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4 Really Important Tips for Landing Your First Fashion Internship

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Fashion Intern Barbie

Photo Credit: 1

I’m not the type to use text-speak or all caps or multiple exclamation marks but … OMFG! THIS PAST SATURDAY I LANDED MY FIRST FASHION INTERNSHIP!!! I AM THE NEW PR/OPERATIONS INTERN FOR THE INCREDIBLE PRABAL GURUNG!!! The process of applying and interviewing for the elusive first fashion internship was daunting to say the least. Exciting but daunting. The following is a list of tips to help you land your first fashion internship. If Barbie can do it, then so can you.

1. The hardest thing about applying for your first fashion internship is the amount of time you’re going to spend waiting, waiting, and waiting for a call back. Of course, there are some exceptions (especially if you have connections). All of the internships I applied for had an immediate start date, but I quickly learned that the fashion industry hasn’t fully grasped the concept of time. Basically, “immediate” could mean the next day or the next week or in the next two weeks. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away!

2. Just because you didn’t get the internship doesn’t mean you didn’t get the internship. Sometimes Human Resources will keep your resume on file and will call you if you qualify for another internship or volunteer opportunity. Also, some interns quit, are fired, or drop off the face of the earth. If this happens, you may be the next in line.

3. Use your first fashion internship to give you some direction and allow you to experience the many sides of the fashion industry. Your first internship does not have to be THE PERFECT INTERNSHIP, or even in the exact area you want to work in – it’s all about gaining experience and getting a foot in the door. So apply for an internship at a small publication, PR firm, or fashion house, and don’t be afraid to apply for a position that isn’t in your ideal department. That’s what I did and although I am a PR/Operations Intern, I get to see the design team (and Prabal himself) in action.

4. Unpaid internships are going to cost you money, not make you money. So factor in the costs of transportation (i.e. subway cards, taxi fare) as well as meals before you go for that unpaid gig. Is it going to be worth it in the long run? Would you pay for this experience? If so, go for it (if your budget permits). Yes, the unpaid internship system is unfair, but you probably have to make some sacrifices now in order to succeed in the long term.

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Do you agree with my tips? What tips would you suggest? What was/is it like to apply and interview for your first fashion internship? Do you like Barbie (haha)? I will gladly answer each and every question that anyone posts in the comments section!

Posted on on February 7, 2010 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , ,

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15 Responses to “4 Really Important Tips for Landing Your First Fashion Internship”

  1. 1
    February 7th, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I think these apply to internships in any area/industry, not just the fashion industry. I’m an English major doing a marketing/promotions/social media internship at a museums (beating out about 8 other people with no marketing experience in my education!), and I can totally relate to all of these tips. Love the fashion intern barbie, thankfully my internship does not involve coffee runs for anyone except for myself!

    But I think it is a great idea to go for an internship, even if it is unpaid. It’s so hard to find unpaid internships, but the experience is totally worth it. To cut down on costs, try brown bagging it (especially if there is a kitchen/eating area). Not only will be cheaper, it can also be a healthier option. Also, see if you can get any reimbursement for travel. I don’t get reimbursed for the 170 miles I drive 3X a week, but I do get free parking (saving about $9 a day).

  2. 2
    February 7th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve seen internship applications that let you chose if you want only a paid one or if you’re willing to see if they’ll make the choice for you. If I really need the money should I check on the form for a paid internship only or say either one is fine? Which will most likely get me in?

  3. 3
    February 7th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Congrats! How did you find an internship like this? Are these kind of amazing opportunities only offered in NY and LA? Do you have to be a part of a special program to qualify (I know some unpaid internships require you to get college credit for them)? I desperately want a PR internship, but it seems as though opportunities never arise!

  4. 4
    February 7th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Great post, as it applies to pretty much any type of internship, not just fashion. I did a publishing internship last summer, and I think all of these points are applicable to that industry as well – or any.

    My main comment, though, is that I agree with #3 wholeheartedly. Being from a smaller university in the Midwest, Venerable McPublishers in NYC aren’t necessarily jumping at the opportunity to hire me because, on paper, I have a GREAT resume (not bragging, really – it’s true), but I’m from Oklahoma. Clearly, I must be a redneck (not true).

