A few weeks ago, I shared some of my personal story in response to your questions about my career in fashion, and I was completely touched by your comments! I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do for a living, especially coming off an exciting week – from NYFW to the Oscars. I am honored to be featured in Forbes Magazine today, talking about my career. So in honor of all that – I put together my top tips for how to break into a career in the fashion industry. I hope it inspires you to chase after your personal and professional goals.
Once you’re 18, start building up as much work experience as possible. Even if you don’t enjoy something, it’s not a waste of time – it will help direct you towards what you do want to do. Also ask for people’s cards when you leave, and follow up with an email the next day. Being grateful and keeping in touch means you’ll be top of mind when an internship or role comes available.
Ask for advice. When you’re still at school or college, talk to the careers advisor but also ask friend’s parents who might work in the industry you’re keen on, for tips. One of my friend’s dads at school helped set up work experience for me at a news station in London. It was such a cool experience, and it never would have happened if I hadn’t asked that favor. Don’t be shy.
Be prepared to get a second job or to couch-surf as an intern: they are very rarely paid, but the experience is second-to-none. Keep smiling, your upbeat nature will get you noticed. Get in early, stay late and be nice to the other interns – all your behavior will be noted, even when you think you’re being ignored!
Bosses or assistants spend an average of 8 seconds scanning a resume before making a decision. So make yours short and sweet. Tweak your resume for every person you send it to. And by that, I don’t mean lie! I mean – research the company you’re sending it to and see what they are most interested in. Is it a lifestyle magazine specializing in travel? Then your ‘interest’s section should be more travel focused. Never put a photo on your CV, that’s cheesy. Keep it to one page maximum, and have the name of prior employers or schools in bold, centered, so the important information is clear. Some employers are old school and like a hard copy – so I would mail your resume and cover letter, as well as emailing it. A week later, follow up with a polite phone call.
How to Interview
During an interview, don’t forget to express that you would love to work there. People often leave without showing keenness, which can come across lackluster. Doyour homework – know about every section of the magazine or every segment of the TV show or every runway show the designer has ever done. Ask one or two thoughtful questions. Knowing how to dress and what to say during an interview is key. I’ve written an entire chapter about this in my book, FrontRoe, so pick up a copy here!
Styling and Fashion Writing
You don’t necessarily need a vocational diploma, but it helps to combine a course or degree with practical work experience. Be proactive: start a blog, shoot your own editorials with friends. It’s not about having tonnes of cash to create something, but more can you show off an innovative approach? Fresh creativity? A witty or captivating point of view? Even if you can’t wangle your way into a fashion show, check out the images online and write your own reviews. Editors and stylists want to see a spark of something determined and unique about you.
Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You
It’s natural to want to progress in your career, but if you’re going to look for other jobs whilst at one, do it from a personal email address and be respectful of your current employees. The fashion and TV industries are way too tiny: people talk and people tend to know exactly what’s going on. And on that note, steer clear of office politics. Gossip and grapevines will always exist, but they’re a back-firing, downward spiral and you’re better off rising above the tittle-tattle.
The major influencers in the fashion community have worked hard for many years to get where they belong. Overnight success usually takes about a decade in the making. Even Ryan Seacrest started out doing just radio for years before he hit the screen. I’m sure you guys realize this, but hard work means long hours and way more unglamorous moments than fabulous ones…. Not that I’m trying to put you off – the golden moments are 100 times worth waiting for!
Never Give Up
The route to success is nothing like a straight line. There will be bumps in the road and knock backs, but learn from them, and let yourself become stronger as a result. I must have sent out 30 letters for my first internship, but I knew I only needed one reply saying yes, to kick off my career. You might not get the promotion, someone might be rude to you, your shoot or piece might get spiked (an old fashioned term for dumped!) but remember – nobody wanted to buy Alexander McQueen’s pieces until Isabella Blow bought the lot. Olivier Rousteng, Balenciaga’s creative director, waited on the steps at Milk Studios every morning for weeks until someone gave him an internship there.
I went to a fashion awards ceremony in LA last night and three speakers – Nicole Richie, Miley Cyrus and Gigi Hadid – all preached the virtues of being ‘nice’ to each other in this industry. What a better environment to create, to welcome newbies into the fold, to be kind to your peers, to appreciate a mentor and have the potential to become one yourself? Never underestimate the impact of being nice in the workplace.
photography by Ryan Chua