5 Ways to Jump-Start a Fashion Career

Here's how to get your start in the fashion industry (or whatever you love) in high school and beyond.
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stylish woman in office

Source: ELLE

Hey CF readers! A lot of you have been asking me how I got a job writing for College Fashion in high school, and how you can get your start in fashion at a young age. 

To help you out, I put together this little guide of important steps you can take to get started in the fashion industry in high school, college, and beyond. Even if you don't plan on going into fashion, these tips can apply to any profession! What's important is that you have a passion and you're willing to work for it.

1. Read 

Girl reading

Source: ELLE

The first and easiest step you can take is to learn everything you can about the fashion industry. Stay up-to-date on trends, learn who's who, and understand how everything operates. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Magazines are one of the best ways to stay up-to-date on trends. Vogue is always a great option, but I also love Glamour because it's less dense. There are a bunch of magazines to choose from, including ELLE, Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, and Nylon. Find which one you like best, and read it whenever you get the chance.
  • Websites are even more up-to-date than magazines, they're free, and there are tons of them! Of course, reading College Fashion is always a fab choice. Also check out Refinery 29, The Man Repeller, The Cut, and the countless personal fashion blogs out there.
  • Books are a good way to get an in-depth look at the industry. While on vacation in Mexico this spring, I stumbled upon an awesome read called Fashion Babylon, which takes stories collected from everyone in the industry– from designers to models to photographers– and creates a story about six months in the life of an anonymous designer. This book taught me so much, from anecdotes about the industry's dirty secrets to the details of the fabric and textile trade. I've also heard excellent things about The Knockoff, Always Pack a Party Dress, My Paris Dream, and, of course, The Devil Wears Prada. Also check out the memoirs of any designers or writers in the industry that you like.
  • Okay, this doesn't exactly count as reading (unless you turn subtitles on), but movies are another fun way to get an insider look at the industry. The September Issue is a classic, documenting the months leading up to Vogue's famously thick September issue. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's is another great pick (and on Netflix!), as are any of these choices.

2. Take Classes

Take a Class

Source: ELLE

Just a step up from reading, taking fashion-related classes in high school or over the summer is a cool way to get an introduction to fashion, figure out which part of the industry you most are interested in, and surround yourself with people who like the same things that you do.

Here are some of my experiences that really helped me:

  • I took several classes at an art college in Philly. Some were in design, others in things like drawing and illustrating. There is no one class that will teach you all you need to know, so any introduction into the arts will be worth your while. I urge you not to be afraid of anything. I've always known that I wanted to go into business, but I took a sewing class anyway. It taught me a lot about the industry and enlightened me on the complicated work that designers and stitchers do. It was also a chance to talk to the teacher, who had a lot of experience in the industry.
  • I did a one-week summer course in fashion merchandising that changed my life. Before it, I didn't know that I wanted to go into fashion, but after spending a week with people my age who loved fashion as much as I did, and meeting incredible people, (Ralph Lauren's senior designer!) I knew a career in fashion would make me happy. But in addition to that, what I learned from the girls I met over this week taught me just as much.

There's definitely a lot of variety in what you can take, so just try to put yourself in a position where you're surrounded by people who you can teach and learn from.

3. Intern and/or Get a Job

Get a job/internship

Source: ELLE

A job or internship is one of the best ways to throw yourself into the industry. Jobs give you experience and knowledge, and have the added benefit of allowing you to network, which is one of the most valuable resources you can have in an industry as competitive as this one.

You never know, some jobs might even get you backstage at fashion week! Here are some more pros:

  • A job in retail allows you to make money while learning about a part of the industry that you might overthink. It'll give you an idea of how styling and merchandising works and how a business is run.
  • An internship with a magazine, even a school magazine or a non-fashion related one, can get you a lot of connections and give you editorial and photographic experience.
  • Writing for a website (like CF!) or even starting your own blog can give you experience as well as a portfolio of work.
  • Running a social media account for a local business, non-profit, or community organization can give you experience in an unexpected place. Social media is becoming very important in the fashion industry, so you'll have a leg up on your older counterparts!

Lastly, I leave you with a piece of knowledge that a friend from my summer fashion course gave me: Companies love to see young, excited people who are willing to work hard. If you show them that, you can get an internship anywhere you want.

4. Study

There are lots of options for your college career and beyond. It's a common misconception that, in order to go into fashion, you need to study it. In reality, the fashion industry is made up of so many important parts that there are a whole mess of options for you to study and still make a career for yourself. 

  • If you are interested in studying fashion, check out these CF posts on the best schools and majors to look into.
  • Communications, Business and Marketing help keep the fashion industry running smoothly at every level, from middle-of-nowhere boutiques to Paris Fashion Week.
  • Advertisement is the lifeline of the industry, so a degree in it can get you far.
  • Graphic design majors help to create ads, magazines, and displays.
  • Photography plays a huge role in fashion and can especially help you if you dream of being a blogger.
  • Journalism can give you a head-start if you're interested in editorial fashion.
  • Arts, culture, and history can all give you background knowledge to help you understand trends and design history.

5. Make a Friend

Gossip Girl Fashion Friends

Source: ELLE

One of the most valuable sources of knowledge, and your best resource when this competitive industry gets to be too much, is a good friend who shares your interest. Finding someone who you can learn from and teach will take you far.

I love my friends, don't get me wrong, but most of them aren't as invested in this industry as I've become. I've learned over the years that being surrounded by people who care deeply about the same thing that you do is incredibly powerful.

They will pick you up when you're down and remind you why you love fashion so much in the first place, they'll bring you new knowledge every day and absorb what you have to share with them, and, most importantly, they'll always, always watch The Devil Wears Prada with you. Even if you made them watch it last week. (What? It doesn't get old!)

And just remember, CF readers, if you let your passion and dedication show, opportunities will find you.

What do you think?

If you're in high school, are you considering going into fashion? If you're studying fashion in college, what helped you make your decision? What classes, internships, or friends have helped you along the way? Do you have any questions or need advice? Let me know in the comments!

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