You want a job in fashion – great! First, what you need to do is assess your talents and make a list. Why the list? Well, there are simply so many jobs in fashion, and there are also many kinds of designers. For example, not all designers are great drawers, but they can learn to illustrate just enough to be able to convey their ideas more clearly. Perhaps you are great at assembling collages, or can put together an outfit in an entirely unique and fresh way.
Your list could look like this:
- I’m great at spotting and starting trends.
- I know how to sew well.
- Im really good at fine art like painting and sculpture.
Your talents in sewing, for example, might steer you in the direction of working more hands-on in a workroom creating custom made clothing. For example, I was a decent enough sewer to get a job making costumes in NYC for huge Broadway shows like “Wicked” and “Legally Blonde”. It was thrilling. Not a good sewer? Not a problem! I had a talented student who loved to make “doodles”. Doodles they were not- they were beautiful drawings that were perfect to be developed into prints on textile. Even though she wanted to go into fashion design, her talents screamed textile and surface design to me! I think if she combined both trades, there would be nothing stopping her success. Some more examples:
Fashion Stylist – Your talent: Putting at outfit together in an interesting & unique way- pantyhose as a top after you cut a slit at the toe part? No problem!
Milliner (Hat) designer- Your Talent: Sculpture and 3-d design; hats are soft-sculpture, incidentally!
Trend Forecasting – Your Talent: Making great collages from magazines –Fashion companies pay big bucks for trend services that put together boards that predict trends.
Step Two- get started! It’s not necessary for you to go a trade-specific school to get a job in fashion, but it does help. If you live in an isolated area that does not offer many jobs in fashion, perhaps you do a summer camp in New York or LA that can offer you some training in a concentrated period of time. And with a decent computer and internet connection, you can also take classes online! If you are going the more traditional route, I would suggest enrolling in a two or four year school to train in fashion design or a related major like fashion styling or textile and surface design. Some of the big schools that offer the best fashion educations in the U.S. are as follows:
- The Fashion Institute of Technology (*I’m a grad and I also taught there!)
That said, there are many local schools that might be closer to you that could offer a quality education and be much more economical. For example, I live in Michigan and have observed great education with local schools like International Academy of Design and Merchandising (IADT) and even Lawrence Technological University (LTU) is offering classes in fashion.
In my very personal opinion, if you can enter an accelerated program that teaches you the basics in a year, or, a two year associates degree program, it’s all you need. I did go four years and earn a Bachelor’s Degree, but honestly, once I entered the industry, all that went out the door. Which leads me to your next step…
Step three- Get workin’, sista (or brotha, whatever)! Put your money where your mouth is. You want to have a job in fashion? Roll up those sleeves and show them that you are willing to invest in sweat equity. What does that mean? It means, you are trading your time and energy (maybe even a bit of your sanity) and offering your services as an intern or the like to learn from people in the field. That might mean putting in 5-20 hours a week at a big fashion company without pay or college credit. Again, if you don’t live in a big city, that might mean ringing up the trendiest boutique in town and seeing if they need some part-time help. Be creative- one of my biggest dreams is to be a store dresser at Anthropologie- I’ve even gone in and told them I’d help them for free (those windows and displays are crazy-cool)!
An internship can be many things. It might mean you are a gopher, running errands and answering phones. But that might also mean that chores like fetching swatches and trims will build your contact list in the sourcing field, and answering phones might put you in touch (and hopefully good graces) of all the important people that call- who will in turn learn your name. You can then use those learned things for when you start your business or work for someone else in a better position in the fashion industry. All experience is good experience.
Lastly, strive to be friendly with everybody, always keep humble, and learn something new everyday. It’s the best advice I could give any would-be fashionista in order to succeed. Good luck and see you out there!