I didn’t fall in love with fashion until it was ‘too late’. It was in my second year of university, studying Art History when I decided I wanted to work in the fashion industry. Don’t get me wrong, an Art History degree can be conducive to a fashion career and I absolutely loved my course, but the route to employment isn’t as cut-and-dry as a fashion related degree. This is due to the simple fact that an Art History degree doesn’t include fashion learning. I was determined to get some fashion experience, despite my seemingly unrelated degree choice, I sought out some clever and creative ways to get fashion experience on my student CV.
Volunteer at student fashion shows
I studied at St Andrews, a long way London or Manchester where all the fashion opportunities seem to be. Yet fortunately, my university had a rich and extremely developed fashion culture. There are five big fashion shows in the spring term, all uniquely themed to offer real variety and entertainment. I joined the craze quite late but managed to secure two years of working on St Andrews’ newest fashion show ‘Label’, which is all about body positivity. I served as the Creative Consultant which was a great achievement to put on my student CV. My role included advising on the overall creative vision for the show, such as directing photo shoots, liaising with student designers and supporting the fashion team. If your uni doesn’t have a very developed programme of shows, exhibitions or fashion-related events, perhaps you could consider starting up your own! It starts with just one person with a brilliant idea and a team to back you up. Make it happen and create something incredible!
Get involved in competitions
In my final year of University, I entered a competition run by Business of Fashion and TOPSHOP, seeking out the 10 ‘Future VOICES’ of Fashion. Out of thousands of applicants who entered from around the world, I was one of ten selected to attend the conference in Oxfordshire.
The entire experience was an absolute dream for all of the final ten, yet my highlight was being named the overall winner of VOICES 2016. I met some incredible figures within fashion’s inner circle and made great contacts at BoF. The programme was just as beneficial for my fellow finalists in terms of contacts and experience. So, in this case, the taking part is really what counts.
The ‘VOICES’ conference runs once a year in December, but magazines and companies are constantly running similar competitions to seek out new talent. The V&A partnered with Adwoa Aboah and put a call out to find someone to join Adjoa on stage to talk about female representation in the media. Seek out the opportunities that are relevant to you and go for it.
TOP TIP: I’ve included this expense on my student CV under the ‘skills and achievements’ section and it’s still one of the first things employers ask me about.
Take an online course
This point is probably the most practical and I recommend it to everybody who isn’t studying fashion at university. I took a free online Fashion and Luxury Management course [https://www.coursera.org/learn/mafash] with the Università Bocconi via coursera.com. Coursera has a range of courses in marketing, graphic design and management that are useful for the fashion industry, so have a browse. This fashion-specific one goes through the structures of fashion businesses, discusses retail and online business models and different categories of fashion outlets. I highly recommend it to get a basic understanding of how the industry operates on a business level, as this is something you cannot learn from the media.
TOP TIP: At the end of the course, you can pay a mere $50 to get a signed certificate as proof of your latest achievement and can be displayed on your LinkedIn profile.
Be rigorous in staying informed
Knowledge is power. When you land an interview for a role at your dream fashion company, you want to make sure that you can show off your industry knowledge! As a student, I read Business of Fashion and other fashion news religiously. Women’s Wear Daily and Refinery29 also frequently graced my browser. In addition, every time a leader in the fashion industry came to speak at a St Andrews event, I showed up. I heard from the CEO of AllSaints, the Head of Global PR for Alexander McQueen and the Vice President of Tiffany; and I got all their business cards.
TOP TIP: Overall, I took at least an hour out of my day, every day, to stay updated and connected with the industry.
For those of you who don’t study fashion, it’s your responsibility to make it explicit both on your student CV and in person that you know your stuff and are dedicated to the industry. These four tips are ways to get a diverse range of fashion experience, both practically and mentally, to get your student CV primed for a job in fashion. Pair them with a couple internships in the industry (for extra measure, although I didn’t), and (after many rejections, trust me) you’ll land that dream fashion job, regardless of your degree.
Words by Vienna Kim