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5 Ways to Break Into the Fashion Industry as an Experienced Professional

Fashion |

“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:

1. Volunteer/intern

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.

3. Network

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.

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Topics

advice careeradvice career path fashion foot in the door getting the job skills2 technology

13 Comments

This advice is too true. I'm a fashion designer launching my own collection right now, and I am always looking for people who are interested in collaborating, joining my team, and helping out with areas like PR, marketing, tech and more. I didn't start out in fashion, but I made the switch early in my career and did go to fashion school for 2 years before starting work in the industry. So I totally love meeting fashionable, smart, creative, driven women without fashion industry experience. I was once in your shoes. My website is www.puzzleapparel.com and I'd be happy to hear from you at marisol at puzzleapparel.com

2y

I really enjoyed reading this article. I am currently finishing my degree at ASU and live in Scottsdale. I plan on applying these tips to help me get my foot in the door in the fashion industry. I am working on creating a fashion blog right now. Thank you for your great advice.

3y

Hi Sarrah! Thanks for your kind comment. Please let us know how it goes and the blog you create!

2y

This advice has really hit me in the heart. I'm new to New York as so many are to pursue a career in the fashion industry. My experience is in retail management although my dying passion is styling! I've been looking for info as to where and whom I can volunteer, apprentice and work as an intern for as a non student it. There are times where I question will it ever happen, and then I take a deep breath and long walk only to be reminded that this is NY all is possible! Thank you

3y

Hi Ittia, So glad you enjoyed our article! Kudos to you for making the big move to New York. It's not easy but you're right, New York is where it is all possible. Your move from retail management to styling is even more possible than you think -- start styling on the side and consistently look for opportunities where you can help put looks together. You'll meet a ton of people in the industry in your current position so remember to leverage off that as well. Keep us updated on your journey!

3y

These are absolutely wonderful tips - especially for the fashion industry, but I think they can be applied to any career path! Love it!

3y

Good point. Love that it was helpful!

3y

Great insight! I had to post the link on my blog!

3y

Cool! What's your blog link?

3y

Talk about envy! Alice and Kathleen's jobs seem incredible! I love the idea of taking advantage of volunteer opportunities in the fashion industry, that seems like such a smart way to get involved. Starting a blog and networking are two tips that are easy but can be taken to the next level and really help you! This was a wonderful article, definitely bookmarking this!

3y

Thank you so much! There's always an emerging designer or PR firm looking for an extra hand, no matter where you live.

3y

This is all such great advice! I have friends who are trying to break into the industry, and I am definitely going to share this with them!

3y

Amazing! Keep us updated with their journey!

3y
Alice Ko

Alice is a business-loving, excitement-generating, and stiletto-wearing road warrior. She is a former nouveau New Yorker and has worked for the corporate houses of Remy Cointreau, Louis Vuitton, and Aritzia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and is a designated finance professional. She left the world of finance to pursue her creative side and is the editor of Wantering’s blog, a fashion tech startup which matches your personal style with what's trending on the social web. This avid kombucha drinker can be found on Twitter at @kokostiletto. Kathleen has been busy chasing her dreams in New York, London, Toronto, and Vancouver. She recently graduated with her MBA after majoring in English and Media studies for her BA degree. She’s a frequent flyer, all-day tweeter, and incessant shopper. Find her working in marketing and social media at Wantering (www.wantering.com), a fashion tech startup which matches your personal style with what's trending on the social web. Follow her on Twitter @itsmekathleeno and @wantering