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Once upon a time, I used this blog as a place to document the ins and outs of my life as a fashion intern. Those diaries earned me plenty of friends that’d keep me company as I raced around London buying coffees, delivered expensive sample bags to PR offices and sat cross-legged on the floor of the fashion cupboard.
I’d wanted to ‘work in fashion’ since I was 14. I dreamed of becoming a wedding dress designer, then a fashion designer, before eventually deciding I’d love to be a fashion writer, someday helming a magazine of my own. And what’s incredible to me now, as I pen this post aged 30, is that I did tick off all of the career goals I had. In fact, some of the most commonly asked questions I receive are about my career to date.
Beginning a career in fashion
To preface this entire conversation, there is no one set path to working in fashion. Embarking on a degree in fashion is a huge step that not everyone has access to and, from experience, it’s certainly not necessary. After surviving my A-levels, I packed up my bedroom, cried a LOT and moved down to Southampton for three years of studying BA (Hons) Writing Fashion and Culture at Southampton Solent University. From merchandising to trend forecasting, feature writing to styling, news journalism to media law, the course gave me a thorough understanding of almost every step in the fashion journalism world. But what was also impressed on us throughout was the importance of gaining industry experience.
Much like studying at degree level, the ability to comfortably intern is not always accessible. However I couldn’t recommend it enough. I spent my Christmas break and reading weeks waitressing non-stop to save money for commuting to London to intern during Easter and summer breaks. And in my interning years, I worked at beauty brands, fashion magazines, PR agencies… You name it, I tried it. You can find opportunities by searching for journalism internships in London, and keeping a close watch on your favourite brands’ websites and social media pages, online portals, Diary Directory Jobs and even Gorkana. Perfect your CV by including all of your best transferable skills, be witty and friendly, nail your cover letter, and brush up on your tea-making (or complicated drinks order memory!) skills.
How did you get your first break?
After two solid Easter, summer and Christmas breaks of interning – including a month at InStyle – I landed my first job to start a few weeks after graduating. I’d soon discovered that I didn’t want to work at a magazine anymore, and much preferred the slightly more relaxed ambience of a brand’s head office. What I gleaned from this is that your ambitions are almost always in flux. And so I began to flesh out my post-University CV, including the skills I’d picked up during my internships, the tasks, responsibilities and experience I’d gained during each internship, and the role I was seeking. It’s good to be clear and concise here, rather than embellishing anything.
A month or two later, I happily took on an entry-level role at a copywriter at Alexandalexa, a luxury childrenswear retailer.
Reserving space to grow in your career
For a long time, I was upset with myself for not achieving my dream of writing at a fashion magazine. The industry – and the Uni experience – moves so quickly that it’s easy to forget to let your career goalposts shift too. Oftentimes when you work behind-the-scenes in retail, growth can feel slow and difficult. Whether that’s climbing up in the business or finding new pockets to learn about and move into, building a career that you love is often about leaning into the quiet times and understanding what makes you happiest and keeps your brain happily ticking along during your 9-5.
Following a few months’ stint in my first job, I quickly moved onto similar copywriter roles at big British high street brands. Much like my internship days, working hard at each place gave me a firmer understanding of what I did and didn’t want, be that late nights, terrible break hours, opportunity for autonomous working, more responsibilities, more variety in my day…
When you reach the ‘dream’ part
My early to mid-twenties were during that time when ‘It’ bags were all the rage, and several of us would save our entry-level earnings to buy a dreamy Mulberry Alexa, a Balenciaga City, a Gucci Disco… So, following three years of working for high street labels, I applied – on a whim – for a position at a luxury fashion retailer… in Hong Kong… and got it! Without doubt, these internships and entry-level roles in London had set me up to make the leap into where I’d been dreaming for a while.
An entire 10 years into my professional career, and I’m now perfectly settled into working for myself. Career goalposts shift and flux all the time, and it’s true when they say regular check-ins, appraisals and the like can be hugely beneficial. You might find that you thrive with these professional check-ins and sit quite happily within a corporate environment, or you might feel restricted – like I often have – and decide to go it alone. But building my dream career has always, always been founded upon the roots of getting to know each little step and using them to pivot.