Are you an aspiring fashionista? Perhaps you’ve grown up perusing the pages of Vogue and are seriously thinking about pursuing a career in the fashion business. Lovelyish talked to Jenna, a fashion professional in New York City, about what “the job a million girls would kill for” is really like.
Q: What made you decide to go into fashion?
I always enjoyed working in retail. It’s fast-paced and constantly changing, so you’re never bored. Even from when I was little, I picked out my own outfits and mixed patterns.
Q: What are the different areas of fashion that people can get involved in?
A: There’s design, merchandising, finance, planning and allocation (the financial distribution of merchandise to stores), production and sourcing (obtaining materials like fabric and trim), legal, and marketing.
Q: What was your first step in pursuing your career in fashion?
A: First I worked in retail. There you learn how to work with customers, how things function on the floor, math, promos, the fast-paced movement of the business. Then, once I graduated from college with a degree in public relations, I decided to go to graduate school in retail merchandising, because it doesn’t limit you to just fashion and you get good exposure to the marketing side of things: consumer behavior, finance, etc.
Q: How did you obtain your current job?
A: I was systematic. I knew I wanted to go to New York, and I made an Excel chart of every company in NY, and I went through regularly and contacted them for internships. I got three interviews that were of interest, and some that were not so promising, like unpaid internships. I got them all! I decided on the job I have now because it paid the most and it had an ending date for the internship, when I could possibly be up for a permanent job. And it did: I’m now an assistant buyer.
Q: What is working in the fashion industry really like?
A: It’s long hours. It’s a lot more like “The Devil Wears Prada” than they say it is! The glamour is only there from the outside. A typical day is spent in lots of meetings and team meetings, because everything’s cross functional. Any fashion company is big on this: one department, say shirts, will have a buyer, a designer, etc. For important things, you can have a meeting that goes from 9 to 5, and then when you get out you, still have to do your daily work!
Q: What advice would you give for high school or college students who want to get into the fashion industry?
A: Work in retail, starting in high school. Be good at math. Be prepared to work long hours, because if you won’t do it, someone else will. You need to have a good work ethic. Major in fashion or business in college. You have to be driven and have a sense of urgency. As a buyer, you manage all the samples and coordinate them and get them out to stores across the country. You have to be very detailed.
Q: Do you think it’s more important for people to get experience or a degree?
A: Experience is definitely more important. For me, it was having the master’s that helped, because I didn’t major in fashion in college. But companies are looking for workers with established skill sets, and having knowledge of how the business actually works, and networking contacts, is priceless.
Did you find this interview helpful?