I started a book some years ago. It’s called When Paris Was Still Vacation and it documents my spontaneous decision to turn my Paris vacation into a year long stay. I enrolled in college where I was the first and only foreigner, lived alone for the first time in my life, and completely immersed myself in French culture. I ate baguettes by the pound, dipped in my coffee of course. I took the metro (subway was not even in my vocabulary yet) and I learned how to do a one handed chignon (the correct way without any bobby pins or ponytail holders). Paris became my home and I never wanted to leave. However, after many discussions with my favorite professor, I finally made the decision to uproot my life again to move to New York City where I could pursue a fashion career.
I’ll be more generous with the details in my book (which may not be finished until 2050), but I got into the fashion industry within 5 months after I arrived in NYC. How? Connections. I’ve spoken about how to build connections in a previous post, so I won’t get into it now, but I do want to tell you what it’s actually like to work in fashion. I’ve held many different roles in the industry, so consider this my overall review.
- Expect a lot of pressure. In fashion, there are major deadlines and constant emergencies. At one of my jobs, I was in charge of messengering over samples to our retailers. When the samples weren’t sewn correctly, the orders changed, the wrong fabrics were delivered… there was nothing I could do, but if the samples arrived even a minute late, the retailer would demand a discount, sometimes costing us thousands of dollars.
- Expect a lot of responsibility. You have to wear a lot of hats in the fashion industry. As a merchandising assistant, I was also pulling for buyers’ meetings, checking quality, updating sketches, managing the company’s marketing efforts, and serving as the fit model. I was also responsible for making sure my director had 10 sharpened pencils on her desk at all times. (I’m telling you, my book is going to be phenomenal.)
- Expect serious meetings about fun topics. This was definitely my favorite part -- heated discussions on which trends we should focus on and emergency pow wows about why a certain dress wasn’t selling.
- Expect swag. One of the major perks of working in the industry is getting to take home samples. The occasional work party is also pretty fun.
- Expect that not everyone will want to be your friend. The most important thing I learned during my time in fashion is that a good work environment is vital. I would not at all say that everyone in fashion is mean, but everyone deals with the stress of the job differently.
- Expect to run across people who will try to use you for your position. There’s a fine line between making a connection and trying to take advantage of someone.
- Expect little pay. Unless you’re at the top, you’ll be making close to nothing.
- Expect long hours. ‘Nuff said.
- Expect to be immersed into a whole new world. If you play your cards right, the girls you used to envy will become your friends and the parties you read about in Elle Magazine will become your nightly adventures.
- Expect a new perspective. Depending on the company you end up at, you will most likely come to realize that the industry is not all it’s cracked up to be. Before forging your way, you may have said anything along the lines of, “I would die to work in the fashion industry! I would literally sell my soul.” But here’s the thing. While it has its perks and glam moments, it’s still a job and you will probably be spending most of your day behind a computer answering emails and filling out spreadsheets.
Bottom line, the industry is meant for passionate people. If you live and breathe fashion, you’ll be able to overlook the screaming and crying and meltdowns. You’ll push through and persevere. I’m happy I experienced it because I used to be that person who would have done absolutely anything to work in fashion, but at this point in my life, I refuse to work in a soul-sucking environment for so little pay. Switching to the beauty industry was the best move I ever made, especially since my blog gives me as much fashion industry exposure as I’m in the mood for on any given day.
*Disclosure: Industry experiences will always be different based on the company.
Black Moto Jacket: Eleven Paris/Luvit (c/o)
White Poplin Top: Zara
White Pants: Zara
Black Tassel Slides: Ivanka Trump (c/o)
Photography: Kevin Tun