As I write this its 3:00 A.M, I’m a bit of an insomniac and when I think of something I need to do I usually like to start right away. So here I am writing. Fashion week is upon NYC and I just started thinking of all the inconsistency’s people think the industry is like and some things that are true. If you are thinking of going into fashion or a similar industry here are some tips and just overall knowledge that I’ve gained.
First and foremost I’m writing this to help people who have a SERIOUS passion and attitude about getting into the fashion industry. If you don’t have a serious passion for the fashion industry, do yourself and your parents wallets a favor and figure that out soon. Figuring that out in the middle of college and having to switch or pay extra for changing your mind when you realize its not what you thought it would be, will be frustrating. Here are some of my tips!
On College Education
Do you really need it to get into fashion? Well YES! For the most part, unless you have a great connection that can get you in without a formal education, or your self-taught with a great portfolio you will need that degree. On every single application you will be asked if you have the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or some type of certification. Does that prepare you? Well yes and no. You’ll know the basics of how the industry or parts of the industry works. And knowing basic textiles, proper names, how the chain of production to final sale is done and more will help you.
The real learning begins when you start working, not only will you learn how a garment is created but you will learn how each company you work with differs. You’ll also learn how to deal with a fast paced environment and multiple personalities, something you can’t learn in school. There are so many parts in the chain of getting a garment made and sold, you’ll be surprised how many different jobs there are. Learn how they are all done!
So now you’ve figured out that you really want to continue your education in fashion. Perhaps you’re in your senior year, like it usually works and you need an internship. How do you get one? My very first advice is DON’T wait until you are in your senior year to start looking for internships. Many companies do require that you receive college credit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wait for senior year. There are smaller companies that may just really need the help. It could be a designer that needs help color coding lab dips or a public relations agency that needs help keeping contacts in order.
Start looking when you feel you can balance an internship and your everyday tasks! This will also ensure you have more experience than your competition. Do your own hunting and have your career services helping you as well! You can also intern during your career as well, you just have to do a lot of hunting.
On it being catty/mean/tough difficult… whatever you’ve heard or think you’ve seen on Project Runway etc
Well yes and no! Most of my career I’ve been able to work with absolutely wonderful people. People who have helped me, trained me and retrained me when I felt confused. People who have absolutely no problem helping 101 times. Who are not catty and keep the office space light, enjoyable and a great space to work in. Those are the people I remember, because honestly most of the people I have worked with in every company have been great. There will be days when the stress of a deadline will be felt and seen in an office, and sometimes there will just be extended periods of that.
It is a high paced stressful industry, your job is to learn how to deal with that and more while remaining level-headed. A level head and get it done attitude will get you through those high stress days. If people in your office are being catty on a daily basis well that is up to you on what to do. Do you look for a new job or can you stick through and perhaps prove yourself a valuable asset? That is completely up to you, you know yourself best. I don’t recommend being in an environment where the people are stressing you out on top of working in a stressful industry.
I do believe that if you are thin-skinned or don’t learn how to grow a thick skin you will get discouraged and not survive the industry. I always recommend finding something that you’re either learning something or enjoying. Money? I know this may seem dumb but don’t do it for the money. This is advice I’ve been given and its true, being stressed or sad, or angry or in a job where you feel you’re stuck is NOT worth it. The industry will continue to be hectic and you’ll be angry. Remember: Am I gaining experience? Am I learning? Do I like it? And lastly is it paying me enough? If you can’t answer at least one of those questions start looking elsewhere.
On the industry being full of lazy people
This is a stigma I feel sometimes is given by reality tv and just a general confusion by the public on what actually goes into the fashion industry. I’ll say this, LAZY PEOPLE ONLY MAKE IT SO FAR IN THIS INDUSTRY. I have not worked with many lazy people! For the most part people know what they have to do and they get on with their work. I’ve only ever experienced a lazy coworker in internships of my past. And that was usually a person who really didn’t realize how much work goes into fashion and no longer wants to be there.
There is always work to do, if you’re done with something ask : What can I do? Trust me your coworkers or boss will find something for you to do. And if you have absolutely nothing to do, your work ethic and helpful attitude won’t go unnoticed. And the lazy attitude, won’t go unnoticed either.
