Dear younger self,
You might find this weird, but I’m you, from the future and I want to reassure you that YES, we do really want to work in fashion. We always have and we always will. Our ambitions may change with the climate, and we might not have an easy ride to the top, but keep striving. I’ve learnt some valuable life lessons so far from the fashion industry (which include, but are not limited to, always say no to a footless tight…) so it’s time to reflect and share what I’ve learnt from working in fashion.
THE RUNWAY ISN’T ALWAYS A STRAIGHT LINE
We’ve been pre-conditioned to believe that we’ll get the perfect job straight out of education, however, the truth is, not many of us do. When that plan starts to go off-kilter, it’s easy to think that the end goal is no longer in reach. It sounds like a cliche but, honestly, the path to a career in fashion never runs smoothly. And that’s okay. In fact, sometimes it’s actually better. After graduating, I began to take steps toward working as a fashion writer. Suddenly, this thing called ‘life’ happened and we found ourselves working full-time in a clothing shop. This new path led us to an opportunity in head office, where the skills we’ve picked up have been invaluable to our career. Fast forward to 2020 and I am now the writer for a fashion brand, despite the initial path being skewed. Trust the turns in the road.
JUST GO FOR IT
This all being said, more often than not opportunities end up leading to things you may never have come across before. The fashion industry is full of positions that may not have even been around when we began studying, so whether you’re looking for internships or jobs right now, go for anything that interests you. If you want to run the social media for a luxury designer brand, getting a placement at a smaller start-up company will provide useful skills despite not being as well known. Chances come and go so quickly in the world of fashion, so you lose nothing by trying to grab as much experience as you can. Drop the ego, and be prepared to learn and develop by going for every chance that comes your way.
A GOOD WORK/LIFE BALANCE NEVER GOES OUT OF STYLE
It’s well known that working in fashion can equate to sleepless nights, working long hours and living off coffee-fuelled days. While sometimes extending working hours beyond 6pm is sometimes necessary, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ kinda lifestyle isn’t sustainable in order to succeed. A good work/life balance is crucial in order to keep yourself and your capabilities thriving. Whether this means spending time investing in yourself, e.g. the gym, extra-curricular courses, or simply having ‘me-time’, clocking-off helps to reset you. Remember, those internships and post-grad jobs won’t benefit us in the long run if you’re burnt out now. Make the most of what you put in, so keep yourself healthy and well-rested to really squeeze the most out of every opportunity. Believe me, falling asleep at your desk isn’t going to help you get a promotion. Chilling out is mandatory.
LEARN HOW TO FAIL
We’ve never wanted to fail. From riding a bike to sitting exams, failure has never been an option. However, the fashion industry will quickly teach you that failing is your friend. From small fails like forgetting to add sugar to your manager’s coffee to big fails like not scoring that job you really wanted; learning to fail will eventually be what makes you succeed. Your experiences now as you begin your career may feel like a series of failures, but the skills learned, people you network with and first-hand experiences will be a pretty big accomplishment. Be grateful for things that go ‘wrong’, as cliche as it sounds, they were leading you to better things.
COMPARISON BREEDS COPYING
The oldest piece of advice in the book is not to compare yourself to others, something which isn’t always easy to do, especially when you work in fashion. With the rise of social media to add into the mix, it’s hard not to become jealous of someone’s outfit, let alone career trajectory. While sometimes a spoonful of envy can be quite motivating, don’t let it consume you. I, for one, have compared myself to peers many times regarding their jobs (and wardrobes), wishing I could be in their shoes. Not only did this have a negative effect on how I viewed myself and my own career, but it also didn’t get me any further to my end goal. Squash the habit now. The fashion industry is full of co-workers, colleagues and companies that will be quick to compare you to others, so make sure you don’t do it internally to yourself, keep your mind strong and make your differences your USP.
TAKE CRITICISM WELL
Whenever we got told we were doing something wrong, it hurt, right? We’ve always taken someone criticising us as a personal attack rather than tips for improvement. Within the world of fashion, criticism is always part of the deal, but you don’t need to develop a thick skin for it. You quickly have to learn to take on board critiques as you would compliments, fuelling them into developing your skillset. Remember, you are good enough and you do deserve these opportunities, feedback is here to push you further. That applies to our wardrobe choices too – low-rise jeans still aren’t cool…
There’s no other industry, in my opinion, that can teach you all these life lessons and help you develop as a person, let alone a successful fashion professional. Plus, if you needed any more persuading, I failed to mention the number one reason…the clothes! So, younger self, do you really want to work in fashion? The answer is: Absolutely.
Words by Rebecca Boffey