Excellence in Action
Carrie Hammer ’07
Interviewed by Stephen Mendoza • May 30, 2017
Describe your career path from UCLA to your current role?
I started my career as an advertising sales executive. While I was working in advertising, I couldn’t find anything beautiful or feminine that fit. So I started my clothing line, CARRIE HAMMER, in 2012 because I was frustrated by the options available to me as a professional woman. Since then, my clothing line and company have had three viral fashion shows at New York Fashion Week on a bootstrap budget and with no PR Agency. I decided to have role models, not runway models for the fashion shows. We had CEOs, executives, really high level women, and philanthropists as our models. We weren’t just doing another clothing line or another show at New York Fashion week, we had started a movement, and I call it the runway revolution.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
Growing up I always felt left out. I never felt like I fit the mold and this always left me devastated. My middle school kept issues of every fashion magazine so I loved running to the library every day after school to read them. I loved flipping through the glossy pages but after a while, I noticed that I didn’t look like those girls. Not all women are represented in those magazines and only 4% of women self-identify as beautiful. A woman not feeling beautiful has huge and dangerous echoing effects on our society. The runway revolution is showing women that you don’t have to be one size, one shape, one color, or have one ability to be beautiful. Beauty is in everything. It’s in every single women. So I will continue to provide positive role models for women everywhere and I encourage other fashion brands and companies to do the same.
How has your UCLA experience helped shape your success?
UCLA, and I think college in general, is the most important part of your life. Certainly, it was one of the most important parts of my life. It was a very formative experience, it was where I met some of my best friends, where I learned some of my most important life lessons, and it’s where I stumbled upon some of my most important interests. During my first quarter at UCLA, a lot of the electives I was interested in filled up really quickly, which many students can relate to. One of the first electives that I was interested in and was also still open, was Women’s Studies 10. I read the course description and I thought it sounded cool. I had never really heard of women’s studies, but I still fell in love with that class. So much of my platform for my fashion line and life have really been formed by taking that first class, and then pursuing a double major in Sociology and Economics with an emphasis in women’s studies.
Why did you choose to pursue a degree in Sociology and Economics at UCLA?
I took Womens Students 10, and I fell in love with it. Women Studies isn’t a major, it’s a minor, and I had found out that if I just took five other classes, I could complete the major in Sociology. After taking the first women’s studies class, I called my parents and I told them, “Mom, dad, I figured out what I want to major in – sociology.” I heard crickets on the other line before they responded, “Well, why don’t you look into something that would have more practical applications in the real world, like economics.” I was open-minded, and it was freshman year, so I decided to take an economics class the following quarter. I took Economics 101 at 8 a.m., and I fell in love with that too. I always loved math, and I loved understanding the practical applications of economics in the real world. I really became interested in what they now call, “behavioral economics” and so I started looking into that more, and ultimately became a double major. It has really informed my life in such a rich way, and in a way that I could have never imagined back then, so I am really glad that I followed my intuition and my interest.
What was your favorite course at UCLA, and why?
My most memorable class was “History of the American Motion Picture.” Every Friday, we would watch a different historical movie, talk about it, and write a paper on it. That was so interesting because it wasn’t something that I would dive into for the rest of my life, but it was something that taught me more about every movie that I had ever seen. I really encourage students to take classes that might not go towards their major in any real or strategic way. In fact, most of my favorite classes were seemingly the random ones, but they all have a way of tying back in. UCLA is really good at that.
How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?
The UCLA community is getting pretty strong in New York, which is great. When I first moved here, UCLA had more of a football, basketball viewing community, but not really an events community outside of that. But now, we have Dinner for 12 Strangers, and I have personally hosted two in New York. The first time around, I had 80 people sign up for 12 spots, and I believe it was something similar the second time I hosted it. The first time I hosted it, it was pouring rain, and it was one of those days where it wasn’t forecasted to be that rainy, so no one had an umbrella. Initially, I thought that the 12 invitees wouldn’t show up. It had a small apartment in Manhattan, and so it was a stretch for me to even host 12 people, and yet, every single person showed up and they were all drenched. When they first walked in, I handed everyone a towel, and this immediately bonded us all. It was one of the most lovely, fun, and memorable dinners of my life. So, I do for the UCLA community what I can from afar.
What advice would you give to UCLA students and UCLA Alumni interested in your industry?
UCLA does not have a fashion program, so I feel as though eventually, I would want to do something about that. For those interested in fashion, I would recommend that they participate in fashion clubs, take online courses for fashion, and maybe even pursue fashion schools in Los Angeles. Try to start getting ahead of it while you still can, and even look into internships. There are a lot of great industry, manufacturing and LA-based fashion brands. So for students, get involved while you are still in school, and start looking into some of these programs.
For alumni who aren’t in the field and want to get into it, I can relate. I went back to fashion school because for a time, I was unsure if I wanted to get into fashion. I eventually went back for a summer program at Parsons in Paris. For me, that was really great because I did not want to do a full two-year program and come out of it questioning whether I wanted to do fashion or not. For me, taking a break and understanding that I really did want to pursue this, and understanding more about the fashion industry was a really excellent way for me to approach it. But there are also extraordinary online programs, so depending on what your budget is, or if you need a break from your current industry and want a switch, I would recommend those two paths.
How have you utilized the UCLA Alumni network to help advance your own or other’s careers?
Being a part of my sorority has been an extraordinary network that I have utilized. One of my mentors was a Theta, and that was something that bonded us. I have been featured on the Theta magazine and I have been involved in the Theta national, which has been really helpful. I have also helped two Thetas get jobs in New York, who weren’t even UCLA Thetas, they were Thetas from other chapters. Being a part of Greek Life at UCLA was really important and helpful for me, both professionally and personally.
What makes you proudest to be a Bruin?
It’s so funny. I remember my career counselor in high school asking me to give her my top three picks for schools. I listed my preferences by saying, “UCLA, UCLA and UCLA.” She said, “No, no, no. You have to list three different schools; you can’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I think at the time, I was a sophomore in high school, but I was so convinced that I wanted to go to UCLA. Even back then, UCLA was not easy to get into, but my counselor was set on doing all that she could to help me. Getting into UCLA was always a dream of mine, and so this all has been a dream come true, and it was everything I wanted it to be. It’s where I met my closest friends and it truly is a community. Especially now that I am on the East Coast, people always ask me what it was like to go to UCLA. I always respond, “Think of the quintessential perfect college experience, and that was it.” It has the sports, all-star teams, Greek Life, Westwood, movie premiers and so much more. It had everything I wanted and had dreamed of, and thought I wanted, and then it delivered.
I created this campaign through my fashion line called “Role Models, Not Runway Models”, and everything I do through that is to help change the global definition of beauty and show women all over the world that it’s not what you look like, it’s who you are. I sometimes joke that I want to be the Chief Marketing Officer for women, and redefine what it means to be beautiful and how women are perceived and shown in fashion, media and advertising. The way we see women is the way we treat women, and until we change that, nothing is going to change. So what you can expect from me is changing the way we see women in all these forms.
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