There are many misconceptions that people have about working in the fashion industry. The representation of it in the media and the film industry can be very misleading. To be fair, if you haven’t had the experience of working/studying fashion how the hell are you supposed to know? So this post is for those of you who are curious about what it is really like to work in fashion, and for those of you who possibly want to work in fashion yourselves.
It’s Easy Work
Even right from the beginning when I started my fashion design degree my passion and future career was never taken seriously. “It’s just clothes” people would say. “Don’t you just draw all day?” “Fashion isn’t hard – it’s easy!” Well let me tell you it isn’t. And how are you supposed to know if I work hard or not Kevin? You are merely a random stranger in the smoking area of Hifi, and you study Law? This conversation was the absolute bane of my life at uni. How do you know if you don’t study it yourself and you haven’t seen me working my socks off? My time at university, especially final year was a fabulous time with lots of memories, but I also look back and feel my stomach churn. Not to put people off – it was amazing to study fashion at uni, but it was extremely challenging. In final year I hardly had a social life. I stayed in the 24 hour library all day every day (including weekends) I would get back to my lovely student house at 1am with my housemates and cook all of the meals and snacks we would have the next day and repeat. I had no time to do my washing so in the end I had a huge pile of clothes next to my already overflowing washing basket, and I was left in the end with nothing nice to wear (I know it’s so gross but I have to be honest here!) was it all worth it? Yes! Why did I do it? Because like any career path you have to work hard to be successful. This is something that really bugged me and still does now. It takes time, effort and precision to get designs right. Sometimes you might work all week on a piece for a buyer to tell you it no longer works with the collection. Or your tutor might tell you to start all over again. It is tough to manage your time when you have no idea how long something is going to take you to do. Some designs take 5 minutes and others can take days.
It’s Highly Competitive
There are many misconceptions about careers in fashion but the view that it is competitive is certainly right. Our university tutors knew this and pushed us extremely hard, to the brink of making some people (including myself) run down and poorly. Next time somebody tells you they work or study in fashion, don’t underestimate and undermine it – some of the girls on my course were the most intelligent and hard working people I have ever met. I left university last May and it took me until January to secure a permanent design role after months of applying to what felt like thousands of job applications. Don’t loose faith though – I was about to give up and the right opportunity came my way. I am now in a job that I absolutely love and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Even with a years experience and a hard earned 2:1+ degree some gals I graduated with have only just landed jobs over a year after graduating, and some are still looking. It’s crazy really – you don’t get that in many industries. With jobs being competitive in the industry it’s also normally the case, especially in London, that it’s really hard to progress wage wise. I once met someone working in fashion that couldn’t afford to eat when she lived in London so went on 5 tinder dates a week to get a free meal. I’m obviously not going to tell everyone to do this but it just outlines how ridiculous peoples situations can be working in fashion in London. I am very lucky with the fact that I work in manchester and I live comfortably at home whilst paying a small rent fee to my Mum, but most people don’t get that privilege.
The best advice I can give to anyone wanting it work in the industry is to do a year out doing internships if you can. It is the best thing I ever did. I came out of university with over a years worth of valuable experience and if I didn’t I know I’d have had to do a years worth of unpaid internships afterwards anyway. Doing this without student loans to support you can be really tough, especially as most of the good internships will be in London, and if you aren’t a student it’s the law that unpaid internships can only be one month long, so you’d be moving around a lot!
I can’t speak on behalf of the industry as a whole, but in the different places I have worked within the industry, I have never experienced the kind of bitchiness the movies show (devil wears Prada anyone?) everyone I have ever worked for has been perfectly lovely and I have always worked in a fun, tension free environment. A few of the girls on my course worked for top end designers and magazines, and I do believe that these kind of jobs are more clique-y and do get a bit bitchy. There are so many people working the smaller jobs and they just get overlooked and not seen as the important, valuable members of staff they are. Obviously this isn’t the case for all high end designers, but the full time jobs most people get when they graduate will be for retailers or suppliers anyway which will mostly be a bitch free zone. (Don’t hold me accountable if you get a bitchy boss lol)
You Get Loads Of Free Stuff
True/not true. It depends where you work. If you work for a big designer you will obviously not get handed a couture gown before you leave, I mean you might, but it’s highly unlikely. It also depends on your position, if you are a buyer/designer and work with the beginning products, it is likely (but dependent on where you work) that when a product gets dropped they will be free to take. And it’s the same with the samples that do get chosen, there might be a sample sale or they might just be free to take (what a treat) I’ve never worked on set at a photo shoot but I can imagine that if you are a stylist you will get the odd free thing, and I have worked at a fashion agency before which involved selling clothes to buyers and I got the odd free thing from there too. This isn’t always necessarily the case though, it just depends on who you work for and the systems they have in place for unwanted samples.
It’s Really Glamorous
Before I worked in fashion I was under the assumption that I’d have to buy a whole new fashion-y work wardrobe, get used to walking in 6 inch heels and have to top my lipstick up 5 times a day. Let me tell you now that is not the case. If anything fashion is one of the most casual places to work. I wear trainers every day, I just dress like I would normally and nobody really cares about what I look like. I have started to wear no makeup in the office and love it! The lifestyle isn’t what it all looks like on the hills; we don’t go out for fancy brunch everyday, it is just like any normal office job but much more exciting.
You Get To Jet Set Around The World To Fancy Places
Er kinda true kinda not. Like some of the other points I’ve made, it all depends on your job title and who you work for. When I worked at French Connection they hardly went on any trips at all. Whereas I worked for Miss Selfridge for one month and different members of the design and buying teams went on three inspiration shopping trips. I can’t exactly remember where all of them were but I’m sure India and New York were mentioned and Paris was on the cards after I left. I am lucky enough to be going to Copenhagen with my boss and fellow designer Sarah in October which should be fun! Obviously some roles within the fashion industry will definitely include travel – stylists and photographers for example will most likely travel to cool places to shoot campaigns. And there might even be the opportunity to go to China to visit the factories your company uses.
If you’d like to know more about studying fashion, getting experience in the industry or about working in the industry, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to help!