How to land a job in fashion?

It's the question I get asked the most: how do I start a career in fashion? Everyone from high school students to career changers all want to know how to start a career playing in closets and sit in the front row at the fashion shows. Well, the first thing to know is that you won't be playing in too many closets or flying to Paris to attend a Chanel show...at least not in the beginning. There's a lot to this fashion game and it's not for the faint at heart. So here's my thoughts on what you need to do to launch a successful a career in fashion.

1. Read- It amazes me how many people say they love fashion, but don't do their homework. When I started in the beauty industry almost two decades ago, my nose was in every makeup book that I could find. I remember inhaling Kevyn Aucoin's 'Making Faces' in one day and practicing all the looks with my $1 brushes I purchased at my local drugstore LOL I chose to enter through the beauty industry, but I read every fashion magazine I could find. Do the same. 

2. Practice- I received my nail technology license at the tender age of 17. That being said, as a burgeoning nail technician, I made sure to read every trade magazine on hair and nails that I could find. I literally spent hours at my local drugstore testing out new colors and I did all of my friends and family members nails. I didn't necessarily wait to get my license to do what I wanted to do. Now, don't get me wrong, there was no illegal activity going on here. I didn't have my dad build a shop at the back of my house of anything like that. I was simply perfecting my craft so that when I graduated, I was miles ahead of the game. Well my plan worked. Although I still had a lot to learn, my eagerness to be the best made me one of the best darned nail technicians in South Florida. The only reason I stopped doing nails was to devote more time to becoming a Fashion Buyer. There's no doubt, however, that I couldn't pick up that nail brush and drill and put on a set of gels that would make your eyes water ;-)

3. Study- I attended THE Florida State University and got my degree in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising, but I studied fashion WAYYYY before I received my actual degree. Being a student in fashion doesn't mean that you have to get a degree, although many people do. Reading and being knowledgeable about the various brands and different careers is not the same as studying. When you study something, you memorize it, pick apart, put it back together. You are basically creating your own hypothesis (sorry the grad school in me) on the topic. Do the same with fashion. Which designers stick out to you? Which brands do you align with? Which career are you most drawn to? For me, although I started out in beauty and cosmetics and worked in the buying office for 2 years, my heart is in visual merchandising. Give me a blank mannequin and a few baubles and I can work wonders. Figure out what your "thing" is and crush it! Learn it front-to-back and back-to-front.

4. Intern- Psssk...come closer. I'm going to tell you a secret. Everyone in fashion has had to work for free at one point in time. Whether it's as an apprentice, an intern, an assistant or shadowing, all of us in the fashion industry have worked for free. I was blessed to be part of a merchandising program that required us to do an internship as a graduation requirement. However, within that 12-week internship, I worked wayyyyyy more than the $10 an hour required. I also spent time outside of the required work hours shadowing other fashion professionals, assisting them with their daily duties while learning the ropes. If you REALLY want to work in fashion, you're gonna have to work for free for somebody. This is where the research and the studying come in. Find an area in which you want to work and a person that you want to work for and offer your services. In the time spent working with them, you'll not only gain valuable knowledge, you have the possibility of increasing your network and meeting folks of like mind.

5. Network- Speaking about networking. Get around some fashion folks. Whether you want to be in buying, visual merchandising, photography, sales, get around people that have the same or similar fashion occupational goals. It's awesome to be part of a community and when you're around people who are in the same line of work, you not only share knowledge, but resources on what's going on around town. You never know where that new opportunity will come from, so get out there and meet some fashion folks!

Well there you have it. My pointers for entering the fashion game like a pro. As with anything, if you want to be successful, you have to know your stuff. Fashion is no different. Those of us who are successful in fashion are constant and consistent learners. We don't stop taking these steps because we've in the field. So, if you want to get ahead, start early and learn all you can about the beautiful art form we call fashion!


Dionne Dean