The Guardian's Six Tips On Starting A Career In Fashion
To break into the fashion industry: be creative, contact brands directly, and above all, persevere, say the experts:
CHOOSE AN AREA OF FASHION
It’s important to decide which specific area of fashion you are interested in, says Alexandra Alberta Yeo, founder of jewellery label Alexandra Alberta. “Fashion jobs include everything from: photography, styling, merchandising, buying to designing. Hone in on one area and then go from there.”
Lauren Gibson, who works with Fashion Awareness Direct, agrees that you should build focused experience on the area you’re interested in. “CV’s and applications that are focused and succinct are more successful than broad ‘I love fashion’ CVs.”
GET WORK EXPERIENCE
It’s notoriously difficult to find internships in fashion, but Gibson advises trying your hardest to get as much experience as possible. “My advice would be: approach lots and lots of companies. Even if you feel you have no chance. A student of mine recently got work experience with Vivienne Westwood from writing her a letter. You just have to ask and get lucky.”
Our experts also say to remember: no experience is bad experience. For example, if you’re working on the shop floor, don’t see it as “just” retail. “Use it to enhance your CV. The customer service, the understanding of supply and demand. There is a huge list. If you can only get retail experience then ask them if you can try out new window displays and combinations. Take pictures as examples of your styling,” says Gibson.
Also, think outside the box. “When I was 16 I mended costumes at Bolton Theatre. It was far from glamorous but it showed I was serious about a career in fashion,” adds Gibson.
When approaching companies, Alberta recommends being direct. “Send your CV to fashion companies and brands that you would like to work at. The more direct the better. Ring them, schedule an appointment, and try to meet someone in person.”
Likewise Ruby Hoette, convenor of the MA Fashion at Goldsmiths, says it’s best to introduce yourself in person rather than only sending emails.
THERE'S NO WRONG TIME TO LAUNCH A FASHION BRAND
If you want to design clothes, it’s important to learn your trade. “If you are adamant about creating your own clothing, and immersing yourself in the craft of design, I would recommend doing a full degree in fashion design,” says Alberta.
Fashion designer Phoenix Keating, adds that in the fashion industry knowledge is power. “The more techniques, styles and history that you can pull out of your mind the better.”
Alberta says there is no right or wrong time to launch your fashion label. “Some people create their brand at an early stage, while others do so after spending some time in industry gaining experience. There is no right or wrong route – but one has to be committed.”
CREATIVE INDUSTRIES NEED CREATIVE CVs
“A professional looking CV will always suffice, but in a creative industry it helps to be clever with the design of your CV, especially when applying for a design position. We’re looking at your creativity always,” says Keating.
Jo Jenkinson, principle lecturer in fashion for Manchester Metropolitan University, says this is a topic that tends to divide people in the industry. “Some prefer a simple, well-designed CV, others will argue it needs to get attention.”
Alison Rapsey, course director of Fashion Business and Promotion at Birmingham City University, says you need to be creative with your CV. “You are creative – you need to stand out.”
Similarly, Elinor Renfrew, head of fashion at Kingston University, says you need to appear “different and individual in a cookie-cutter world”. It’s also important to remember the CV is only the first step in getting the job. “The interview is most important and often you will be judged on how nice you are and ‘can I work with this person?’”
PERSISTENCE IS THE KEY
In fashion, enthusiasm and perseverance are important. “It can take time to be where you want to be so don’t be put off if you are not a fashion buyer six months out of university. See every experience as one step closer. If you are rejected from an application, ask for feedback and adjust for the next time,” says Gibson.
It is a competitive industry and will take a variety of approaches to get in exactly the position you want to, says Ruby Hoette, convenor of the MA Fashion at Goldsmiths. “Along the way every bit of experience is valuable. Do your research and talk to people. Whether it is deciding on a BA or MA course or where to intern, ask about other people’s experiences in order to build a more specific and realistic set of goals for yourself.”