In 2008, Marquis Bias was a University of South Carolina student studying fashion merchandising with a dream to live in the Big Apple and be a stylist for the stars. With determination and a strong passion for style, he founded USC Fashion Week to give his classmates and himself a way to create a runway experience on campus.
Now working in New York City as a freelance stylist and stylist for the Miss Universe Organization, Bias returned to Columbia this year to serve as a guest judge and host for the 11th annual USC Fashion Week.
“It’s crazy coming back and seeing how something I started 11 years ago has grown. It’s really cool to see the students keeping it alive and thriving,” says Bias. While visiting campus, he took time to talk with students about careers in fashion and how hard work, humility and patience turned his dreams into reality.
After graduation, Bias went straight from Columbia to New York City. “New York just felt like home to me the first time I visited. I knew I had to get there, I just didn’t know how,” says Bias.
He landed internships at Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar Singapore/Malaysia and Nordstrom, and went on to build his experience at Coach (sales associate), America’s Got Talent (wardrobe assistant), Law Roach (assistant celebrity stylist), Joe Fresh (visual merchandising associate) and Interview Magazine (freelance fashion assistant). Throughout his career, his eye for style and tenacity for making magic happen has given him a clear purpose and reputation for success.
That's how you get started. You impress one person. The next thing you know you have a career.
—Marquis Bias, '08, Retailing
"My happiest moment is when my client looks at herself in the mirror and says 'I've never felt more beautiful.' That's better than a paycheck."
While he now dresses Broadway and television stars along with the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageant winners, the road to his career goal was not an easy one. His journey began with rejection that he turned into a mentorship opportunity. He sent in his resume in hopes of interning for legendary stylist June Ambrose. When an assistant replied to tell him they were not hiring, Bias began corresponding with the assistant, Becca.
After months of keeping in touch with in hopes of a job, his chance came. Becca invited Bias to New York to assist on a shoot for Harper’s Bazaar Singapore/Malaysia. It was an unpaid temporary job, but as she told him, "If you do a good job, I'll introduce you to everyone I know."
"That's how you get started. You impress one person. The next thing you know you have a career," Bias says. He also offers advice for networking which applies to any field.
"Treat people how you want to be treated,” he says. "You will probably have to send 30 emails to 30 different people to find three who will sit down and talk with you, but one of those three may give you an opportunity that changes your career."
Bias also says those getting started need to set ego aside.
"Humble yourself. Be willing to work hard for not a lot of money,” Bias says with a knowing smile. “If you want to make it in New York, you're just going to have to live with 12 roommates and eat ramen noodles."
Just one glance at Bias now, watching him stand at the head of the runway at USC Fashion Week’s 11th edition as a returning role model, makes it clear that he knows his stuff. He oozes style from hair to shoes. Still, he says he does not regret the tough times along the way.
"I would enjoy wearing my Louboutin's much less if I didn't have the days I wore my Nikes and ran around carrying garment bags."