How do you break into the fashion industry? Is there even such a formula in this day and age of social media, where empires can be built on Instagram alone?
It’s a question I get asked on a regular basis, but for which there’s no singular answer. I got chatting last week at a fashion event with two people with different perspectives: one who’d worked in the industry for 20 years, the other who’s been on the scene for two years and is trying to get a foot in the door.
These were the two general viewpoints from them both:
‘I feel like I’ve been trying to break into the industry for two years now but its so cliquey and I don’t know what to do.’
‘I know so many people but it was so long ago, I don’t know how I got my start!’
I completely understand both points of view, having started my career with my own accessories label, I began from a studio at my parent’s house when I was 23. I had no backers, no investment and no contacts when I started, just good ideas, a strong work ethic and enough confidence to cold call and face inevitable rejection. And then do it again.
Fourteen years on, I know enough people to say that the only thing I might need to break into these days is my piggy bank, but how on earth did I land here?
Here’s some simple ideas that worked for me, but just remember as I said: there’s no singular way to go about it. If you have any tips leave them in the comments below, I’m sure we’d all love to hear!
1. Have something to offer
Are you a designer, writer, blogger, stylist, photographer? There’s many jobs that exist in fashion beyond these, I found this list on Complex.com really helpful even if it is a few years old. Whatever job you do, make sure that you have something unique to offer the industry. Over the years I’ve seen plenty of people who simply want to be on the ‘scene’ fall by the wayside, because beyond posing for photos at events, there’s not a lot else going on. Being different helps in fashion, as long as you can back it up with hard work.
2. Show Up
One way to meet like-minded people and industry heavyweights, is to show up to events, be they free or by invitation. If you’re starting out and aren’t on the guest list for a Gucci party (note: not many people are, but there’s no harm setting the bar high 😉 ), there’s loads of things like seminars, workshops, shopping events and live demonstrations. Aren’t invited to fashion week? Buy a ticket. That’s what I did when I started out, as a very dear friend who works in PR said to me, ‘Darling everyone is there, you have to go because you never know who you’ll meet, even if it’s in the loo’.
And on that note, when you do go to events try and meet the PR people organising it or the hosts and introduce yourself. Personal relationships go a long way to having longevity in your career.
Now, I bet you’re asking, ‘But where do I find out about these events?’ Well, this is where your social media nous and use of Dr. Google come in. You should already be following a host of people on social media channels already connected to the industry (see point three) but a simple Google search can throw up plenty of results. I searched for ‘Fashion events Melbourne’ and got an entire page of excellent things to do from fashion week to talks about sustainable fashion. I also tried ‘Fashion events San Francisco’ and got the same result, so wherever you are in the world, just apply this knowledge locally.
3. Connect on Social Media
I’m amazed the fashion industry didn’t invent Instagram because it seems like everyone is using it as though it’s some sort of membership to the club. Follow fashion writers, bloggers, influencers, fashion PR agencies, labels— and every fashion week around the world has their own account. Whether its Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube or Instagram, there are so many ways you can instantly connect with people working in the industry. Comment on their pictures, reply to their tweets and try to forge a relationship (note: not stalking!)
These platforms simply didn’t exist when I started, so it was a case of emailing people for introductions and showing up to events to meet people in person. In 2017 you can do all of that from your keyboard, so take advantage. Thank you internet.
So there you have it, three ways you can get a start and hopefully that sartorial foot in the door. Do you have any ideas? Had success yourself? I’d love to hear about it!