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Careers in the Fashion Industry: How to Get Started

By Guest Writer

Updated April 12, 2021 Updated April 12, 2021

Guest post: Judy Hofmeyr

Getting a foot in the door of the fashion industry may be daunting. It’s an extremely competitive world where cool creatives and sassy strategists have to work together to keep up with rapidly changing trends and a demanding audience who are spoilt for choice. That being said, fashion careers can be very alluring to young, inventive university graduates whose love for the fashion industry is only paralleled by their determination to leave their mark on it. In this article you’ll learn how to get your stiletto-clad foot in the door.

My experience with the fashion industry is that the tasks keeping it afloat are more diversified than appears from the outside. There may be some fashion environments that are brutal, but, in general, The Devil Wears Prada is a less than accurate depiction of the industry! Here are some pointers on where to look for opportunities, how to make the most of them, and how to prepare yourself in the meantime.

Part 1: Where to look for opportunities

Look for a fashion internship

The best place to start is with an internship. Even if you’ve studied something fashion-related, nothing beats real-world experience. You have to be totally okay with starting at the bottom. A fashion internship is guaranteed to round off your textbook knowledge and develop your skills. Additionally, an internship every so often serves as an extended job interview and could land you a permanent position.

Big fish in small ponds

Not all of us will land a Lauren Conrad-type career. The most important lesson to learn is that there are more role players in this industry than Vogue and Fashion TV. The smaller players often offer opportunities where you’ll learn more, gain more experience, and receive more recognition. Fashion start-ups greatly rely on interns, and since these companies are still developing and finding their feet, your input can carry double the value it would’ve making copies and taking coffee orders at some glossy magazine. 

Be present online

When it comes to the fashion industry today, the most important place you can be is online. Use search engines, blogger networks and social media to keep tabs on fashion platforms both in your area and abroad. Most organizations will have a link to their “jobs” page. There are also many sites that serve as hubs for jobs in the fashion industry. Social media networks like LinkedIn are also great platforms to find opportunities. Make a habit of checking these pages regularly, and apply as soon as something comes up. It shouldn’t be necessary to stress how important it is to tailor each cover letter to the job you’re applying for. Highlight your strong points and indicate clearly how they will benefit the company. 

Part 2: How to make the most of an opportunity

Keep track of skills gained

As with any job opportunity, it’s most important to have a positive mind-set – even when doing monotonous tasks or feeling overworked. Write down every time you learn something new, or master a skill. You’d be surprised how quickly your CV expands.

Identify your dream fashion career

One of the most productive things I’ve done was identifying my dream job (no matter how unattainable it was at the time) and focusing on what I would need to know and be able to do to be considered for it. Yes, it could take years to gain that kind of experience, but it makes it easier to make career decisions and determine your next step.

Don’t be afraid to ask

During my first internship, I learnt that asking to do something is the easiest way to develop yourself. Do you want to learn more about public relations? Why not ask the person responsible for it if you can contribute in a small way, or can merely observe the process? Finding a mentor in the industry is also a way in which you can learn things other than those listed in your job description.

Part 3: What to do in the mean time…

Keep moving

I’ve said a lot about skills. The reality is: the fashion industry needs people with many, many different talents. They need writers, strategists, designers, project leaders, business developers, marketers, photographers, even accountants! Sticking to what you’re good at is a great point of departure. If you’re unsuccessful in landing an opportunity in a fashion environment, there are still many organizations out there where you can develop the same skills the fashion industry needs.

Take initiative

I cannot stress enough how much value there is in taking some initiative. Creating a blog or a voice on social media is one of the best ways to build up a network and gain recognition in the fashion world. Even if your future employer has never heard of you, showing them what you’ve accomplished in your spare time gives you a massive step up. Creating an online platform today is easier than ever. Use it to share your thoughts, inspiration, your personal style and your writing/creative/editorial skills.

Keep up with fashion trends

Last, but not least, stay up to date with what happens in the fashion industry. An easy way to do this is by following a few big shots or media houses on Twitter, and scanning the hot topics and latest fashion trends before breakfast every day. When you land your big break, you’ll be knowledgeable enough to form an opinion and provide valuable input.

There are many opportunities out there. Your enthusiasm and creativity are your strongest assets in the fashion world. Don’t make the mistake of sitting still – roll up your sleeves and show this industry what you’re made of!

Judy Hofmeyr is passionate about two things: Fashion and the Digital World. She currently works for online fashion community STYLIGHT. What does she like most about her job? Attending Fashion Weeks, writing about the newest trends, talking shop with fashion bloggers and exploring the nooks and crannies of her current hometown, Munich.

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This article was originally published in June 2013 . It was last updated in April 2021

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