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South in the City
by Cody Moore, photography by Courtney Kiersznowski

New York Fashion Week might be over, but for Jonesboro native Windom Paul, big city style is a new, everyday reality as she pursues a career in the fashion industry in NYC.

Paul, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Arkansas, earned her bachelor’s degree in art history and minored in journalism, with an emphasis in public relations. After graduating in 2017, she immediately began her search for jobs and came across an open position in Memphis at Free People; she quickly applied for a job with the American bohemian retail company.

“On a Tuesday night, I was sitting in my favorite Fayetteville coffee shop searching the web for jobs and decided to see what Free People positions were available in NYC,” said Paul. “Lo and behold, one of the positions I had already applied for (in Memphis) was open in the new SoHo store in New York, so I applied.”

Just days later, Paul was contacted by the Free People store in New York for an interview. Without hesitation, Paul took a chance and flew to New York City to meet with the company. Within four weeks, Paul had applied, interviewed and accepted the job and had a one-way ticket to the big city. She arrived in New York in May 2017 and has yet to look back.

“When a door opened to make the move to NYC, I didn’t even think twice,” said Paul. “New York has always been a dream of mine. I knew I could be happy in any city, but I knew that it was now or never for NYC, so here we are.”

After working the retail position at Free People for six months, Paul decided that it was time to take the next step in her career. Because she had worked several retail positions since age 16, Paul had a craving to showcase her creative abilities and began applying for other jobs that would allow her to do so.

“I probably applied for close to 100 jobs on the internet,” said Paul. “However, I landed a job at Charles David Shoes because one of my sorority sisters from Fayetteville, Sophia, was backpacking in Peru and met one of the designers for the line. The designer told Sophia that she was looking for help in her New York City showroom. Sophia connected me to the designer, and the rest is history. Totally a God thing.”

Paul currently works as an account manager at Charles David Shoes, where she handles all the independent accounts from Maine to Mississippi. Though she is based in New York City, she still gets the opportunity to travel with the shoe company. Her current venture allows her to make connections with people from all over the United States, something she felt more than prepared for after her years of work in Arkansas boutiques.

“My time working at Steamroller Blues and Savoir Faire instilled in me a sense of customer service that is rare to find in New York City,” she said. “While working for both stores, I knew almost every person who walked through the door, and if I didn’t, I’d get to know them. This personal connection with clients is something that I’ve made a priority while working in the city.”

Paul also credits her family and Jonesboro for the strength she had when making the bold decision to move so far from home.

“I wouldn’t trade my experience of growing up in Jonesboro for anything in the world,” she said. “My time in Jonesboro taught me so many lessons and prepared me not only for this move, but for adult life in general. I’m so thankful to come from a big family and for a childhood where I was constantly surrounded by my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Having such a strong support system in Jonesboro gave me the boost I needed to chase my dreams.”

What does an average workday look like at Charles David Shoes?
Every day is different – which I love – but every day I’m definitely sending and receiving a billion emails, chatting with independent boutiques in my territory, working with bloggers and celebrities for shoe endorsements and searching the streets and the web for the latest inspirations.

What is your favorite part about working in NYC’s fashion industry?
I love working in NYC’s fashion industry because the fashion doesn’t stop when I leave my office. The heart of New York City beats with fashion. I’m constantly in awe and inspired by people on the streets every single day.

When did you discover your love of fashion?
For as long as I can remember, my mother, Cindy Paul, let me dress myself and take creative liberties with my fashion choices. My love for fashion and using clothes as a vehicle for self-expression started at a very early age.

What is the source of your inspiration when it comes to fashion?
I often joke that everything I know I learned from Jesus, James Taylor and my mother, but there’s actually a lot of truth in that. My mother has always been my biggest inspiration in all aspects of life, especially fashion.

Which designers are your biggest muses?
Rebecca Minkoff, Elie Saab, Marchesa, Stacey Bendet of Alice + Olivia and Zimmerman.

What do you predict the biggest trends for fall will be?
In the industry – Plaid, jewel tones, winter white, snakeskin, old man tennis shoes, bucket hats, floral prints, neon accessories and itty-bitty purses.

For me – Blazers, cropped jeans, strappy heels, leopard print, retro plaid prints, satin, bell bottoms, berry lips and ruffles.

What’s your dream fashion project?
My dream fashion project is to work as the creative director for a global magazine. Vogue would be the dreamiest of them all.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given while living in NYC?
God doesn’t take away gold and give you silver.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in fashion?
1. Go for it. There’s no better time than today to start chasing a dream.

2. Stay true to yourself. There isn’t a job, city, paycheck or amount of fame that’s worth compromising who you are and what you believe.

3. You are magic – complete, beautiful, crazy, unique magic. Don’t forget that.

Do you see yourself working in fashion in five years?
I would love to still be working in the fashion world at that point. I’m not sure if New York is a temporary or semi-permanent thing, but I hope that the rest of my working life is spent navigating between the fashion and art worlds. All I know is that I never want to stop learning, never want to stop creating and never want to stop having fun.

To keep up with Paul and her New York City adventures, follow her on Instagram @windomgpaul.