“You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo’s!” – The Devil Wears Prada
It’s a Monday morning, and in between cups of coffee and a dozen emails, I find myself mapping out my career path. I was a late bloomer, so to speak, meaning I only decided that fashion was my chosen industry approximately two and a half years ago. Designing and modelling (aside from the odd Instagram selfie, of course) had never crossed my mind, and to this day, they still don’t strike any interest with me. Currently, my official title reads: Administrative & Marketing Assistant. It’s as every bit as gruelling and yet glamorous as it sounds.
Approval for an internship is as rare as a smile from Anna Wintour. I met mine with sheer relief, as it meant I wasn’t part of the unemployed 5% of recent graduates. That, and I had been accepted into the very industry I craved to be a part of. I will take the donkey work. The photocopier will be owned. Coffee runs will be my cardio. Being a fashion intern- or an entry level employee in any industry- does not allow for much luxury. So, I suppose the workaholic nature I inherited from my father is somewhat of a godsend. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. I am lucky enough to work with a team who trust me enough to give me authority and responsibility. From running their social media to co-ordinating a project for a high-profile client three times a year, I’m a busy bee. Details can’t be spared seeing as I have signed a non-disclosure agreement, but rest assured, I love my job.
The cold hard truth? The fashion industry is as notoriously hard to break into as it is reputed to be. As Carolina Herrera once said; “to make it in fashion, you must have perseverance, discipline, and talent.” It is a long way to the top, but it’s even longer to get a foot on the ladder itself. The rejections will pile up. How you deal with them is what singles out the real potentials. Sheer passion has to be the driving force, because a qualification will only take you so far. Experience is essential, and as difficult as it is to find, don’t turn down retail. A few stints in Harrods or a New Bond Street boutique will open more doors for you than you think.
Eat fashion. Sleep fashion. Breathe fashion. Immerse yourself in it. This time last year, I expressed myself with the ever repetitive ‘I love fashion’ line and the odd Coco Chanel quote to caption my Instagram posts. In retrospect, this was incredibly naive and rather embarrassing. There are a million girls who love fashion, so what makes me more worthy than them to work in the industry? In a nutshell, I discovered myself in fashion; forging an identity based on creative expression and a deep found knowledge of its icons. Can you tell me what the political significance of the Lady Dior bag is? What inspired the features of a CHANEL Classic Bag? Why are the straps of a Gucci handbag shaped in that specific way?
What about the clothes? Where are the handbags? What size do those shoes come in? These are questions I ask myself when I pass through Harrods or the Dior boutique on New Bond Street (heaven on earth, if you must know). Yet, the businesswoman in me has other questions. What impact does Brexit have on the fashion industry? How has the digital era affected consumer markets? Does social media have any tangible benefits for luxury fashion? What about Stella’s pledge for sustainable fashion? Spotting the Prada amongst the Primark cannot be your sole skill.
Envisaging the dream job, or the ultimate goal, now, that’s the easy part. But, as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Work out what that first step is, and then the others. Map out the path to your dream job, and don’t rule out any detours. Ask an expert to glance over your CV. Accept that internship. The fashion industry isn’t sugarcoated for a reason. It is tough. There are early starts and late nights. You will be challenged mentally and physically, so you had better break in those heels before Monday morning comes around.
Having said that, when it comes to the fashion industry, hard work reaps rewards. There is always something to learn; whether it’s the history behind a brand, or about yourself, I find myself growing and maturing all the time into a more wholesome person. The fashion world is filled with hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom are inspiring in their own way. Their motivation fuels my own. Of course, there are the beautiful clothes and the sample sales, as well as the odd freebie and invitations to events. After all, this wouldn’t be a fashion post without all that jazz.
Don’t assume fashion is the glossy exterior pictured in VOGUE. It has a rich history, rooted deep in society, economics and most importantly, humanity.