Ask Alexandra: Pros and Cons of Fashion Roles

Ask Alexandra is my advice column. Have a question you want to ask me? Fill out the form here.

Hi Alexandra,

I’m a creative girl with a love of the fashion world. I would love if you could go into details about the highs and the lows in each field. Also, which field would be best for a girl who loves to design and be creative but also wants to be able to go head first in this world and experience going to fashion shows. Not sure what to choose, help! Btw, I’m a junior in high school and I’m planning on applying to F.I.T.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column, roles,

What’s it like to be a designer? Do you want to be the next Marc Jacobs?

Dear Sarrah,

I could write you a very long answer to this question, but let’s try and keep it short. Here are some of the key roles in fashion, whether they are creative or technical or business, and the pros and cons of each role.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column, roles, fashion school, designer, hedi slimane

If you want to be a douchebag designer like Hedi Slimane, you’ll probably need to study fashion design.

Fashion Designer: A creative role involving the research and development of a brand’s collections.
PROS: It is a creative job, research trips can be awesome, pays well when you get to senior roles. You might be the next Marc Jacobs.
CONS: Working under possibly psychotic creative directors, sometimes forced by sales teams to design collections that are numbers-driven instead of about beautiful clothes. Long hours. You might be the next Hedi Slimane.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column, fashion PR

Kelly Cutrone, Fashion PR.

Fashion PR and Marketing: Your job is to promote a brand through the media and directly to the consumer.
PROS: You’ll be at parties and fashion shows (but working at them), some creative thinking to come up with campaign ideas, lots of socializing. You might end up being the next Kelly Cutrone.
CONS: You have to kiss ass to journalists, celebs, and pretty much everyone. You need to remember names, faces, and always be “on.” You might get slapped in the face by a psycho French woman. You might end up being the next Kelly Cutrone.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column, fashion blogger

My best career advice? Do everything to avoid being the next BryanBoy.

Fashion Journalist/Blogger/Writer: You write or produce content for a publication of some sort. This can definitely be a creative job.
PROS: Free clothes, if you are good at what you do. Invited to fashion parties and fashion shows. You get to write, and people will (hopefully) read your words! You might get to be the next Cathy Horyn!
CONS: Going to fashion shows and parties all the time wreaks havoc on your social life. Money is crap (if you even get paid at all), unless you are working for a great publication or have a successful blog (and even at great publications, the pay is not good unless you are senior.) You might be the next BryanBoy.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column, fashion buyer

Do you want to be in charge of buying dresses to sell in Kmart?

Buying and Merchandising: You are in charge of buying collections for stores and ensuring the merchandise works well together. This is partially creative, but you must be good at math!
PROS: You shop professionally. You get to spend tens or hundreds of thousands on clothes every season. You also get to go to a lot of fashion shows. You might end up working at Barneys.
CONS: If your buys don’t sell, you get the sack. After the fashion shows, you have to sit in showrooms for hours, looking at collections and making decisions like “Do I buy two or three size 4 trousers in black?” Not all stores are Barneys, and you might be stuck buying jogging suits. And you need to be really good at math (Harrods makes you do a math test if you want a job in buying!) You might end up working at Kmart.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column, fashion stylist

Rachel Zoe made celebrity styling a very sought-after job.

Stylist: You choose the clothes (and sometimes the theme) for fashion shoots for magazines and catalogues. Sometimes you also style celebrities and fashion shows.
PROS: You get to dress people and models the way you want. You get to go to fashion shows and parties. You might be the next Katie Grand.
CONS: It is REALLY hard to make it big as a stylist. You need to work for free for a long time to get anywhere. You need to schlep clothes from showrooms to shoots and back again. You might be the next Rachel Zoe.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column,

You’ll be spending a lot of your days looking at patterns if you work a technical job.

Pattern Maker and Seamstress: You make the patterns for the clothes, or sew them. You need to be a technical person!
PROS: You are behind the scenes, deal with few divas (except the designers) and you’ll have job security and decent pay, most of the time. If you get old and fat, you are still valued as an employee, unlike any of these other roles.
CONS: This isn’t a very creative job and it is quite repetitive.

Sales: You sell the collections by meeting with buyers and showing them the clothes. You had better be good at sales!
PROS: It is a social job, you get to be on the frontline, and you get to deal with clothes all the time.
CONS: Not very creative, and you need to meet targets.

fashion jobs, careers, school, fashion advice column,

A window display at Barneys. Not all window displays are this exciting, that’s for sure.

Visual Merchandising: You design window displays and displays in stores.
PROS: You get to be creative, the job changes frequently, and you get to deal with all the pretty clothes and accessories. You might get to be the next Simon Doonan.
CONS: Mannequins are heavy, and unless you are working for an awesome store or you are a director, you are usually following someone else’s specs and just assembling someone else’s window displays.

Have any of you had different experiences in any of these jobs?

Further Reading:
5 Things to Do to Prepare for a Career in Fashion
5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Fashion School
Fashion 101: What does a Buyer Do?
Ask Alexandra: Best Fashion Courses
Fashion 101: What Does a Stylist Do?

Photo credits: Marc Jacobs, Hedi Slimane, Kelly Cutrone, BryanBoy, Rachel Zoe, patterns, Kmart clothing, Barneys window

  • Dmitr Mangalski

    The best carear advice killed me! I feel sorry for BryanBoy, I really am lol

  • Nat

    What is the problem of BryanBoy? I don’t follow his blog.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    He used to write a funny blog where he would criticize and praise things. It was a bit Perez Hilton by a gay Asian fashion boy. But now all he does is post photos of himself in really tasteless outfits (before they were so tasteless they were good, now he is trying to be a bit more fashionable and he looks ridiculous) or videos of fashion shows. He barely writes anything, and when he does, it is the banter of a moron. He used to be tacky in a fun way, now he is tacky in a bad way.

  • Liz

    I think a lot of people looking at a career in fashion designing forget that it’s not just about style and design, a large part of it is quite architectural – you have to be interested in how a garment is made – seams, cuts, tailoring.