Subject: How to get experience without moving out
“If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” ― Shirley Chisholm
I love this quote, and I think I can safely say it’s a motto many of the Intern247 writers and readers would agree with. While I believe in luck and ‘being in the right place at the right time’ to a certain degree, opportunities are not likely to come knocking without some effort and self-motivation on your part. It’s no secret, and I speak from experience, that geographically and financially, fashion internships can be challenging. I was living an hour and a half (at best) and £60 return train ride from London. During uni, I lived even further. This forced me to get creative in ways of gaining experience. Here are some of my unconventional experiences pre, during and post university that hopefully will help you too, no matter how small your town is.
School or uni event planning
While I was still at sixth form/school, I, alongside a team of other students, decided to host a fashion show for charity. I knew very little about shows at this point, but it was a great talking point in interviews thereafter, showing organisational, leadership and teamwork skills. Schools and universities love extra-curricular work, so there should be plenty of opportunities to get involved with planning events.
Local work experience
In 2013, all my friends were stressing about A Levels and student loans. I knew at that time it wasn’t for me, but I couldn’t sit about doing nothing. I applied all over my local shopping centre and was offered two weeks work experience with the visual merchandising team in our local M&S. It was a great way of learning about styling, merchandising, mannequins, window display and led me on to…
When you’re not ready to quit education and not sure about uni. I was able to do a visual merchandising course while I was still at home, it was so much more than dressing mannequins. I built up my portfolio and bought some time to figure out that I did want to go to uni after all, as well as where, and what I wanted to study.
I’m sure if you dig around, you could find some short courses in an interesting field to you. A few of my friends did art foundation and I recently interned with a girl who had done an apprenticeship in marketing. I had no idea they existed!
My university fashion course encouraged us to mix and work with the photography students, who had great knowledge of how and when to book the studios. Throughout first year, second and final year, I became good friends with a handful of the photographers acting as their stylist for test shoots they needed for projects or their portfolio. It was always returned with the edited shots and a helping hand when I needed someone to shoot a lookbook or fashion editorial for my course.
If you have some great ideas, plan a shoot with friends, or find some willing photographers, models or stylists to get the ball rolling. I recommend magazines, Pinterest and social media for inspiration.
Here’s one where you could actually earn some money! Working for an independent store brings you much closer to the big bosses, which could enable you to be more than just a sales assistant. I was involved with their social media, hosting in store events and talked my way into working closely with the lady on marketing.
This term has lost it’s old fashioned meaning a little, but here is what I initially mean - if writing is your thing, start your own blog. They’re free to set up. Whatever you want to write about, the floor is yours. Maybe it will lead to writing for a local magazine or newspaper? Hell, you don’t even have to publish anything if you’re not up for it, purely because you love to write, you can prove it, published or not.
In another sense of the word - Instagram. There are some amazing East Midlands HUNS doing there thing on social media, giving me serious style inspiration (shout out: @fashiontrain, @louiseellen29, @gracesurguy, @alexxcoll). Yes, it might seem everyone and their dog is a blogger or influencer now, but as Victoria MacGrath says, there is room for everyone in this industry. As long as you are representing your true self and for the right reasons, your organic, personality will be enough.
I hope this inspires you to find some experience in places you haven’t thought of, or motivates you to do something different if you’re in a bit of a lull. Anything I haven’t mentioned? Let us know!