So You Want to Work in Fashion?

by Emma Waight

With university and college fees on the increase, is it study or experience that gets you far in fashion?

A job in fashion is a dream career for many, but what’s the best way to get there? Despite the recession, the fashion industry employs millions of people across the world, whether it’s for production in less developed countries or business and communication in more developed countries.

In the UK and US, where many fashion brands are head-quartered, the industry contributes significantly to the regional economy. Even with the range of career paths in fashion, the industry is still notoriously hard to get into. Countless young people are attracted to the glamour and creativity that the industry suggests. Going forward with this idea is dangerous though, because you will only succeed in fashion with plenty of hard work, enthusiasm and humility.

I dreamed of working in fashion most of my life. From the initial childhood dream of being a designer, I later settled on a mission to work in fashion journalism. Everything I did, from the age of 14 onwards, was done with this aim in mind. For some people, this sort of focus pays off. For others, they just fall into their career. The latter might be considered luck, but then I believe you make your own luck. You also can’t rely on, or predict luck, so if you want to work in fashion you need to make it happen.

Design, Business or Communication?

First of all, you need to pinpoint which area of fashion you are interested in working in. There is so much more to the industry than the design element. If you are a creative, arty sort than sure design, styling or photography might be the route for you. But if you have more of a strategic business mind then your path might lead to retail management, buying or merchandising. Good with words and people? Perhaps it should be journalism, marketing or PR that you pursue. If you have a scientist’s brain you could think about textile technology and colour chemistry.

You should find out as much as you can about these routes by reading careers books, blogs and talking to people. Try to find out if anyone connected to your social network works in any of these roles. Magazines, retailer’s websites and blogs are a great tool for seeing ‘a day in the life of’ stories. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and ask other people to be honest about them too.

Path A, B or C?

With the hike in tuition fees, deciding whether to go to university is a real dilemma. Although experience is valued highly in the creative industries, degrees are also used to sift through applications, simply because they have so many to choose from. Large retail brands will stipulate a degree for their head office roles and graduate schemes, although design and styling jobs may put more value on experience.

Of course, going to University isn’t just about the qualification. It is a great way to build a network of global, like-minded contacts, improve transferable skills and have fun. The important thing to remember if you decide to go with the education route is, you cannot rest on your laurels. You must make the most of every opportunity – take up a part-time job in a fashion retail store, do work experience placements in the holidays and work hard to get the best results that you are capable of. If you do all of these things, and do them well, you are in with a good chance.

If you want to work in retail, you may find that you can work your way up through the ranks. I was promoted to assistant manager of a clothing store when I was just 18 and nearly didn’t go to uni because of it. I’m certainly glad that I did continue my studies but I’d like to think I’d have been successful even if I didn’t go to university. You could go straight into internships after college and work your way up that way, although sometimes even getting an internship requires a degree. Plus, the majority are unpaid internships despite criticisms that this leads to an elitist industry.

Work Hard

The single most important thing to remember is to work hard. It can be a slow process, literally taking years to really see any recognition, but work hard and trust me, you will find that recognition one day and then it all feels worth it.

This post was written by Emma Waight

Emma Waight is an ethical fashion blogger and freelance style writer for . Read the blog for fashion news and advice.

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