From School to Career Path: How to Get Started in the Fashion Industry!
A question I get all the time – “how did you get into the fashion industry?”
Well – I went to school, graduated, and scored my first big girl job, among other things like starting a blog, hustling and busting to promote my name, you know – gaining experience.
The fashion industry is probably the most fast paced, exciting industry that everyone is involved in, whether you’re a creator, spectator, or consumer. I initially got into fashion wanting to create my own line. That passion turned into blogging, styling, product developing, and overall becoming a fashion curator and mogul (in the making).
So if you’re looking to get into the industry like I did, let’s explore what all you need to consider to break into the exciting world of fashion!
First-traditional schooling, i.e. college, is not mandatory to make it in this industry. With that being said, please consider if you can actually afford college after you’ll be done, and different ways to achieve your degree for the most affordable way. For example, you don’t need to go to FDIM or an art institute, and you certainly don’t have to move away to get a quality fashion education. There are many affordable universities or smaller colleges and institutes that offer fashion degrees such as fashion marketing, fashion merchandising, or even fashion entrepreneurship for the fraction of the cost of a school like FDIM.
I received my first two degrees from Stevens-The Institute of Business and Arts – which is located in the heart of the garment district in St. Louis. SIBA is small yet very connected to the fashion industry and it helped me rub elbows with some notable people, which I don’t think I could say otherwise. Fontbonne and Lindenwood University are known for their expansive fashion programs as well, and Washington University’s fashion department is the most comprehensive program I’ve seen to date. They also are responsible for many of the fashion events that happen here in the city, for example bringing Dapper Dan (aka my fashion uncle) to the school for a speaker series. And it was just announced that Wash U will be offering free tuition to eligible low income students. So make sure to do your research and pick a school that is affordable and realistic.
Now before you dive into picking a major, I want to make one thing clear – there are SO MANY THINGS that you can do in the fashion industry! A lot of the career paths I know of now weren’t even a thought in my mind when I first started college, but after being in the industry I’ve come into contact with so many people who do so many things, including:
♡ CAD Design
♡ Graphic Design
♡ Textile Designer
♡ Technical Design
♡ Public Relations
♡ Trend Forecasting
♡ Product Development/Sourcing
♡ Pattern Making
♡ Social Media Managing
♡ Visual Merchandising
♡ Retail Management
♡ Event Planning
Me personally, I am a product developer or production manager. I oversee the creation and the production of our cold weather accessory lines, included branded product such as FILA, Urban Outfitters, and more. I started at the company I’m with 4 years ago as a Sample Coordinator – essentially an assistant to everyone. I tracked the samples that we requested to our factories and would be the person who received them in. Eventually I worked my way up to being a product developer. As a product developer my job consists of trend research and line planning in partnership with my design team. From there, once designs are approved by me and have been reviewed by our sales force, I’m in charge of nominating manufacturing partners who will develop the samples we need. Pretty cool huh! What’s even better is the product that I’m responsible for ends up in stores like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth, Finish Line, Zumiez, & Macys!
Getting your fashion degree and picking your ideal career path is not going to solely set you up for success. What many don’t tell you is experience is something that is desired and most of the time, listed when applying for a job. But when you’re just graduating from college, gaining experience is hard if you haven’t secured your first big job in the industry. So, you can do what I did! While I was in undegrad, I did a lot of hustling, networking, and making my face seen to those who mattered. Here are some tips you can take advantage of to build the experience you need to be successful:
♡ Get on Eventbrite for local fashion shows, panel/speaking events, and networking opportunities, a lot which are free or really cheap to attend
♡ If you’re good at writing or conveying messages, start a blog or YouTube channel – take it a step further and register it as an LLC and include it for your internship/externship
♡ if you have a desired career path already do research outside of your studies and reach out to professionals who can act as mentors. These mentors can align you with your first job in the industry once you graduate
♡ volunteer for local fashion shows and events – you never know who you will meet and you can include that experience on your resume
♡ CREATE YOUR PORTFOLIO EARLY!-Do not wait until your last semester when this will be required to graduate. As soon as school starts, get a binder and begin to create your portfolio. You can include things such as awards from school, updated copies of your resume, and all relevant projects you will complete. Also, if you have any documentation of relevant experience outside of school – include your work!
The most important aspect of getting started in the fashion industry is – this field is very competitive. So many people want to make it big, or be somewhat successful in this field, and in a lot of cities, like St. Louis, there are only a handful of companies hiring. Don’t get discouraged. It took me 8 months to find my big girl job, and a lot of waiting patiently for opportunities to come my way to show my worth and prove I belong. Always continue to build on your experience so when the opportunity comes, you’ll show up and show THE FUCK OUT!
Are you already in the fashion industry? How did you get started? Let’s talk in the comments below! Oh – and if you haven’t joined The HauteSpot Network for fashion professionals, you need to join today!