How to Start a Career in Fashion
Starting a new career can be daunting, whether you are a recent graduate or thinking of switching careers, with the right skills, positive mindset, creativity and perseverance- a career in fashion is more accessible than you think.
The Fashion industry might be competitive, but it’s constantly growing and changing, meaning that there’s a clear need for transferable skills and creativity. You don’t necessarily need to be a designer to work in Fashion, there’s an endless amount of possibilities.
We’ve gathered tips from some of our experienced tutors and talented students on how to get your foot in the door and start your career in fashion.
- Choose an area of fashion
- Knowledge is power
- Look for work experience
- Stay motivated and keep moving
- Network, Network!
- Know your fortes
- Be kind
- What's next?
Choose an area of fashion
“Many students who come to LCF are unaware of the various courses we do which cover all the fashion industry’s diverse and exciting careers. Do you want to work in fashion media, fashion business or fashion design? All of these are very different and require a different set of skills. So, researching these industries will help you narrow down the areas you want to focus on,” says Carlyn McGuire, Freelance designer and Fashion design lecturer at London College of Fashion.
Get out there and start thinking about what area of fashion you’d like to work on. By doing so, you will be able to narrow down your job search and tailor your CV to focused experience.
Knowledge is power
It may sound obvious but gaining the right skills is essential, knowledge is power and knowing what the industry you are getting into is like can be lifesaving.
“We don’t all possess every single skills or knowledge that make us fashion experts, but you can learn what is specific to your career aspirations and goals. Studying at any level helps to learn the essential skills and knowledge to support a successful career. You can choose a foundation course or BA, or you can select career specific shorter courses that suit your individual needs and lifestyle. All we give you is skills that you will use to build your future in fashion, and you meet likeminded people that become your networking community in the future!” adds Carlyn.
David McGovern, London based fashion filmmaker and fashion film tutor at London College of Fashion suggests: “Learn as much as you can and be constantly curious. Knowledge is everything, and fashion has a rich history. Understand how closely fashion overlaps with other industries and art movements and learn about them too.”
Look for work experience
Finding a fashion internship can be difficult but getting as much experience as possible can go a long way. You should approach lots of companies, even if you feel like there’s no chance of getting in.
Noorin Khamisani, founder of an independent sustainable fashion business, Outsider and Fashion sustainability tutor believes that work experience was the key to starting her career “I studied a BA in Fashion Design and then spent a year doing internships to build up my CV. From there I got my first job and worked in the industry for over 6 years before starting my own label (Outsider).”
If you already have a job, for example in retail. Go beyond your role, use your position and enhance it. You will find that eagerness to do things and be creative will be welcomed.
David tells us that he first started his fashion career working in retail, “I moved to New York after my BA and started working as a sales associate in American Apparel. I liked the psychology and aesthetics behind visual merchandising, so I worked towards that position. The company gave Visual Merchandisers a lot of creative freedom, so I was able to be very playful with my window design and store layouts.”
Stay motivated and keep moving
Enthusiasm and perseverance are important. It will probably take time before you find yourself in your dreamed job. Every experience will bring you one step closer to your goal.
“My advice is to have a lot of love for what you do and a lot of determination. The key to staying motivated is great ambition and a lot of willpower. Don’t be discouraged if there are problems and do not rush to see results immediately,” explains Beatrice d’ Alessandro, LCF alumna, swimwear designer and founder of Bain De Maillots.
David McGovern suggests writing down why you want to be in the industry and always come back to that. “What do you want to change, and what do you want to strengthen? This will help you with the inevitable setbacks you have, but mainly it will give you focus as your path becomes winding and unexpected.”
Don’t give up at the first challenge or rejecting, keep moving and reminding yourself why is it that you chose it. “Your skills may not be suited for all, but the right opportunity will come,” adds Carlyn.
Over 80% of job seekers say that their network has helped with their job search.
“Be proactive in networking, attending relevant events, keep up to date with the latest news. Explore all the career options available, many skills are transferable between job roles,” says Noorin. “Be creative in your approach to job hunting, there are many ways to get your foot in the door,” she continues.
And it’s true! Knowing your future employer can increase your chances of getting the job (given you left a good first impression).
“Don’t wait for jobs to come up, or people to contact you. Get active in searching out opportunities, network and stay connected with other creatives (you never know!!). Believe in yourself, not everyone’s journey to a successful fashion career is the same so try what works for you,” advises Carlyn.
So, get your network boots on! Attend events where you can meet those who work in your field of interest. Get your name out there and learn from the experts. Get career advice and find out about potential job opportunities. Remember: if they like you, they will remember your name!
Know your fortes
Knowing what you are good at is also essential. If you don’t know what you are good at, how will you sell yourself to future employers and know what areas to improve?
“We all have dreams, but it’s important to be realistic. “Be honest with yourself. Within the fashion area, what are your strengths? What are you good at? What do you enjoy most? What are you not good at? Building on existing skills and qualities will build a career that has the potential for success,” says Carlyn.
If you know what you are good at you will be able to reflect that in your portfolio, job interviews and professional presence.
This is starting to sound a bit like self-help but, being kind to people you work with is key, but also remember to be kind to yourself!
“You need to be both a team player and be able to work under your own steam. Enthusiasm, persistence and energy are essential. You also need to be organised and professional. Most importantly, always be polite, it's a smaller industry than you'd think, and you often bump into the same people,” says Noorin
Don’t be too hard on yourself when things are going south, “I wish someone explained to me that there isn’t just one way of succeeding within the fashion industry – or any industry. Let it be intuitive. There are lots of stories – too many in my opinion – of visionaries who had a single focus and purpose since they were a child. I think the most interesting creatives are the ones who are crossing over into different industries, perhaps even coming to fashion later in life. Your career should not be a tidy, linear thing,” says David.
The fashion industry is changing daily, and so is the formula for getting in. Be creative! Don’t be scared to change things up a bit, start your own project and let your creative juices flow!
If you are keen to move forward, a good place to start is by developing your skills and industry knowledge with a short course.