5 Things To Consider Before Pursuing a Career in Fashion

This is a follow up on yesterday’s post about students accumulating scarily high amounts of debt to study fashion. So many people think they want to work in fashion, but it isn’t for everyone. Here are a few things to consider if you think you want to be the next star designer, stylist, or magazine editor.

fashion careers, fashion schools, fashion jobs, fashion lists

Anna Wintour is a high school drop out. But I wouldn't suggest going that route if you want to replace her one day.

1. Prospects. Ok, let’s think about job prospects here, as fashion is not an art, it is an industry. Even if you want to start your own company, you will have to work to get experience. So where can you get a job? Is there a fashion indsutry in your city? Are you willing to move abroad? Can you legally work abroad? What jobs are out there? Do you stand a chance to get them? What does the job entail? Is this something you want to do every day?

2. Education. Ok, you’ve decided there’s a job out there for you, so you need to learn the skills to get employed. What schools do you want to go to? What do they require for entry? Will you be in debt for 50 years after you get your degree? Does the school have a good reputation? Never trust the school or their sales people, do the research on your own. What will you learn on the course? Is it what you want to do? (I’ll write more about choosing a fashion design school soon.)

fashion careers, fashion schools, fashion jobs, fashion lists

John Galliano couch-surfed for years when he was trying to set up his own company, and couldn't afford rent.

3. Are you connected? The fashion industry is about who you know, so if you don’t know anyone, how will you find them? Will you meet the right poeple through school? Your rock star father? An internship? Working in a bar where all the fashion people hang out? You’ll need to meet the right people, so think about how you are going to do this.

4. Do you have a passion for it? Being passionate about fashion is not about reading Vogue and owning a Gucci bag. It’s not about watching every single episode of Rachel Zoe’s stupid show, or being able to name nearly all the models who walked the last Prada show. Its not about starving yourself to fit into a dress, or forgoing food to buy shoes. Having a passion means suffering abuse from your psychotic boss during fifteen hour workdays and always having to cancel on your date. It means sleeping on your friend’s sofas for two years because you spend your money on fabric instead of rent while you try and make a name for yourself as a designer. It means working for free for three years before finally landing a job that pays marginally more than minimum wage, but you are expected to dress like a million bucks. How much are you willing to suffer for fashion?

fashion careers, fashion schools, fashion jobs, fashion lists

Stella McCartney only made it where she is today because her father is famous.

5. What if you don’t make it big? Ok, so you’ve got your heart set on being the next Marc Jacobs, and you went to the right school, met the right poeple, and are in a really good job which will help propel you to the next step. But chances are, you won’t be the next Marc Jacobs. Not many people will. You may be a great designer, working quietly for a big brand and making a good salary but never seeing your name in lights. You may end up being a senior account manager at a great PR firm, but never becoming Kelly Cutrone. You may end up being the head pattern cutter at a french fashion house, but no one outside of the company knows who you are. Can you deal with this? There is only a bit of room at the top, and I’d suggest you be prepared to make it halfway up the ladder. You’ll need some serious luck and talent to get higher than that.

Image credits: John Galliano, Anna Wintour, Stella McCartney.

  • Devonbrittain

    Once again, completely brilliant and brutally honest. 

  • jessica

    love this. though, as another member of the industry, i’d say that your #4 is the most significant. because if it is, you’ll figure out how to make #1, #2 & #3 happen. but yeah…. #5. give up on that, and focus on #4.

  • Anonymous

    Too true. I probably should have put that first.

  • adeleye

    thank you for your posts! your blog is really interesting! 

  • adeleye

    thank you for your posts! your blog is really interesting! 

  • http://simplyfrabulous.blogspot.com Simplyfrabulous

    I subscribe everything you wrote. 
    I work in fashion and it is not a fairy tale world, you have to be prepared to work 17 hours a day, with a lot of stress and just for the glory. It is very hard but if you have a truly passion for it, then it really worths! :)

  • http://twitter.com/Ines_Cruz Inés Cruz

    I totally agree, as Devonbrittain said, brutally honest, but honest nevertheless.
    I remember when I was in your class at St. Martins that I had chosen 2 courses precisely to understand if there was a job for me out there in the fashion world… it’s not enough to just like it, you need to want to be in it for the rest of your life, so I did my research, found the importance in St. Martins, and chose to start my little yellow brick road from there.After those courses in London I did an MBA in Madrid on Fashion Companies because that was the path I wanted to take, but it took me some time and 2 more years after London to achieve it. I’m currently working on a retail business in Spain, Blanco, and I have to say I’m glad I waited and got the experience… it’s done everything for me.And I SO agree on #4… Thanks agian for putting it out there!!http://www.chezagnes.blogspot.com

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  • http://theinspirited.tumblr.com Cléa Rozenblum

    This post was very interesting, however I do not think that “Stella McCartney only made it where she is today because her father is famous.”. She does have talent. But I admit having a famous father definitely helps at the beginning !
    And anyways, those who start thanks to someone famous but don’t have talent won’t last long (take Kanye West for example ) …

  • http://highpointshoulder.tumblr.com/ HPS

    Ah great post.  I am one of those peeps who toughed it out and went to design school because I wanted to learn the skill sets but I was always realistic about it.  I knew all of these things but many people don’t so thanks for sharing I’ll keep this bookmarked to share with anyone wanting to know.  So many people drop out within the first few semesters because they realize that it’s a lot more than just loving clothes, high end labels and shopping (those people are probably better suited for fashion merchandising anyway).  Lets not even start on what unrealistic expectations Project Runway has unleashed on the world…

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  • Anonymous

    Well, that will just have to be a point we disagree on. When she was at Chloe, Stella McCartney had Pheobe Philo doing all the great work. With her own brand, she has a fantastic team of designers. I don’t think she is talented at all, her brand almost went under, it was only thanks to the Adidas deal that they were able to get out of the red. And my friend designed most of that Adidas stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, I hope that didn’t sounds rude. It is just that I LOATHE Stella McCartney.

