“A million girls would kill for your job.” Not just a quote from The Devil Wears Prada, but a saying commonly expressed to the both of us on a regular basis. Between the two of us, we’ve lived and worked in Vancouver, Toronto, London, and the mecca of fashion—New York City. We’ve worked at public relations agencies, French fashion houses, emerging fashion brands, and most recently a fashion-tech start-up called Wantering.
Whenever the topic of careers and industries comes up with our friends and former classmates, it’s not uncommon for someone to proclaim to us that they would love to work in fashion, but they don’t have any experience and that it’s too late for them. It’s never too late to do anything!
Top 5 Tips to Break into the Fashion Industry:
The fastest way to start learning about a new industry and new skills is to jump right in and get your hands dirty. In fact, there’s no better industry to do this than in fashion. You may not know it, but there are a plethora of opportunities in your city where you can volunteer your time and learn while doing.
Our friend Kathleen interned at a few companies and the experiences, skills, and network she gained were invaluable. Although most internships are restrictive and are only eligible for full-time students, there are also opportunities in which you can volunteer on a less regular basis and still gain the benefits of a full-time internship. Here are some examples:
- Local fashion events: Does your city host a local Fashion Week, or Fashion’s Night Out? Get in contact with the organizer and see how you can help.
- Fashion-related charities: Organizations like Dress for Success and Fashion Fights Poverty are always seeking volunteers. Charities also have flexible schedules and allow for weeknight and weekend shifts.
- New fashion designers: Emerging fashion designers need all the help they can get. Do some research and find out what designers are based in your area. They often get so caught up in the creative and design process, any help in marketing, public relations, social media, and production is appreciated.
- Online: The beauty of 2013, versus back in the day when we started our careers, is—the internet. Internships and volunteer opportunities don’t even have to be restricted to where you reside. Search Craigslist and other job posting websites for opportunities where volunteering remotely is possible.
2. Start a blog
Do you love styling and putting outfits together for your friends? Do you immerse yourself in Business of Fashion and Women’s Wear Daily when you’re off work? Show off your eye for style and industry knowledge by documenting your after-work talents and insights. Fashion blogging communities are close knit and you will likely end up meeting other bloggers and fashion lovers in your city and in the digital world.
Bloggers often get invited to local fashion events, which gives you the opportunity to network and meet others in the industry, or better yet those in the fashion community you are dying to meet!
We know creating a blog from scratch doesn’t happen overnight so start small. If you’re a closet stylist, start Instagramming your looks. If you have every single Marc Jacobs runway collection memorized, start tweeting and commenting about Fashion Week.
You’re definitely not the only closet fashionista around town. Research events and network to meet others, chat about fashion, and seek out opportunities. Meetup, Eventbrite, and your local business Board of Trade are excellent free resources to take advantage of. Levo League has also offered Office Hours with mentors in the fashion industry where you can submit questions for discussion.
4. Take a class
If you’re interested in a specific area of fashion, there may be a need for you to acquire technical skills. For example, if you’re leaning towards the design side, you may want to take some sewing or printmaking classes on the side. If you’re interested in the e-commerce side, taking a beginner’s HTML or WordPress course may be helpful. There are often night and weekend classes available at the local community college, and there are now online resources like Skillshare and even Parsons, which offer web-based classes.
5. Excel in the skills you do have
There will always be a need for professionals who excel in business skills such as leadership, organization, team building, project management, coding, design, marketing, and finance. If you’ve been a star in other industries, remember that your skills can easily be transferred. Be confident and sell yourself. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “lean in,” and don’t be scared to tell potential employers why you are the perfect fit for that role, despite your lack of history in fashion. If you’ve been successful before, what makes you think you wouldn’t continue to be successful in the future?
You can mix and match any of these opportunities to kickstart your industry switch into fashion. Many people think they need to leave a well-paying, stable job in order to start from the bottom or go back to school. Nonsense! Although these are certainly options, there are alternative paths and even some shortcuts to make the jump into the industry of your dreams.
The biggest piece of advice we have is to believe in yourself and believe in your passion. We’ve heard plenty of stories of women who have achieved their goals and, better yet, we’ve done it ourselves.
Ask Levo Mentor Jessica Lee, Founder and CEO of Modern Citizen, her tips on how to best break into the fashion industry.