I’ve worked my way up through the retail chain, into the corporate office and behind-the-scenes at premier fashion events. Here’s a summary of my fashion advice, lessons learned and biggest tips to breaking into the industry.
There are so many good reasons why networking should be a high priority on your list. It’s free, it’s a great way to get to know others in the industry, a great way to collaborate with others on future projects and it’s a great way to find out about potential job opportunities. If you’re really serious about networking then you may want to consider joining fashion industry networking groups like Fashion Group International. The Seattle chapter is looking for new members with high energy now!
No amount of classroom work can prepare you for the real world so it’s important that you supplement what you are learning in school with real work experience in the fashion industry. If you’ve never worked in retail now is the time to get a part-time job. It’s hard to grasp the concept of retail management, merchandising and personal selling if you have never had to actually do any of these things. I can also tell you that most corporate office employees have worked on the sales floor at one point or another so do yourself a favor and gain that entry-level experience now so that it won’t hold you back later.
For some people this may go without saying but for others this may be a new concept. You can’t just skate by in this industry without rolling up your sleeves and working hard, so whether it’s putting in time studying for you classes or working a part-time job to gain experience in the field, work hard. A solid work ethic goes a long way in this industry and high levels of integrity will not go unrewarded. The fashion industry is tough, it can chew you up and spit you out and you have to be strong enough to get right back up and keep going. It often requires long hours, working in multiple time zones, and working to make the impossible happen, so if you’re not prepared to work hard, this may not be the industry for you.
Find something you are good at and stick to it. People that claim to be good at “everything” are delusional. The truth is, everyone has a specialty and it’s important that you find yours now so that you can practice, develop your skills and find a niche.
Volunteering is another great way to gain experience so if you enjoy fashion industry events like fashion shows, consider volunteering to help out. This is a great way for you to see behind-the-scenes at your favorite events, network with event producers and add to your fashion resume.
Find a Mentor
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have strong, intelligent women to guide me along the way and that’s why I suggest finding a mentor who can help you navigate your path to success. A good mentor can give you advice about where to start, what moves to make and what mistakes to avoid.
Do an Internship
At many fashion schools internships are required for graduation but if they are not, consider doing one anyway. They are invaluable and can help you break into the industry upon graduation. I’ve had many interns help out at my current company and we have hired at least half a dozen of them to work for us full-time upon graduation. If you meet someone at a fashion industry event who’s working in a field you are interested in, ask them if they hire interns. Most companies won’t turn down free help. On a side note, if you do decide to pursue an internship, work hard and make yourself shine. Everything you say and do will be remembered and it’s important to be on point and professional no matter how casual the work environment appears to be. It always surprises me when interns flake out, show up late, don’t show up at all or have an attitude problem when asked to do a task. It may be unpaid work but it’s allowing you to gain insight into a potential career path and the company you work for may just extend a job offer when you are done with school. So work hard and stay on good terms with the company you intern for.
Stay on Top of Industry Trends
If you’re going into the fashion industry then it’s important you stay on top of what’s going on. There are numerous sites that compile industry news like Women’s Wear Daily, DNR and WGSN so make sure you check in and keep yourself in the know. You can also check out Style.com, Ny Mag’s Fashion Section, or the New York Times Style Section which comes out every Thursday and Sunday.
Clean up your Image
If you’re all over the web on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, consider cleaning up your image. Prospective employers can easily search the web for additional information about you and your chances to getting a job offer will significantly narrow if there are drunk pictures of you and your friends all over the Internet. My advice? Keep it classy, and if you don’t, at least set your profiles to private.
The best advice I can give you is that if you work hard and set goals, you can achieve anything. Good luck!