4 lessons I’ve learnt the hard way since I started working in fashion

The more you know.

There aren’t many professions that scare the shit out of non-fashiony people the way the fashion industry does. You know it. I know it. Anna Wintour sure as hell knows it. And that’s kind of exciting for fashion folk like me, because we feel safe in our little fashionable cocoon. We don’t get fazed by sock boots or backwards shirts. They’re just part of the job in the way that staplers are to an office clerk. Or hangovers are to a bartender. Necessary. 

But working in fashion isn’t scary, it’s great – you should try it! You get to feel like you know the punch line to the most stylish in-joke of all time. And not to get all soft on you guys, but fashion can legitimately unify people. That’s nice to be a part of. 

So if you’re thinking about a career in fashion, good on you. I’d recommend it. But there are a few nuggets of wisdom that I think might help you along the way. 

The Fairytale Myth

I’m just going to go ahead and rip the Band-Aid off: there are no office wardrobes stocked with free Chanel bags. No Devil Wears Prada makeover departments. And not to totally bum you out, but there’s a whole lot of weird contradictions in the world of fashion that might make you question your very existence. Bloggers work really hard to look like they do nothing except wear everything you want. Distressed jeans are a pain to produce, which is why they cost a pay packet. And the minimalism/normcore trend is very hard to pull off without looking like a weirdo to most other people. A career in fashion is hard and, at times, confusing. The good news is that now you know it’s not a fairytale land, you can start to repair your crushed spirit and move on. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

Investment pieces: Are you sure you’re ready?

A girl once advised me ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. Inspirational as this motto may be, there’s also the will not to run up an obscene designer clothing debt at the age of 22. Unless you’re blessed enough to be Kylie Jenner, be cautious about the money you spend. It’s one thing to buy a leather string choker to update your look, and another to throw all your money at this season’s flame-red Gucci bag that will turn your stomach in a few months. An investment piece is only worth it if it’s just that: something that you will have no trouble using in years to come. Be smart about it, save up for what you love and don’t listen to that girl. The silver lining (fur lining on your Gucci loafers) is that you will have many years of lavish trends on which to splurge in future, once you’ve made your millions working in the fashion industry.* 

*Millions is not an accurate depiction of a standard wage in the fashion industry.  

Politics are dumb

Fashion is notoriously clubby. You’ll either realise this the hard way, like I did, when someone horrendous makes you feel about as important as a garden weed. Or you’ll take my word for it. The temptation to get involved in office politics or backstage gossiping can be a powerful one. After all, nothing bonds people like mutual disdain.  But remember this: your connections are everything and your reputation is your most valuable asset. My advice would be to avoid the political dramas like you avoid lunatics on public transport. Because in a month, no one will remember the drama but everyone will remember your attitude. It will linger like a cheap perfume. And if ever the temptation to gossip gets too strong, remember the famous Kate Moss saying: never complain, never explain. Got her out of a jam or two, if I recall.

Ignore it

We’ve reached a point in history at which we can safely look back and acknowledge that it pays to be a rule-breaker. When you start a career in fashion, as with any profession, you will have a lot of advice thrown at you. Some of it will be legitimate, some of it will be trash and some of it might come from a bad apple with dodgy motives. To be successful in fashion, it pays to have a bit of a renegade spirit. So, go nuts! You make the rules. Wear all your jewellery at once, do a red lip with a smoky eye, pair your socks and sandals if you’re so inclined. If it feels good, then why not? Just do you. 

Still keen on a career in fashion? Here’s a list of brands who are hiring right now. 

Illustration by Twylamae.

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