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Solo Yonas, public relations student and assistant

It sure seems like working for Canada’s largest fashion luxury retailer has its perks.

This especially applies to Solo Yonas, who previously worked at Holt Renfrew’s Toronto flagship store when she was just 18 years old. This past fall, she transitioned from fashion to PR and became a public relations assistant for Canadian menswear designer Christopher Bates at the World MasterCard Fashion Week (WMCFW).

Retail to PR

Yonas is a third-year public relations student at Humber College. For a program that is very hands-on and encourages students to take on duties that will strengthen their skills for the future, this was a perfect career path for someone with a likable personality like hers.

Working at Holt Renfrew was beneficial because it allowed Yonas to gain strengths in many areas, including product knowledge, customer concern, and problem solving skills. On top of that, building a strong clientele quickly became second nature to her and strengthened both her business and people skills while on the job.

Yonas began to observe a few of the corporate employees in communications. After months of analyzing their roles, she built up the courage to ask about the responsibilities that a PR team had and if they could provide her with more information about their duties. Her curiosity suddenly turned into interest, and her interest turned into her passion; she immediately fell in love with public relations and knew it was what she wanted to pursue.

“Retail is a very rewarding career, which can result in very efficient days along with difficult ones,” she says. “Although I enjoy retail, I would prefer growing my career in public relations.”

Over the span of three years, she committed herself to volunteering and participating at several events in Toronto, including fashion exhibits at the Design Exchange and a volunteer role at the March 2014 WMCFW assisting with designer guest check-ins and seating set-ups.

The more volunteer experience she gained, the more success she had. “Over time, I dedicated myself long enough to network and received a chance to work front and centre for Christopher Bates. The rest was history.”

Succeeding in public relations

Under Christopher Bates, Yonas had more responsibilities: organizing guest lists for the runway show and the after party, creating a specific seating chart for the VIPs, buyers, and sponsors, as well as scheduling the media interviews for Christopher Bates after the show. In addition, she was in charge of all the social media accounts linked under his name. Being a public relations assistant for Christopher Bates inspired Yonas to always aim for excellence.

“I worked my way to becoming Christopher Bates' right-hand woman,” she says. “I take pride in my role and I am honoured to be apart of such a powerful team.”

Although she has since resigned from her position at Holt Renfrew, she credits her experience because it guided her to the right career path and helped her prepare for the WMCFW.

“Working at Holt Renfrew gave me the skills I needed to work well and be efficient [while] under pressure,” she says. “WMCFW is all about working under pressure. Everything from press releases, interviews, and seating charts are arranged and distributed quickly. There’s no such thing as slow-paced and there’s hardly any room for mistakes.”

Photo: moodboard/Thinkstock