Fashion internships and other work experience
Lots of fashion companies offer work shadowing, internships and placement years – and these are often the best ways into permanent employment.
Fashion internships can last between a month and a year. Not only do they develop your skills set and look good on your CV, but they help to expand your network. They can often lead to a permanent job offer from the employer or another opportunity with somebody else you met during the internship.
As a result of the pandemic, you may find that you will be able to focus on some of the suggestions in this article more than others – for instance, perhaps you’ll pick up a copy of The Fashion Book or put on one of the fashion podcasts listed to replace cancelled trade shows or fashion weeks. These (and other social distancing-friendly ideas below) are great ways to increase your knowledge of the industry. If you’re worried that you won’t be gaining all the insights you would have liked at this time, remember that employers will understand that you were building up your career readiness during such a difficult period.
Finding a fashion internship
Employers that have previously offered internships include:
- Alexander McQueen
- British Fashion Council
- Condé Nast
- French Connection
- Harvey Nichols
- House of Holland
- Jenny Packham
- Kurt Geiger
- Urban Outfitters
To find an internship, you should look for vacancies on the websites of the organisations you’re interested in and websites such as Drapers, Fashion Workie, Fashion United and Fashion Jobs.
Make the most of your university’s careers service and industry partnerships, too. Almost every fashion college or university department will have strong connections with a range of fashion companies. This often means students are invited to apply for internships with these employers.
Are fashion internships paid?
The fashion industry has a reputation for offering unpaid internships – often in London, where rent is notoriously expensive. You may get an allowance or be reimbursed for travel or lunch expenses, but this can still be difficult if you can’t get financial support or live rent-free with your family or a friend.
Not all internships are unpaid though. In particular, a lot of the larger or well-known brands will pay their interns at least the national minimum wage.
If you do take up an unpaid internship, you may need to be prepared to work a second job at the weekend to pay the bills. Read up on your rights beforehand with our article on unpaid internships.
Other ways to put your best foot forward
The more you engage with fashion and keep up with industry news (eg the latest trends, market developments and ethical and environmental issues), the better.
If you’re still studying for a degree in fashion, chances are your university will provide you with opportunities to do so through:
- industry projects – working on live briefs set by well-known fashion brands
- lectures, presentations and workshops with guest speakers from industry
- field trips to factories, stores, museums, famous fashion capitals, fashion weeks and/or international trade events such as Première Vision in Paris
- exhibitions and fashion shows for final-year students’ work, with press and industry contacts invited.
You could also:
- get a job on a shop floor as a retail assistant
- organise a charity fashion show and procure/design the clothes
- volunteer with designers or PR firms at London Fashion Week
- get your hands on a copy of The Fashion Book
- attend fashion weeks yourself (it can be hard to buy tickets for the fashion shows at London Fashion Week but – when it isn’t prevented by the pandemic – Somerset House is open to the public and there are smaller fashion shows across the UK)
- enter competitions such as those run by the British Fashion Council
- maintain your presence on LinkedIn and other social media and follow key brands/fashion influencers
- listen to fashion podcasts such as Vogue Podcast, BOF Podcast, Fashion No Filter, Fashion Hags, Dressed: The History of Fashion, Oh Boy, Fashion Revolution Podcast and Unravel: A Fashion Podcast
- attend trade shows such as Moda and Pure London
- read content in fashion consumer magazines, as well as industry publications and websites, such as Women’s Wear Daily, Drapers and The Business of Fashion
- follow fashion blogs and vlogs
- set up your own fashion blog and/or Instagram account
- pay attention to celebrity fashion events such as the British Fashion Awards, Cannes Film Festival and the Met Gala
- go window shopping – both online and in person (buying something is optional)
- volunteer with a fashion-related charity such as Dress for Success or TRAID
- look for work experience in the costume department for film, TV or theatre companies
- help in the costume department for your university’s theatre productions.