Transition Tuesday: Apparel Designer to Photographer

AHHHHH! Tracey Mammolito is one of my all-time favorite people. She and I met twenty years ago when we were starting out in our fashion careers — she a “junior designer” and I a “junior merchandiser” at the behemoth at the time, Liz Claiborne, Inc.  We worked on the same brands, Lizsport and Lizgolf which meant we were in every meeting together, working together on samples, velcro paper dolls and prepping for finalization meetings. We quickly became great friends and spent almost every lunch huddled in a conference room discussing the day’s craziness. I SWEAR we coined the term, “Work smarter, not harder”. 

Tracey, our friend and co-worker LL and me at the Liz Claiborne Inc Holiday Party at the 1441 Showroom. Circa 2003. Photo courtesy of Tracey Mammolito.

We became friends not just in the conference room but in the dark room and the workout room, too. We took a photography class together as a hobby (you’ll see how this provided the seed for her new career) and she was also my first spin class instructor, back when it was just called “spin class”.  Tracey is a hustler (in the friendliest of ways) which helps her in her new career, and always has something creative brewing up her sleeve. Get inspired by Tracey’s Transition Tuesday story:

Transition Tuesday: Apparel Designer to Photographer

Tracey with none other than Darryl DMC McDaniel of RUN DMC.  Courtesy of @tracey_mammolito Instagram

What was your previous career / title? Apparel Designer & Merchandiser (escalating roles up to Sr Product Manager and Design Director).

What did your day-to-day look like in your previous career? As a designer and merchandiser, my days were spent either designing or managing an entire product line of apparel (including 250 items a year) and managing a staff. Plus meetings. Traveling. Presentations. Meetings. Putting out fires. Meetings. Making decisions. Meetings. Paperwork. Meetings.

What is your career / title now? Now, I’m a freelance photographer and fitness instructor.

What does your day-to-day look like now? My days are never the same. Some hours I’m shooting; some hours i’m scouting and brainstorming; some hours I’m editing images; some hours I’m self-marketing and some hours I’m networking and applying to gigs. Oh, and some hours I’m teaching fitness classes!!

Why did you want to make the change? Photography was something I had wanted to do as a career for over 15 years [Editor’s note: I took photography classes with her over 15 years ago as a side hobby], but was too afraid to take the leap. Since I have degrees in apparel design, I thought that’s what I was “supposed” to do as a career. Plus, I fully support myself, so money and affordability was always a deterrent. But after pounding at that career for 20 years, I said to myself, “What could I see myself still doing for the NEXT 20 years?” I’ve always figured out my money situation on my own, so I’ll figure this one out too.
What were the steps you took to make this change? Many, many, many hours, weekends, days, nights, months, etc. taking classes, reading tutorials, practicing, practicing, contacting online support and help desks, building and rebuilding (and still rebuilding) my photography portfolio.

Oddly, I’m thankful that I was laid off from my last full-time job. . .

How did you afford the time and monetary cost? Oddly, I’m thankful that I was laid off from my last full-time job because it provided me with some unemployment funds as well as qualified me for low-income health insurance so that I only had to use a portion of my savings to pay bills.
What was the impact on, support of, pushback from family and friends? Describe your experiences. And if you had pushback, how did you overcome them? I mostly have had support (cheering on) from others.

Any highlights and/or regrets to share?
REGRET: that I didn’t start this earlier only because of the technical training or skill. But I’ve had soooo many amazing experiences, travels and friends in my last career that I wouldn’t trade.
HIGHLIGHT: Last year’s trip to Bali where I discovered that I could take on this new career and apply it anywhere [just me and a backpack]because I would walk up to total strangers and ask to trade services. For example I would take their photos in exchange for yoga classes, surf lessons, biking, hotel stays etc.

What is your affordable luxury indulgence when you have alone time? Hmmm…probably either swimming or other exercise while tuning out to music. It sounds so basic, but as a fitness instructor I’m constantly “On” and it’s my job to motivate my clients, correct/focus on their form, ensure music, room conditions and equipment are all perfect and sometimes be their “therapist”. So it’s actually a luxury to just put headphones on and play: no competition, no one else staring at or judging me, no one expecting me to pick them up —> just me & the music.

Head on over to  Tracey’s photography website and follow her @tracey_mammolito on Instagram.

Read the other Transtion Tuesday posts and get inspired by career transitions from Laura, Lisa, Chassidy and me!

This post is not sponsored in any way. All opinions expressed are mine. Unless otherwise noted.