Students with designs on a business career heard from renowned footwear designer and Canterbury graduate Heather Williams ’97 during a presentation for the Canterbury Business Association, Women of Canterbury, and other members of our hilltop community.
Speaking virtually, Heather urged students who want to break into fashion to begin networking as soon as possible. “I started with internships and working at entry-level jobs. A lot of it was being professional and maintaining your reputation as someone people like to work with,” she shared. “Internships are important. Reach out to companies you are interested in—a lot of them are happy to have interns. It can get your foot in the door, and if you work well with someone, they’ll be willing to give you an introduction later on.”
Heather has had her foot in the door of the fashion world for more than two decades. She began her career in New York City after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 2001. Following several years working for large American fashion houses—including senior design roles with Calvin Klein and Donna Karan—she moved to Milan, Italy, and became inspired to launch her first solo venture, H Williams. All that experience led to her current role as a sought-after footwear consultant for numerous leading fashion companies and coverage in publications such as In Style, Vogue, Marie Claire, L’Officiel, Harper’s Bazaar, and Oprah Magazine.
“Working at different companies helps you grow. Each place I go, I learn something. I get better because I have to stretch my design aesthetic to suit what they need,” Heather told the students. “Before I even start drawing, I do a deep dive into the industry. I go to shops, travel, look at what other brands are doing, consider pricing, the economy, even what kinds of pants women are wearing. For a shoe to sell, it has to fit a lifestyle.”
That creative design aesthetic was something Heather started cultivating when she was on the hilltop. “I chose art coming out of Canterbury because it was what I was best at. I felt I had a natural talent, and it made me happy,” she recalled. “Canterbury for me was great because it was small. I was still figuring out who I was, and it gave me a chance to focus. In the AP Art class, I got to try all these different mediums. And for my career, one of the biggest benefits was being exposed to so many international students.”
Heather’s advice about pursuing a creative career—“Don’t be afraid to do it!”’—really resonated with aspiring fashion professional Abigail “Abby” Mitchell ’22. “The fashion and art industry in general can be scary to enter because it is small and competitive,” she said. “But Heather inspired me to go into business and fashion because she proved you can do it if you have the passion and are willing to work hard. You may fail at times, but perseverance is the key to excel.”
As an inspiration and role model for our current Saints, Heather Williams ’97 is the perfect fit!