|It is all too cliché to cite the 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada in an article about working in the fashion industry, but it is quite fitting. Of course, interns who double as fashionista’s and aspiring editors-in-the-making all enter the world of fashion anxious and with a sense of doe-eyed wonder, but many are remised to learn upon entry, that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Success in this business requires
more than just a love of fashion and an obsession with all things couture; it takes patience, it takes drive, it takes coffee, maybe a Percocet, and —undoubtedly—a happy hour or two (not to be paired together of course.) So here it is Ladies, a little advice and a quick crash course in the world of fashion publishing.
- Dress for the job that you want.
While being a fashion intern is not regarded in the highest light, interns often make the mistake of thinking this gives them leeway to dress as if they are attending gym class instead of working in a multi-million dollar corporation. Not that you will be doing a great deal of activities that require you to wear heels, in fact, trainers would probably be the wiser choice in footwear, but they are not a representation of the industry that you are in; unless you are working at a fitness magazine, but even there, I’m not so sure that their fashion editors wear Stella McCartney by Adidas to work on a daily basis. I’ll tell you what my mother told me, “If you want to be editor in chief, you dress as if that’s who you are. If she doesn’t wear jeans to work, you don’t wear jeans to work.” I took my mother’s advice and dressed as the people who held positions I was interested in. As a result, my supervisor recommended me to model in a shoot for an upcoming issue. Thomas Fuller was right, “Good clothes [really do] open all doors.”
2. Heels on carpet, flats on pavement.
When I first moved to New York I started looking into applying for a gym membership. I thought it would be a great way to meet professionals around my age who were interested in health and personal up-keep. “Gyming” also seemed to be a part of the New York culture. In a City so driven by appearance and populated by well-sculpted bodies, getting a gym membership only seemed right, but then I went to work. After my first week, I quickly realized that paying $200 a month for a gym membership would not be necessary. Interning is a work-out all of its own. While editors and assistants are often assigned interns, at some point every intern will be required to go on “runs; a joyous activity in which you brave all elements to pick up garments, props, supplies, and things of various nature that the magazine has requested. Unlike Andrea Sachs, you are not privileged enough to be chauffeured by a company car. You, my dear, will be riding in style….via subway. So always bring two pairs of shoes to work, one for looking the part, the other for running.
3. Volunteer for anything and everything.
Traditionally a magazine will have a team of at least 30 interns most of whom are hoping to turn this into a full-time job. It’s a tight-knit and highly competitive industry, so doing more than asked goes a long way. My first day I had little to no work to do because I was being trained. In my downtime, I would clean up the supply closet and organize magazine archives. People appreciate those who take initiative. So whether it’s going to grab coffee or dropping something off for a shoot in Brooklyn at 8 AM the following morning, the more favors you do, the people you impress—the better.
4. Don’t ask twice.
Fashion, like New York City, is unforgiving and has very little margin for error. It is a fast-paced industry composed of people who barely have time to get themselves lunch, much less repeat something to you. Carry a small notebook, write everything down, and pay close attention to detail. Once, my boss asked me to scan and e-mail a series of layouts for an issue that we were working on. The layouts were either unmarked or marked incorrectly with the wrong month. I literally had seconds to process as she flashed layouts at me and mumbled their designated months. One layout marked “March” was actually for January. I asked her after copying to clarify that I had marked them correctly, and she replied, “this is why I asked you to pay attention.” Organization and attention to detail are key. Asking questions only becomes a problem if it is apparent that you were not paying attention in the first place. In an avant-garde industry such as this, it’s very easy is to fall from grace.
5. Be audacious.
Perhaps you do have the job that “a million girls would kill for,” take pride in that but do not lose yourself on the road to becoming who you are working so hard to be. Fashion is rough, it’s exhausting and incredibly egotistical; having a backbone is essential. I was told numerous times not to speak to editors or share a space with them. If a person of importance comes into the restroom, then interns were expected to leave; and were only expected to speak when spoken to. In my opinion, it is important to be mindful of such things, but you should also be aware of the fact that you’re working in an industry in which talent is constantly overlooked because of a lack of connections, or a lack of audacity. As an intern, you should make yourself available to both. An internship is a perfect opportunity to network, take advantage of it. As for being audacious, I am not recommending that you stroll into the EIC’s office, sit down and strike up a conversation about Ashish’s new collection of sequined jumpers, but you should smile and—when appropriate—greet those people who fill the positions that you find interesting. Offer to get them water and make yourself known—with tact.
6. Be a team player.
While most interns work for free (or rather for credit,) they often form a hierarchy amongst one another. Older interns often instruct newer interns and as a result, they deem themselves superior. Remember that each intern on your team is a valuable asset, and while it’s important to network with authority figures, it is equally as important to network with your peers. It is not unlikely that one day that girl or guy, you interned with once upon a time and considered to be subordinate to you, will serve a point of contact for you. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a very small, very tightly knit industry. Everyone knows everyone.
Interning in fashion publishing will either make or break your interest in the industry. I think the most important lesson that I have learned since the beginning of my internship is that those who are successful have the audacity to ask for what they want. If you are lucky, your internship will challenge you, you will work for someone who is the epitome of the industry–ego and all, and there will be times that you’ll wonder why you did this to yourself in the first place. If you are lucky enough to have an experience that tests your patience and introduces you to the many facets of the industry, and you still wish to hold a place within it, then my dear, you have found your calling. So be audacious, be sensible and be fearless—you have a chance to get the job that a million girls would kill for! Bon chic et bonne chance! VL