deal with Proenza Schouler, perhaps even buying the brand.

There was no mention of any wheeling and dealing, but Rosen did stress the importance of working at more established businesses before venturing out on one’s own. He also said work should be more than, well, work. “The company has to have a culture,” he said. “It has to have a soul. People have to want to come to work everyday.”

And maybe that’s because fashion can be such a slog, especially when collections are under way.

“You have to love it like there’s no tomorrow because it’s lots and lots of work,” said designer Peter Som, who noted designing was just a small part of the job. “One thing you really need to know going into the business is the business. Humility goes a long way.”

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