What’s it Really Like to Work in the London Fashion Industry?
Can the London fashion industry really destroy lives? Can it really turn someone into Cinderella? How true to life is the “Devil Wears Prada?” Yes, yes, very true and not even close to showing the reality of what it is really like to work in the fashion industry.
In London, there is a particular intensity to this career path as it is home to one of the 5 major fashion weeks in the world. The world turns on London fashion, and if you are daring to think of taking the plunge into working in the industry, you best read on.
Starting as an intern is just about the only way to get into the fashion industry. If you remember the popular show, Ugly Betty, you know that landing the job as the receptionist isn’t a guarantee you’ll ever get past the front desk. The internship is the door to opportunity. As an intern you can expect to be overworked, underpaid and rarely appreciated. It will do you well to remember that there are a thousand people who can replace you, and who want to.
Landing an internship with a known house in the fashion industry is the goal of every apparel student. While you are toiling away and learning the nuts and bolts of the industry, you also are given some perks that make up for all the suffering. Interning and working in the industry involves lots of travel, meeting and networking with people who can help your later career and being in on some of the most exclusive and exciting showcase events in the world. This is not a 9 to 5 world, it is a lifestyle.
If you believe the shows and movies, the designers are wildly pampered and immature drama queens, nothing could be further from the truth. To get to even the starting point of having your own line a designer has had to fill the role of artist, accountant, diplomat, mother, general and god. They are fully aware that without them, nothing is going to work or sell.
That responsibility alone is enough to stress anyone out to the point of a few spectacular meltdowns. Add in the pressure to be constantly innovative, fresh and ahead of your time and the drama you read about or see in a movie begins to suddenly make sense. If you are interning or acting the role of a PA, a large part of your job is to try to know what a designer wants before they have to expend the energy to put it into words to instruct you. This is how you become valuable and indispensable on a designer’s team. Have your own ideas, develop them but never lose sight of the fact that it is their talent that is the reason you are employed.
Everyone reads about the celebrity clients but the real clients of the industry are not size 0, glamorous, and fabulously interesting. They are often the modern day equivalents of the dowager empress or worse, new money. They are, however, the bread and butter of the industry and what the client wants is what the client gets.
What a client doesn’t want is you. Don’t expect to be dealing with any client directly beyond saying, “hold one minute”, unless you are at least the primary personal assistant of the designer or the designer’s assistant. People with money pay to be with the name. Your job is to make them feel like as soon as they enter all of the air in the room is theirs and theirs alone.
Dealing with clients by not dealing with them is far more stressful then you think, but it can be wildly entertaining. Make the right impression on the right client, and you have your first patron.
There is only one reality in the London Fashion Industry and that is Fashion Week. For one week a year the industry is everything it is rumoured to be. Fashion Week is glamorous, stressful, and full of high drama and grinding work. Not one person who is on hand at Fashion Week sees it as anything but the crowning jewel of their year. Working in this industry is not for everyone. If you think all it takes to make it is knowing the right people and having an attitude, you are half right. The other half, and the half that has to be put forward first, is skill, dedication and the willingness to sacrifice your life to the demands of the fashion world.