From the outside, fashion seems one of the most competitive, closed and intimidating worlds to enter. Flipping through the pages of Vogue, we see the glossy models, designers and writers staring back out at us and wonder how on Earth they managed to crack into style’s inner circle. After all, we’d look that good if we could afford clothes like that, too!
Between all the fashion world stereotypes and horror stories of interns being sent to fetch laundry, there is one that rings true: you will need to work hard to make it. But there are skills and know-how you can champion to help you stand out against a sea of competition, and continue to work your way up. The good news? We know exactly how to help you get them.
Whether you drift off at work imagining your life as a fashion buyer, or spend your evenings earnestly sketching up your dream collection, there’s good news: hacking into fashion doesn’t need to be as hard as it seems. Let our breakdown of how to break into fashion help get you on your way.
Learn your craft
Whether you’d like to be the one sewing up designs or the rock star getting killer PR for a show, each specific role in the fashion industry will call for a different set of niche skills. Being able to launch your own line without the necessary dressmaking dexterity isn’t likely to work out, whilst working as a fashion photographer won’t go too well unless you know how to use a lens.
The first thing you need to do is decide how you plan to enter the industry. That is, what exactly within the fashion industry you’re interested in doing. Often, you’ll find that what you want to do overlaps into another industry, such as art or graphic design, which is perfectly fine, too;there’s a course or class out there that will absolutely help you master what you need to.
If you’re unsure what exact job you’re after, then why not try your hand at something you’re interested in, and go from there? For example, you might be a social media whiz but are unsure how that might work into a job in fashion. Start by becoming an expert in what you like doing, and then figure out how to apply that to needs of the fashion industry. Then, you’d be qualified to apply for, say, a social media management job for a fashion label.
Get business savvy
Whilst some jobs within fashion will call more directly on business skills than others, being able to network, negotiate, manage margins and turn a profit will enhance your chances of success in any profession. As put ever so neatly by Mandana Dayani, VP and general counsel of Rachel Zoe, ‘If you can make the hell out of a spreadsheet, I’ll hire you in minutes’.
Many jobs in fashion will require ‘buying’ skills, which means you’ll have to pick which items should be stocked in a store based on what you think will be popular next season. Here, a handle on advertising, negotiation and marketing will give you a distinct leg-up and help you to predict incoming trends..
Looking to launch your own line? So have spades of other designers who have built up their businesses from scratch. To do so — you guessed it — you’ll need to know the ins and outs of taxes, tariffs, management, as well as be able to keep an eagle eye on the state of the current market. Luckily, these are the sorts of things that can be taught, practised and mastered.
Work your way up
There’s no way around it: anyone successful in fashion will tell you that to make it, you will need to start at the bottom, and that you will need to work hard. As with climbing the ladder in any industry, you will need to put your hand up for the less glamorous jobs, work at making yourself stand out, and put in extra blood, sweat and tears where it’s necessary.
But above all, it’s imperative to keep your eyes on the prize and remember why you’re doing all this in the first place. You might be knee-deep in smaller, time consuming tasks for an impending deadline but remember that it’s your creativity and love of style that’s got you to where you are, and will continue to carry you on to where you’d like to go. Plus, plenty of insiders have mentioned the unique opportunities to network that entry level jobs allow you. In other words, impress the right person and the sky’s the limit.
Once the working day is through though, be sure to do things for yourself to keep your creative juices flowing. Not only will it remind you why you’re so keen to crack into fashion, but it will put you in a better frame of mind to come up with new ideas come Monday. Plus, it’s a good way to practise additional skills that might help you later, like drawing, digital photography or illustration.
Whether your hand is already hovering over a sketchpad or scrolling through fashion blogs for new ideas, why not let a fashion design or dressmaking course help you bring them to fruition? Or, if you’re still unsure, take a look through all our fashion courses and see where inspiration takes you!
Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.