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Careers in fashion: breaking into the industry

Careers in fashion: breaking into the industry

The fashion industry has a reputation for being competitive to get into – but don’t let this stop you pursuing your dream fashion job.

Do you:

  • know your Edward Enniful from your Anna Wintour?
  • consider yourself to be your friendship group’s stylist?
  • understand the difference between houndstooth and gingham?
  • watch The Devil Wears Prada on repeat?
  • follow the likes of Gigi Hadid and Naomi Campbell on Instagram?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of the above, a career in fashion could be calling your name.

What job roles are available in the fashion industry?

There are many different jobs that make up the fashion industry. There are roles for the business-minded, the creative geniuses and the daring fashionistas. Take a look at our list of 28 careers in fashion to explore which jobs might be a good fit for you.

Employers in the fashion industry

You could work for:

  • a high-street brand such as H&M, Monsoon or Whistles
  • a sportswear brand such as Adidas, Nike or Sweaty Betty
  • a supermarket fashion label such as F&F (Tesco), George (Asda) or Tu Clothing (Sainsbury’s)
  • a department store such as House of Fraser, John Lewis or Selfridges
  • an online-only retailer such as ASOS, Boohoo or In The Style
  • an established designer label such as Burberry, Gucci or Ralph Lauren
  • an independent designer such as Bethany Williams, Olivia Rubin or Richard Quinn
  • a boutique store such as Cricket, Modern Society or Wolf & Badger
  • a media company such as Condé Nast, Hearst or TI Media
  • a creative agency such as Fabric PR, ODD or SUM
  • a trend forecaster such as Kjaer Global, Trendstop or WGSN
  • a fashion college or university such as Central Saint Martins, Edinburgh College of Art or Nottingham Trent University

Or, if you’re keen to unleash your inner entrepreneur, you could become a freelancer or set up your own business. This is common in areas such as fashion design, styling, journalism and photography.

Where are the fashion jobs based?

The vast majority of fashion jobs can be found in, perhaps unsurprisingly, the four fashion capitals of the world:

  • London
  • Milan
  • New York
  • Paris

If you want a job in the UK, the capital city is likely to be your base. However, that’s not to say you can’t work in fashion elsewhere in the country. There are some opportunities in other large cities such as:

  • Birmingham
  • Edinburgh
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham

If your dream career in fashion involves jet-setting around the world, there are plenty of cities outside of the UK to choose between. Fashion is a global industry, after all. You may well be able to find work in the likes of:

  • Amsterdam
  • Barcelona
  • Berlin
  • Copenhagen
  • Dubai
  • Los Angeles
  • Shanghai
  • Sydney
  • Tokyo
  • Vancouver

How hard is it to get a job in fashion?

The fashion industry is competitive to break into. You might not find a job immediately after graduating – especially if you want to work in fashion design.

You’ll need to complete as much work experience as possible – both at university and afterwards. Fashion graduates usually complete several internships – often unpaid – before getting their first permanent job.

Read our article on fashion internships and other ways to gain experience in the industry to find out more.

Do I need a masters degree?

You can study a masters in fashion design, specialisms such as costume design, footwear or menswear, or other areas of fashion such as fashion business management, fashion journalism or fashion photography.

If you don’t have a fashion-related degree, you could study a fashion masters degree to build on your knowledge of the industry and the job role you want.

A masters degree isn’t necessary if you have a fashion-related undergraduate degree. However, would-be fashion designers may find a technically focused masters useful for developing more of the skills that are needed – and it may reduce the amount of unpaid work you do before getting a paid job.

How to find fashion graduate jobs

Formal graduate schemes are limited in the fashion industry – and tend to be in the areas of buying, merchandising and occasionally design. The handful available are with the bigger, well-known high-street retailers, including:

  • Arcadia Group
  • Fenwick
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Next
  • TJX Europe (TK Maxx)

Instead, most fashion employers advertise job vacancies on their websites as and when they become available. Keep an eye on the career pages of brands that interest you and set up job alerts if the option is given to you.

It’s not common for ‘graduate’ to be included in the job titles so you’ll need to find suitable roles yourself by looking at what experience/qualifications they require. If a job title includes ‘junior’ or ‘assistant’, this is often an entry-level role.

Smaller, independent designers do hire – for example, UK-based designers can apply for funding from the British Fashion Council to take on a fashion design graduate for a 12-month traineeship programme. However, they don’t hire frequently, positions aren’t always widely advertised and the competition is high.

The motto ‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know’ often rings true in the fashion industry, so you’ll increase your chances by building your professional network. You can meet people by attending fashion and general networking events – both as part of your degree and outside of it.

If you’re currently at university or have recently graduated, keep an eye on your university’s jobs board and talk to your lecturers and careers service. You never know which fashion alumni they are still in contact with – and who may well reach out to the university when they want to fill a position.

University of the Arts London has a jobs and internships website called Creative Opportunities that is open to everybody and you can also find vacancy listings on websites such as:

  • Drapers
  • Fashion Workie
  • Fashion United
  • Fashion Jobs

There are some recruitment agencies that specialise in fashion, textiles and retail, such as:

  • 360 Talent London
  • Angela Harper Resourcing
  • Danielle Ward Recruitment
  • Four Seasons Recruitment
  • Freedom People
  • QHQ
  • Talisman Fashion
  • U&I Recruitment

You could also try your hand at sending speculative applications to brands you’re interested in.

What skills are valued in the world of fashion?

Certain roles will require specific skills. A fashion designer will need to have technical abilities such as illustration and pattern cutting, for example.

Skills that are useful across all jobs in fashion include:

  • attention to detail
  • commercial awareness
  • communication
  • creativity
  • IT skills
  • problem solving
  • teamwork

What can I earn in the fashion industry?

When you think of who earns the most in the fashion industry, you probably think of designers, models and photographers. Those who ‘make it’ have huge earning potential – but bear in mind that not everybody will reach this level. Money may be tight for those who are new to the field or who have been in the field for a while but are struggling to ‘break out’.

If the business side of fashion appeals to you more, entry-level roles such as buying and merchandising tend to pay between £16,000 and £25,000 depending on the employer. With experience, this could rise to between £50,000 and £70,000.

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