It’s getting to that time of year where the end is in sight. Whether that be a university semester, school term, or maybe you’re simply wanting a change in career, to that glamorous industry that is… Fashion, Darling.
Just to enlighten you on where I’m coming from on all this, so you know I’m not just chatting total bull to you. I have some advice that I, personally, would have enjoyed reading at the start of my career, or journey to it. I currently work within a buying team for an outdoor clothing brand. It’s my first job out of university, and I’ve been there almost 2 years now (How was my graduation almost 2 years ago? 😫). Before entering the glorious world of full time work, I studied a BSc in Fashion and Textile Retailing at The University of Manchester, during which took a year out to do a placement during my third year, in which I worked for a high street supplier for just over a year. So while the whole ‘OMG where do I start’ and ‘how on earth will I ever get the kind of job I want’ phase is thankfully in the past, it’s all still relatively fresh to me, so I thought I’d reflect on my career journey so far and hopefully shed some light, and advice for anyone who is interested in entering the clothing industry.
I feel lucky to be where I am and I know I’ve worked hard to get to this point. By no means has it been an easy road to where I am now, despite the endless heckling I received through university for ‘taking the easy route’ and studying fashion. I wanted to compile a post to help anyone a few years younger than me hoping to take a similar route. Aspiring to work in fashion buying is one thing, but I know all too well that achieving it can often feel like a whole other ball game, so I hope I can shed some light on how to get there.
Personally, for the fashion industry, I think you could easily get by in a career simply working your way up from the bottom, with no degree, and just learning the ropes. Because that’s what you have to do when you start your graduate job anyway. BUT, unfortunately, the fashion industry is cut-throat competitive, and if there’s no degree on your CV, unless you’re Chloe Green, you aint getting an interview, no matter how perfect you’d be for the role. I mean I am generalising, and I’m sure there are quite a few exceptions out there, but on the whole, you’re going to need a ‘relevant degree’ to work in a fashion head office position. It’s about ticking all the boxes for a brand to keep you in the ‘yes’ pile of CVs.
On top of your degree, you’ll need experience. It’s arguably more important than the degree, but that is just a formality. Experience in fashion, especially buying from my standpoint, is invaluable. The breadth of knowledge I learnt in my 1 year on placement easily matched up to the 3 years of lectures surrounding that. Considering I got paid for my placement year and paid over £9000 per year for the others, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth buttttt hey ho thats a whole other ball game. The point I’m making is, if you have the opportunity to take a year out to do a placement, do it., you will not regret it. First off, from my experience, I gained so much more depth of understanding that I took forward to my final year, which helped my performance academically and my overall degree benefitted. And it also gave me bags more confidence to apply for those graduate hobs that everyone is after, because I knew I could do the job, it wasn’t just something I had learnt about in lectures. Not to mention it helping me actually get a job, after all, you instantly stand more of a chance than your classmates who didn’t take a year out.
As I’ve mentioned briefly, contrary to popular beliefs, it’s not an easy career path, at any stage. You will no doubt get judged for being a fashion student. But you’re smart, and you know in reality it’s a tough course to choose. It’s competitive, it’s hard work, it’s fast paced, and to be honest it can be hella’ bitchy at times. If you think you want to work in the clothing industry because of the glitz and glamour, and are by any means influenced by the old day to day of Lauren Conrad, then I think you’ll be disappointed. It’s not glam, not really anyway. You need to have a genuine interest in garments, and the industry as a whole. You need to be passionate if you’re going to do well, like with anything else in life. But please, oh please, never use the phrase ‘passion for fashion’, not in an interview, in an application, not anywhere. I promise you that you will not get the job if you do.
Aka. a blog. That’s what it was in my case anyway. My blog started as a way to get fashion related experience, in an industry where you need experience, to get experience. And I really couldn’t afford to commute, or move to London in the holidays to work for free at a shitty internship making tea. I wanted something extra to show that I had initiative to start something up myself from nothing, and also to show how much of a genuine interest I have in fashion. 5 years later and my side hustle is still a proper hobby of mine. I love my little blog and I hope to always have it. I love creating content exactly how I want, and writing about whatever I feel I need to get off my chest. Obviously it doesn’t hurt that it comes with the perks of a few free bits of clothing and the odd bit of cash. A little side hustle never hurt anybody, and if nothing else shows you’re a worker. It’s a great talking point and even though everyone and their auntie has a blog nowadays, it can still very much set you apart from the crowd and be a great tool to showcase your personality, in a world of black and white CVs.
I feel like I’m stating the obvious with this one, after everything I’ve already said, it’s clear commitment and determination is absolutely necessary if you’re going to get a job in fashion. And don’t worry, if you really want it, and you know it’s what you want to do, you will 100% get there, trust me. I cannot tell you how many times I thought about creating a back up plan because I just didn’t think anywhere was going to hire me, even for a placement! But I got there in the end because I stuck to my guns and pushed myself to achieve what I’d set out to achieve.
And here I am writing this in the comfort of a secure job in buying, with 3 years experience and a degree under my belt, writing about it all on my blog. Honestly if you’d have shown me a snapshot of this situation when I 16 leaving school I’d have said ‘yeah right’. I’ve had struggles and genuinely 100’s rejections for placements, work experience and graduate jobs. But I always perished and stuck to my guns, and the right positions always fell into place for me in the end. If you’re certain you want to work in fashion, or this could apply to any industry, keep focused on your goal, work as hard as you can, and you will get there. Everyone’s journey is different so one key piece of advise is to ignore what is happening to people around you. I mean, share experiences and listen to tips, but don’t ever get disheartened by someone else’s success happening quicker than yours. You’re only at the start of a long career, so always remember the tortoise and the hare.
Trust me, whatever you set your mind to in life you can achieve.