    I ended up landing an internship with a small digital publishing company, and accepted it. I went to NYC, somewhat skeptical, and ended up having the best summer of my life (and not just because I was living in NYC). I learned SO much and it was a very hands-on experience in which I did a lot of things that made a difference in how the company worked and I really felt like I was a valuable asset to the company. So – I agree with you! Don’t discount a smaller or “less impressive” internship – it might turn out to be the greatest thing!

  5. 5
    February 7th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Jennifer – You are completely right. These tips can be applied to any internship in any industry. Congrats on your museum internship. I interned for The International Center of Photography (ICP) this past summer so we have that in common. Brown bagging is also a great idea as are reimbursements. I have to buy a weekly unlimited subway pass to cover my travel expenses and since the company I work for is so small (and since we are still in a recession) they will ony reimburse me for large purchases (like buying issues of Vogue India for Prabal’s pressbook or taking a taxi to a Vogue shoot).

    Cristina- I have never seen an internship application that lets you choose whether you want a paid or unpaid internship. It sounds like a test to me. I would definitely check “paid internship” but only if you have the skills and experience needed to fulfill the internship’s responsibilities. If not, you should check “unpaid internships.” At the end of the day, you might just be an intern but you need to value yourself or no one else will. Don’t settle for an unpaid internship if you know that you have the skills and experience to fulfil a paid internship.

    OMFG-CF- I found this internship on freefashioninternships.com which has many, many fashion PR internship postings. Unfortunately, most fashion internships are in NY or LA. So if you don’t live in NY or LA or if you can’t find fashion PR internships then you should use the time to gain similar experience. Write fashion stories/reviews for your school paper. As a PR intern, oral and written communication will be very important. If your school has some sort of annual fashion show then apply to be a messenger or PR manager even if they aren’t offering these positions. Things like that.

  6. 6
    February 7th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    You are so right! I learned a lot from my first ever internship interview (actually it was the third but the first one in the fashion industry). They really liked me but they decided to kill the position I’ll be filling. As you said, it’s not whether they liked me or not, that position just wasn’t relevant right now and they could do without it. Also, I wasn’t too keen on driving all to the other side of town (Mexico City North – South in the morning = traffic nightmare) for an unpaid position.

    I think that if you can afford it, have the time and the enthusiasm then you can make the most of any kind of internship (although it is always better if they are going to pay you).

  7. 7
    February 7th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    great tips! also, make sure that you have the right schedule to work around. i applied to teen vogue, got a call back! but couldn’t do it because i didn’t have 2 full days to work (i feel that’s the minimum for most internships..but i could be wrong). i’m going to keep trying this summer. good luck to all!

  8. 8
    February 7th, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Cristina,

    I think checking Paid or Unpaid simply relates to if you can get school credit or not. For instance, where I live, CA state law requires an intern to get either school credit or be paid for the experience, because there are a ton of cases of companies stringing unpaid workers along with the promise of “future jobs”.

    Most of the internships I have applied to have been credit only; I totally don’t mind though, the networking and industry experience is definitely worth it, and in some cases is the only way to break in to industries like fashion, or film in my case. If you can afford Unpaid in any way, you should do that. ;]

  9. 9
    February 7th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Congratulations!!!

  10. 10
    February 7th, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks for the response Tiara and Sophie!

  11. 11
    February 8th, 2010 at 12:49 am

    I’m liking this article! I suppose an important (yet obvious) fact would be to dress the part when appearing for the interview. Dress like you already belong where you wish to be working….unless of course you want to pull an Ugly Betty poncho maneuver!!

  12. 12
    February 8th, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I think this is really interesting.
    I’m currently applying for work experience at magazines because I really want to be a magazine journalist, and I will definitely be following your advice. Point 3 is especially relevant to me!!
    Thank you for such a great post!!

    xxx

  13. 13
    June 16th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m aspiring to work for a magazine like Glamour someday, and really want to do an internship when I’m old enough. Do you think it’s necessary for me to get an internship in NYC before graduating from college, or do you think an internship at a magazine closer to home would work just as well? (I live in Pittsburgh).

  14. 14
    March 13th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Thanks College Fashion! You just gave me the encouragement I needed to go after several Fashion Internships I’ve been looking at!

  15. 15
    July 16th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Hi, I stumbled upon this while I was researching about internships at Prabal Gurung and just wanted to know how your experience was at Prabal Gurung? Also, what exactly is an Operations intern?

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