  • Equinebovine

    What a great post! I totally agree and feel very relieved that this was offered up for information. I truly love the industry. I love designers, editorials and run way shows. I would never want to be a designer, but instead in a position to support a designer. I say this now ,but would I really cut the mustard? Maybe . Maybe not. Maybe I will just continue cruising in my vintage shop. But I like to work hard, hustle and thrive off the pressure. We’ll see.. Thanks again for the post.  I found you off of the Citizen Rosebud blog :)

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  • Andrea B

    That’s why people license their name, to make more money and be more commercially viable/recognizable to a wider range of people (who buy the cheaper shit and drive business). Sure Dolce & Gabbana are great, but I’m sure they don’t design their D&G line themselves (unless someone can tell me different). They don’t make most of their money with their RTW line, it’s licensing their name to sunglasses, watches and fragrance that can be easily affordable to the masses.

    I totally respect everyone’s point but Stella McCartney. (And forgive me for not having the intel on her but I still believe she is talented and an influential figure in fashion. You can’t say Stella is the only one with a team of designers- most designers do! (& true I do LOVE me some Phoebe Philo), however, Stella’s made a significant name for herself, not just as Paul McCartney’s daughter. I don’t think many fashion folk think about Paul at all, they think about her as a designer. It’s a cheap shot at saying the only reason why she’s successful is because of her father.

    Anyone else have an example of a famous relative and their spawn getting into design – I’m drawing a blank.

  • http://tulleandtrinkets.com/ Sarah Heckle

    Don’t focus on the obvious jobs in the fashion industry! I work at an fashion e-commerce company writing content and doing social media. It’s not a big brand and it’s not all luxurious, but it combines my loves for fashion AND writing!
    Sarah from Tulle and Trinkets

  • Serdane-elie

    I want to be a journalist for a fashion magazine. I don’t want to be famous, but just doing what I like. Talk about trends, giving advices to readers about how to wear something with this and that, beauty subjects and all that…. SO do you think that I will suffer all that long for just doing this ?? 


  • Anonymous

    It is pretty tough to get into magazines! Check out the names on a typical glossy magazine masthead, and then google the people on there. Most of them are socialites or from wealthy families.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but you are quite lucky AND quite talented to have a job like that, there are probably hundreds of people who would kill for your job.

  • Anonymous

    Most big brands/designers have teams of designers but they got there in the first place by having talent. Stella McCartney got her foot in the door by using her father’s name. At her graduation fashion show at St Martins, she got her “friends” Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to model for her. A load of press turned up and then they all left after her stuff went out on the catwalk, without checking out the other graduates. She would have gotten press if she’d put burlap bags onto the catwalk, she had nothing to prove, it was in the bag. Chloe then hired her because of her name (come on, STRAIGHT into a creative director position? With only a BA and no job experience????) Don’t tell me that isn’t using her father. And from then on, she had a team and it was smooth sailing.

  • Minnie

    great article! i’m 23, one year out of a bfa in product design (i work in fashion accessories), around 32k in debt, and my first job paid less than a mcdonald’s worker made. that job gave me the experience to work for another company who’s going to pay me a decent amount of money. don’t know how i would be surviving right now without my partner who supported me all the way, and scholarships. especially in this economy a tough industry is even tougher. and i’m not the most talented designer in my class. some of my classmates who had dead-on craftsmanship and great design skills are having a tougher time than me finding a job. NOTHING is set in stone, there’s no guarantees…fashion is tough! i think you have to be a bit of a masochist to work in this field. it’s not for the faint of heart.

    still, i love what i do.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your story! It is great that you love what you do, if not, it wouldn’t have been worth it!

  • http://pinklemonincrystal.blogspot.com michelle

    great tips

  • http://twitter.com/Heelinmint Heel in Mint

    I work in the industry and I think behind all that glamor, there is pain and hardwork that you will understand only after you get in to the industry.  My field is Merchandising but I have to say nothing gets done on time because it’s all labor intensive. From spec to retail floor, things that go behind the scene is something that you have be involved in to understand. :)

  • Kristina Suner

    “head pattern cutter at ANY French fashion house” would have to be a dream job for me!

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  • Bethan

    Fashion isn’t about starving yourself to get onto a dress! I’m a fashion design post graduate and I’ve specialised in children’s clothes and I am a children’s wear designer. I’m passionate about design and fashion but don’t follow shows religiously. I believe the elements you have to consider if you want a career in fashion are 1. Motivation there are few positions to every application. 2. Talent. If you don’t think you can go far no one will