I’ve been meaning to write this article for weeks now but got sidetracked coordinating a press launch campaign. So now that’s all over, here it goes-
When I travelled to London in September, after rushing to WHSmith to pick up my glossies (I’ll always be a slave to Print), I noticed a trend emerging- Interns. British Elle’s October issue was co-editied by 10 handpicked interns and Company’s October issue was also co-edited by a handful of lucky interns. Lorraine Candy in her Editor’s Letter wrote that Elle were being, ‘brave‘ with their ‘mandate to support the people who will be part of our future’.
And to spur young fashion hopefuls on, she mentions that her right-hand woman of 8 years- Fashion Director, Anne-Marie Curtis started her career as an intern in Elle. The skeptic in me thinks that for every ‘Anne-Mary Curtis’ there are hundreds who fall by the wayside and are cast away after many an unpaid internship. However, in fashion, you have to be in it to win it, so armed with all the facts- the pros and cons- it’s up to you to decide if this is an industry you want to get into.
If you have done your research and decide you want to get into fashion styling- then interning is a M-U-S-T. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of it based on my personal experiences-
1) The Younger You Intern, The Better
Unless you have contacts in the industry, interning to get your toe in the industry is a must. Due to the types of (often unpaid)jobs one is often made to do as an intern, I believe that the younger you are when you become a fashion slave to the system, the better. Reason being, at 18 or 19 your financial and emotional expectations/necessities are going to be generally lower than when you are in your late twenties and above. And to put it in basic crass terms- the younger you are the more shit you are able to put up with to get ahead.
Because I worked in law till I was 25, and didn’t begin interning till then, this is something I know. Very few in the fashion industry make it over night like the Tavi’s and co. For most, it can take years and so the younger you start interning, the more time you have to make the most out of it and the better you stand at achieving your career goals ‘in time’. Infact, Seamus Duff, Elle’s Entertainment Editor mentions that sometimes he ‘regrets spending 3 years doing law at university, because he ‘could be a lot further along’in his career by now. I’ll raise your 3 to 6 legal years Seamus! Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda Peeps.
2. Be a Yes Person
Generally, you need to be strong as an ox to stomach a fashion styling internship. Your peers will tell you that you are to have a charming demeanor and to anticpate/satisfy your boss’s every need. I tried to tick this box, but you see at the point when I interned, I was already getting my work published, and this made me question (and by the end possibly visibly!) the value and neccessity of the unpaid work I was doing. I would say that the most I got out of my internships were the contacts I made which brings me to-
3. Make Contacts
When I came into the industry, I had no contacts and yet in less than a year I got a front cover with Blink magazine. How did I do this? During my internships, with every piece of clothing I liked coming through the office door, I would write the name of the Press Office, the PR Account Manager and their Number. This would often be written on the Press Bags, or be in the Magazine’s Fashion Cupboard book. Once I secured a commissioning letter, I then contacted every fashion press office at my disposal.
Also if I was assisting a stylist, I would take down the names of the team members she was working with, paying the most attention to the photographer. You have to understand that when I started, I felt I was invincible and because I was getting published work in credible magazines (even though I was interning), I used this as my way in with people who were much more experienced than me.
On a side note- ensure you do the above using your common sense, I’ve had some assistants who got so carried away that they forgot they were brought on board the project to assist, and instead got way too chummy with my team. Assess the situation- know when you should be assisting and when you can take strategic steps to further your career.
I also used the company’s Fashion Monitor (Fashion’s Resource Bibe)to search the contact details of all the magazine editors I wanted to submit fashion stories to. These details are only available if you are a member of Fashion Monitor and honey, that membership don’t come cheap- so if you can’t afford to join ’em, hop on the backs of those who can!
4. Use Social Media To Connect With Peers
Now this is advice, I wish someone had given me when I started out. Due to Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In et al, it is now much easier to ‘follow’ your peers and stay on their radar. Also Social Media gives much more creative ways to ‘stalk’ your peer without actually looking like a stalker. This is vital and a great way to ensure that you are in the running to become the intern that gets a call back.
5. Intern for both Freelance Stylists and Magazines
Even though, when I began interning, becoming a fashion editor was my raison d’etre; I learnt the most assisting freelance stylists and from one talented stylist in particular- Hector Castro. He changed my life actually. Not to sound dramatic. At all. I only interned with him forabout 2 weeks in total but because he was Editor of iconic fashion magazines like Dazed & Confused, Russian Vogue and was styling main shows for LFW, I was exposed to a lot in a short amount of time.
He was the one that introduced me to Style.com, showed me the relevance and skill of going through every single seasonal show to deduce trends. It was from him I first heard Joan Jett tracks. Aaaa memories. Now back to the point- I think that to get a well-rounded view of styling, one should try and assist the best freelance stylists as well as intern for magazines. Now how does one get to contact the top freelance stylists? As a general rule of thumb, the best stylists work in the best agencies, so find out the best agencies in your area (via Google baby) and go from there.
Working with freelance stylists should be supplemented with magazine internships because that will expose you to things like- fashion cupboards, how a fashion magazine works- and who knows after being exposed to all departments, you may decide that you much rather work in Beauty or Lifestyle. But you’ll never know till you get that toe in the door…
If anyone has any other interning tips, I’d love to hear them. Also if you have any interning tales- of joy or woe, be it fashion related or not- spill…