So You Want to Work in the Fashion Industry

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Last Wednesday, I headed back to my college stomping grounds...good ol' Waco, Texas. My favorite professor asked me to come speak at Baylor Apparel Professionals, so naturally I jumped at the chance.

While I was in college, I had a blog where I basically said whatever was on my mind. The summer of my internship with JC Penney, I wrote a blog post about my experience. To this day I still get emails from prospective internees and/or employees wanting to know more about my time with JCP.  I figured since that post had such a great response, I needed to write a more broad  post about working in the fashion industry, in hopes that it would help others as well. (okay, okay, I guess you can see the old post I was referencing. Keep in mind this was on my personal blog -  it was never a true fashion blog like Southern Elle Style is. Read it here)

Let me start with a little background, so you know that I'm not just making stuff up on the fly!  My mom taught me how to sew at a young age. I knew how to do anything from sewing a button on, to in depth cross stitching. I attended Garland High School, where I began as a International Baccalaureate candidate. My sophomore year, I dropped to AP chemistry instead of IB, which made my world a billion times easier. The next year I dropped to AP math as well. This created a lot of free space in my schedule, because I had already fulfilled my credits to graduate. Between my junior and senior year, I was able to take marketing, photo journalism, pattern making, fashion design one and fashion design two. I am so thankful for that, because it was during this time that my love for fashion grew bigger than it had ever been. After high school graduation, I got my first job, in retail none the less, and decided to attend Baylor University. There I studied Apparel Merchandising and Business. The summer after my junior year, I took an internship with JC Penney in one of their Arkansas stores. Shortly after that, in December 2012, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Family Consumer Science. My first job was at J. Hilburn, a custom clothier based in Dallas, TX. I stayed at JH corporate for a little over a year, and then accepted a job in the merchandising sector of the Dallas Cowboys. I will have been a product line manager for them, for 2 years next March. As I stated previously, I had a blog in college, but pretty much stopped writing after I graduated. I launched Shop Southern Elle November 2014 as an eCommerce site for my custom bow ties, with an accompanying blog; however, this past August, I switched over to Southern Elle Style, as a stand along blog platform!

Anyway, back to the beginning of post - last week when I spoke to current, Baylor fashion students! I obviously discussed my job and my day to day responsibilities, but I also left them with the below nuggets of truth. In reality, you can apply them to any job with a little tweaking!

-Attend Fashion Clubs: If you are still in school, find or even better yet, create your fashion group. You need a place where you can learn about real world application from those in the field already. This is what Baylor Apparel Professionals is to BU. 


-Keep in Contact with Mentors/Teachers: Professors do a lot more than they are given credit for. If you only contact them when you need a reference letter, chances are that's not going to cut it. Same if you have a mentor. You don't have to talk everyday, but perhaps once a month.


-Work in retail. You need to have this experience if you plan on being in the fashion scene, period. Not only do you need it as a rite of passage, but also as a way to understand the retail side of apparel. (as opposed to the wholesaling side. I am currently in wholesaling, as well as distributing, not as much retail)


-Intern at a reputable company. Honestly paid fashion internships are a white tiger in the world...they are really hard to come by - I was lucky! Do not just pick an internship because it pays. You ultimately want people to be impressed when they see it on your resume. Even if you have to work a side job, pick the internship that looks the best overall, not just the one that will make your wallet happy. Obviously not everyone can work on-set for gossip girl for free, but you know what I mean.


-Network with everyone. Whether you are at an event or not, talk to people, because you never know what a conversation might lead to! I spoke to a woman at a party, just being friendly, and now we do blog collaborations together.  Honestly just being straight up nice will get you far in life.


-Attend events. My planner is sometimes filled with too many events, but I mean come on...FOMO. In reality, events are cool and if you share them, then like minded people and events will come knocking at your door. You definitely want to network as these too, though. I know it is uncomfortable at times, but just do it!!


-Read. This applies to anyone really, but if you're in the fashion industry, make sure you read fashion books! I have read everything from designer biographies, to current trend books, and of course fiction fashion. It keeps you interesting - if there is ever a lull in conversations, you have something to bring up.


-Research Companies.  You don't have to know about all the Fortune 500 companies, but you should know the gist. What I recommend doing is finding a company you really love and following it. I love J. Crew, so I keep up with Mickey Drexler, Jenna Lyons, and all of their runways shows.  Also, if you follow their stock it's super impressive! I mentioned stocks on my internship interview with JCP and I think it paid off;)


-Over prepare for interviews. No matter how you much you prep, nerves can and will get the best of you. Most companies will use behavioral questions, at least when you are interviewing with HR. Look up questions on the internet, write down your answers and practice them out loud. Later, have a friend ask you questions, so you can practice answering again.


-Say thank you. To anyone and everyone, but specifically with interviews. Sure, send that email, but hand written notes make awesome impressions. If you are a blogger, emails usually work best - it's great to get a prompt thank you email from a blogger, so make sure you are doing that.


-Go for it. Even if you don't think you're qualified, you never know what might happen. My current position was a similar circumstance. If you would have asked me then if I thought I could land the position, I would have told you no.


-Don’t be complacent. Always strive to improve and be better. I'm not saying to be negative about your current situation, just keep striding for more. These are the type of employees people want, and that's not just in the fashion industry.

Are you in the fashion industry? Did I leave any tips off that you would recommend? Do you have any questions for me? I'm happy to answer via comments below or email!

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