Women of Mizzou: 20 years in fashion industry helps Amy Parris in College of Engineering

Amy Parris, the the senior strategic communications consultant at the College of Engineering, uses her skills from the fashion industry to convert in her daily life while balancing her family life.

People often find themselves coming back to MU after graduating and choose to raise their families in Columbia. Amy Parris, the senior strategic communications consultant at the College of Engineering, is one of those people. Parris did not graduate with a career in communications in mind but chose to initially go into the daunting world of fashion.

After Parris left Columbia as an MU graduate, she started her first job abroad in Paris, working at Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Cosmo for about six months. After getting critical experience from her job in Paris, Parris decided to interview for jobs in New York City. Once she arrived, Parris was offered an assistant editor position at Vogue, which paid $22,000 a year. Unfortunately, the salary of this job was not realistic for a New York lifestyle, and Parris made the decision to move again.

“I decided to go to LA, and I worked briefly at Nylon Magazine which, when it was first starting, Helena Christensen worked there at the time, who is one of the top models of all time,” Parris said. “I was getting to do a lot of really cool things and meet a lot of cool people.”

Despite working various jobs, Parris loved her life in Los Angeles and was never able to figure out what to do next for her career. She knew that fashion was the way to go, but she wanted to use her career in international studies and textile and apparel management more.

Parris found a job at Guess Jeans as an international brand coordinator where she was able to use her majors from MU. However, Parris realized that corporate employment was not the area she wanted to spend her time in and went a more unconventional route with her next career choice.

“So I started my own clothing line and I was interviewed by Style.com,” Parris said. “California Apparel News had one of my shows in it; it showed at Fashion Week. LA Fashion Week [had my clothes for] three seasons, I want to say, and sold at maybe 15 or 16 stores. I was almost on Project Runway.”

Parris was on top of her career and had successfully worked in a variety of fashion occupations. When Parris and her husband decided to start a family in California, she was again on the hunt for a better job that could allow her to combine a home life and career.

“When I had my son, I started to publish a food and fashion magazine, because I really thought ‘what are my passions in life?’” Parris said. “I love to cook, I’ve been published before for writing recipes and also just had this passion for fashion.”

Parris went on to produce her food and fashion magazine, Sushi á la Mode, in Newport Beach, California until the recession hit and her family decided to move back to Columbia. Parris settled in a marketing job because of her fashion background and was able to use her knowledge of branding, color and lines. Parris then chose to work as an assistant professor of fashion at Stephens College for a couple of years where she helped create their student-run fashion magazine, Stephen’s Life, and was the faculty advisor and coordinator.

After living in Columbia for many years, Parris determined that it was time for her to work at MU, a place she had always seen herself working for.

“I wanted to work at the university because I just love the university, and I always knew I would end up here,” Parris said. “So when the College of Engineering position came up, I felt like I could really kind of add my expertise in that visual communications role.”

Parris noticed the difference in the way she was treated as an employee at MU compared to her work in the fashion industry. Like a lot of jobs, the fashion industry was controlled mainly by men.

“The fashion industry, when I was in it, was more dominated by men, so there was a ceiling you needed to break in order to reach where you needed to get to,” Parris said. “There are struggles being a young woman in fashion. It was hard to break through as a woman, it definitely has come a long way. Fashion nowadays, there’s a lot more women dominating fashion than there used to be, in large, big roles.”

Parris was thankful for the transition she made in her careers and knew that she chose the right role in the College of Engineering, not only as a woman but also as a mother.

“Mizzou is a very positive example of equal pay, equal experiences, equal opportunity,” Parris said. “I work with a lot of women, and we have a woman who’s a dean of the College of Engineering, who’s extremely inspiring. I think of all the places to work, I work for one of the best women on campus.”

Figuring out the balance between working and being a mother is one of the hardest struggles for women in America, Parris said. However, Parris was able to use her wide variety of skills and experiences to take on the role of a professional and a mother.

“I think a lot of people like to talk about how you can be a woman and you can have a great career and you can have kids and [a] family,” Parris said. “And it is a struggle, I think, there’s balance and I think sometimes you do have to give up. You have to figure out timing. [It’s] a constant struggle for women, and it always will be.”

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

More Stories