As the charmingly naïve Andy Sachs character (played by Anne Hathaway) taught us in The Devil Wears Prada, fashion internships—and, in Sachs’ case, entry-level fashion jobs—are not always glamorous. Yet, they’re often an important part of securing a place in the ultra-competitive world of fashion.
You learn the basics of fashion in school; you put into practice what you learned during an internship.
There’s no doubt about it: You’ll do some mundane tasks during a fashion internship (coffee run, anyone?), but being immersed in the environment and the connections you’ll establish will make it all worthwhile.
If you’re a student, ideally your school will offer an internship program in which you can earn school credit while working for a company in the fashion industry. If your school doesn’t offer such a program, an experienced fashion recruitment company in NYC (the epicenter of fashion) can be a tremendous help. Most internships are unpaid, but some offer compensation—if you’re lucky, you might find one that pays close to what you’d make as an employee. Juggling an internship and simultaneously taking on a full course load at school can be a challenge, so weigh your options carefully.
Below we’ll explore what to expect from a fashion internship, and we’ll look at some interview dos and don’ts.
What to Expect as a Fashion Intern
What you’ll do as an intern will largely depend on the company you’re working for and your area of interest in the fashion world (i.e. merchandising, marketing/PR, art and design, etc.), but here are some common tasks you might be responsible for during your fashion internship:
Running Errands: While less than glamorous, running errands is common in a fashion internship (and in life!). Errands can include anything from sending out packages, to buying office supplies, to calling taxicabs, to walking the VP’s dog. While performing menial tasks isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, a dose of humility is in order—running errands without complaint demonstrates that you’re a team player, and it better positions you for a job down the line.
Administrative/Copywriting/PR Tasks: This can include anything, from answering phone calls and emails, to data entry and monitoring social media (more on that below), to creating promotional materials and writing ad copy and press releases, to preparing meetings, managing a calendar, setting up and coordinating a meeting—you name it. Not terribly exciting, but nonetheless important functions.
Social Media Management: It’s no secret that social media is huge today. Unless the company you’re interning at has a full-time social media staff member or team (and sometimes even then), you can probably expect to do some social media posting, especially if you’re pursuing a career in fashion marketing or PR. Crafting and posting engaging social media posts is a transferrable skill that works to anyone’s advantage in this day and age.
Communications: One of the most important functions of an intern is to make his or her direct supervisor’s life easier. Handling calls from designers and executives, writing and replying to emails, tracking people down, and establishing new contacts are all communication functions you may handle as an intern.
Photo Shoots: If you’re interning at a fashion magazine or retailer, assisting with and planning photo shoots may be part of the role. As a fashion design intern at a fashion magazine, for example, you might help organize clothing samples the magazine receives from fashion designers to be used in upcoming magazine photo shoots. You may also take care of packaging and shipping samples, and tracking inventory, and you may even help with model fittings in preparation for upcoming photo shoots.
Fashion Shows/Special Events: Special events like fashion shows, product launches, and publicity parties are a big part of what makes a fashion internship fun and exciting, which is not to say that ensuring events go off without a hitch isn’t hard work—it most certainly is. Yet seeing an event through to its successful end can be a very rewarding experience.
As an intern, you might be responsible for creating the guest list and sending out invitations, coordinating the catering, or communicating with media. As a fashion design intern you’ll more than likely plan events for clothing/accessory product launches.
Now that you have an idea of what an internship might entail, let’s look at how to land an internship, including dos and don’ts during an interview.
The Interview: What to Wear
It goes without saying that you should be impeccably dressed for your internship interview. It’s okay to wear something that reflects your personality, as long as it’s tasteful (hint: a white t-shirt with black bra is never okay). If you’re uncomfortable in your clothes, it will show, so don’t try to create a persona that doesn’t feel natural.
Being fashion forward doesn’t mean it’s okay to dress risqué for a job interview—wearing a low-cut blouse, a mini skirt, distracting ties (or worse, bowties), or too much hair product are no-nos. Try to emulate the aesthetic of the brand if you’re applying for a specific designer. That doesn’t have to mean wearing the brand from head to toe, but incorporating the brand’s style into your outfit can make a positive impression. Research company photos on social media to get a sense of what people wear to the office and to events, and try to match their style.
Beyond Clothing: Keep cologne/perfume to a minimum or forgo it altogether—the last thing you need is to set off your interviewer’s allergies. Make sure your nails are clean and well-trimmed, and that your nail polish isn’t chipped and messy, as this can be distracting—remember that you’ll be shaking a lot of hands.
Interview Dos and Don’ts
- Do Be Aware of Your Body Language: Are you slouching in your chair? Fidgeting? Nervously playing with your hair? Be aware of your posture—sit up straight or, better, lean in slightly, which reflects interest in the person you’re speaking with. Sit with arms uncrossed and hands in your lap (if sitting on a chair or couch) or on the table. More body language tips here.
- Do Relax: When you’re nervous, you can stumble in your responses to questions or forget things altogether. Your nervousness will also make your interviewer uncomfortable. Remember, all you really have to lose if the interview doesn’t go perfectly is time, and it’s good practice in any case. Being well-prepared and rehearsed, and doing plenty of research beforehand, should put you more at ease during the interview.
- Do Offer a Firm Handshake and Smile: A firm handshake conveys confidence. Make eye contact when shaking hands.
- Do Learn about the Company: Nothing will turn off an interviewer faster than a blank stare when they ask you what you know about the company. One word: research. Scour the company’s website to learn as much as possible; also learn more about your interviewer, the specifics of the internship you’re applying for, press about the company, company history, etc.
- Do Write a Thank You Note: Send a thank you note to your interviewer within 24 hours of the interview. If you feel you forgot anything during the interview that is pertinent to the internship, such as prior experience with event management, it’s okay to mention it in the thank you note, but keep it brief, and avoid apologizing for not mentioning it before. Simply say something like, “It was a pleasure meeting you this afternoon, and thank you very much for your time. I should also mention that in 2014 I was a key player in putting on an event for XYZ …”
- Don’t Appear Arrogant: Fashion has a bad reputation for attracting divas and egomaniacs. The fashion world is competitive, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be arrogant or rude. You’ll stand out even more by being considerate and cooperative. This does not mean being a pushover, but the old adage that you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar is as true in fashion as it is in life.
- Don’t Provide TMI: Oversharing can mean the difference between landing an internship and not. When asked about a time you made a mistake in the past, it’s best not to use the example about that time you missed an important meeting, which cost you a new client deal because you were out late the night before, celebrating a friend’s birthday. Keep personal information to a minimum and, instead, focus on your skills, strengths, and experience.
- Don’t Give Run-of-the-Mill Responses: Don’t just say you’re a “team player” or “detail oriented” or “hard working.” Give concrete examples of how you demonstrated those skills or traits in the past, whether at school, as a volunteer, or in a previous job. Be specific when explaining your strengths and achievements.
An internship is an essential stepping stone for many fashion college students and recent grads. Interning not only makes you more marketable, but it also provides an opportunity to discover what you like and don’t like, especially if you complete multiple internships. There’s no downside to interning—it’s excellent experience that will help you on your way to an exciting career in fashion.
The experienced fashion and retail recruiters at the Fashion Network have years of combined experience finding the most talented and qualified candidates for our clients in those industries, and we’ve helped countless job seekers find their dream jobs in fashion. Contact us today to get started with one of the best fashion staffing agencies in NY