How do I attend fashion week? I always get this question. For the most part you have to work in the fashion or media realm to attend or get invited. There are shows that sell tickets to the public, if your interested in that Google it! I won’t guarantee first or second row seats, most of the time those are reserved for invited editors, bloggers experienced in covering shows, buyers, press and celebrities. It is a busy week where your schedule can change hourly or daily. You can think your only going to two shows and then get three invites that same day. If you are looking to volunteer, for the most part designers and public relations companies are looking for college students.
In my college days I volunteered for a trade publication and walked around Lincoln Square. I also volunteered for a public relations company and saw a bit of what its like in the back of the house before a show. At first you should try smaller shows like Couture Fashion Week, that’s how I started volunteering. In the past fashion week was strictly for people who worked in fashion and some of the media. Over the years its become a bit of a ruckus with famous people and the crowds they attract. Although NYFW is not the same as it was years ago, I think that it like most things in the fashion industry, will change again.
On unconventional office spaces
A few things differed when I went from regular jobs to fashion corporate and creative fashion jobs. Wardrobe depends on each company, but I can honestly say that 99% of the companies I’ve worked for have allowed me to wear what I wanted. Jeans everyday? Yup done that! High heels every day, done that as well. Showed off the latest trend or watched it be showed off fabulously, absolutely. Colorful hair? Yes seen that too! I think being able to do this does a few things, it allows you to express yourself but it also allows you to be as relaxed as possible in a high stress environment. And after all, it is the fashion industry, so show off your style! It all depends on every company and what your boss says is acceptable. You can also get an idea of what’s acceptable by what your co-workers are wearing and what they suggest.
Pets in the office is something you might see. I worked many jobs where someone brings their dog into the office and no one is bothered. They just want to get work done and for the most part gush over your fluffy puppy. Knowing your boss, coworkers and overall office environment will tell you what dress code and pet code they have.
Music is played a lot by people as they work. This is not surprising to me as music has been proven to help people get their work done. For the most part it’s not unusual to see your co-workers with ear buds in as they type away at their computer. As long as you’re getting your work done, it’s normally not an issue. Again go off what your office environment is, what coworkers suggest and what your boss is ok with. I’ve worked many jobs where I’ve been able to pop in my headphones in and work away. There are even companies that play music in the office space, I’ve worked through that too. A lot of office spaces have a relaxed vibe, which can make your work day enjoyable.
On Making Money
For the most part you won’t see large sums money until your well into your career. As you try to figure out where your supposed to be in the industry this will mean taking jobs and internships just to get more experience and opportunities. Don’t go into this industry for the money, fame, or anything else other than a real passion for fashion. The careers that make money from what I’ve learned and heard of are, Buying (but you have to be good at math, please don’t say I want to be a buyer and hate math!), Merchandising, Marketing, Sales and Production.
The more creative parts of the industry like Styling, Designing, Editing etc. can take a while until you are making good money. There is always a period in your career in which you will have to do different jobs or internships to get to a point in which you are making MONEY. And that period may be long! There are other career choices that I haven’t listed that can potentially make you a lot of money. Just make sure to do your research to figure out where you want your career to go. Or like me figure it out as you get more experience with each job and figure out how to create your own opportunities.
- This must be a passion for you
- You can’t be lazy
- Don’t do it for the money or the fame you think will come
- Be realistic
- Do your homework, it never ends
- Have a thick skin or learn to grow one quick
- Get educated because no matter how many times the industry changes, you’ll have your degree and experience to help you
Those are all the pearls of wisdom I have so far. Hopefully that helped you if you are thinking of going into the fashion industry. If you know someone who is thinking of entering the fashion industry, please share this with them! I always tell people how it really is in this industry when they ask. This is just what I’ve learned since I was 18, I’m sure I’ll learn more as I get older and gain even more experience. When I’m ready perhaps I’ll share that as well.
P.S. Just because you see a celebrity or blogger work with a brand, doesn’t mean they now work in fashion. There is a whole team of production, sales, marketing etc that make that line or product possible. Just like in school or college group projects, putting a person’s name on something doesn’t always mean they actually did the work. I always admire when a celebrity can actually talk about how a product was created and executed. That is how you can tell if they simply put their name on it or not.