If you lived your mid to late teens in the 2000s, chances are that you saw The Devil Wears Prada during its initial release, and chances are that your first impressions of the fashion industry were based on it. That, or Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model. Is it considered a sin to still be watching those?
While Devil has been a source of entertainment on many a sleepless night, it probably isn’t the best reference for fashion industry hopefuls. Don’t get us started on how unprepared that self-pitying Andy Sachs was at her Runway interview. You do not turn up for an interview at a magazine, tell your potential boss how you are basically wrong for the job and still hope to get it anyway. No, just no.
The new school term is officially underway, but it is never too early to start looking for internships/jobs. If working in the fashion industry is something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but you haven’t got the slightest clue on how or where to begin, start here. We’re the Aunt Agony you never knew you had!
1. Decide What Job You Want
The fashion industry is huge with many different components to it. Which do you want to be a part of? Marketing, publishing, merchandising, design etc.? If you’re not sure – and it is absolutely fine to not be when you’re just starting out – get an idea of how each sub-industry works by talking to the right people. Still unsure? Just pick one and try it out – you never know where it’ll lead you. If you don’t have the qualifications required by the job/internship, plan early and start small. Then, begin building up from there. You’d be surprised that a lot of people in the fashion industry don’t hold fashion school degrees – but they’ve got experience from interning at different places to back them up.
2. Start Early
It is pretty duh, but we cannot stress this enough. Experience is one of the big things that employers in the fashion industry look at, and it is the same for many other industries as well. When it comes to screening candidates, those with experience – even if it is something as small as writing for a campus or online magazine, for example – are typically prioritised over the rest. All those long breaks in-between school semesters? Spend it on internships. If you can start in your late teens, even better. Fashion internships are usually three-month long stints, which is the length of the summer break in local universities. Coincidence? We think not. That European holiday and road trip down the Californian coast can wait until after you’ve thrown that graduation cap in the air.
3. Get Acquainted
Knowing someone in the industry or someone who knows someone in the industry helps. Because the process of advertising a job opening is a little troublesome, employers tend to ask people they know for recommendations first. We’ve done that ourselves. It’s just easier and quicker.
4. Build A Portfolio
You’re really doing yourself a big favour when you have a portfolio. Yes, it is troublesome to make one, but it helps. A lot. Like the experience bit, résumés that come with portfolios are prioritised, because the applicants in question have something to show even before the interview. Remember – the employer has his/her own job to do, and he/she wants help to come in ASAP.
Applying for your first internship/job in the industry and don’t have anything to put into the portfolio? Make something good to put in there. It shows that you put in specific effort for that job application and it will not go unnoticed. Do not send in irrelevant essays and project reports that you wrote in school. We know of an editor who received a 20-page essay – content page, appendix and all – from an editorial intern hopeful. You can guess how that went.
5. Put Yourself Out There
This sounds obvious, but there’s a reason why people say it so much. Sometimes, employers don’t have the time to advertise a job vacancy and your application email could be the answer to their woes. If you feel ballsy enough, make a trip down to the office of the job you want and drop your résumé off at the reception desk. The process becomes so much more immediate. If you’re even ballsier than that, introduce yourself to someone who works in the industry when you get the chance. We know of someone who scored an internship at a top luxury brand by doing this.
6. Mind Your Instagram
Oh, social media, the two-edged sword. We don’t know how it is for other industries, but when it comes to fashion, it is likely that some social media snooping will happen after you hit “Send” on that application email. (Instagram is part of our work, so we’re on it a lot.) Social media can help you, and it can do the complete opposite. Be wise about it. If you’re into the visual aspect of the industry, say styling or photography, using your Instagram as a visual résumé can help with your application.
7. Be Prepared To Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
The common misconception about working in the fashion industry is that it is hella’ fun. Yes, we do have fun and fashion itself is fun, but we also work hard. If you’re in the magazine business, days will be spent at events and shoots, nights will be spent working on stories. When you’re done with them, work for the next issue begins faster than you can say “Prada“. If you’re in the marketing or public relations business, events that go late into the night are the norm. All that is on top of the work you have to do at the desk. Every industry comes with its own brand of stress and fashion is no different.
Also, if you’re new, be prepared to work from the bottom up. It is how you learn the various aspects of the sub-industry you’re in. Picking up bags and bags of clothing samples, steaming said samples, buckling shoe straps on models – it is all part of the gig.
Original Photo: The Devil Wears Prada/20th Century Fox