Practical Advice for Future Fashion Interns

by M. Lizabeth Currain

In dishonor of New York Fashion Week (Feb 9th-16th) I am going to be sharing some fashion related thoughts with all of you throughout the week. As a note, I have a degree in Fashion Design and spent some time working for various fashion companies. It was the worst. I continue to have opinions about fashion, the main one being: Seriously, what the fuck are you wearing? So for the next week don your best headband and enjoy the ride.

This is how young women see fashion internships:

And this is how fashion internships actually are:

I am using this .gif because your brain will either explode from the sheer stupidity you are surrounded by or you will be wishing that other people’s heads would be exploding. It’s frustrating, tiring, boring, not what you think it will be, and rarely does it ever go anywhere.

I’ve had my fair share of internships. I had a merchandising internship at Kappa. Which basically meant I did data entry and packed and unpacked a showroom. The only good thing about that internship was that the Heatherette offices were on the same floor and I got to hear Richie Rich make fun of J.Lo. I did a product development internship at Fred Flare. I can honestly say that this was probably the best internship that I had. The people that worked there were friendly and they listened to your ideas. The woman who supervised me was really awesome and helped me get some of my own stuff sold on the website. My career as a shoe designer was brief! I interned for a hat designer. Probably the worst internship ever. She was kind of a troll and not very friendly at all. She smoked in the office while hobbling around in high heeled rainboots, drinking from a 2-liter bottle of diet coke. She would call me at 11pm at night asking for things. She basically used interns to staff her company so she wouldn’t have to shell out for actual employees. I now actually work in the same building as her offices. We shared the elevator the other day. It was weird. I’ve interned for this lady. The idea of interning there was pretty fun. And in general the people were friendly and I got to do some interesting stuff like, take a bag of her stuff to her apartment. I met a good friend of mine/former roommate while interning there. I also a got a purse at the end of it…albeit from her lower-priced collection which if you averaged it out meant that I was earning roughly $1 a day. I interned in the wardrobe department of What Not To Wear. It was a lot of buying things and then returning it. Lots and lots of returning. I even got yelled at by an employee at Bloomingdale’s for trying to return something. And you never get to take cabs. Ever. Even in really bad weather. Clinton Kelly is really nice though.

Look at all that experience! And look at me now! In graduate school pursuing a degree in Library Science. There is a lot of competition in NYC for these internships–there were girls interning at Betsey Johnson who didn’t even live in NYC. They came specifically to intern there. THEY WEREN’T GETTING PAID! They were basically paying to intern. I will say this for Betsey, she has been known to hire interns, so that’s a plus. I just wasn’t one of them. Probably for the best.

I kind of think interning is a scam. Especially in fashion. They will work you to the bone because they know they can. They know that if you quit, there is another girl ready and waiting to go fetch some coffee at 9am. Here’s a few things that I learned while I was interning:

  • Dress like a jackass. Wear a fucking cape and a headband, because these people’s heads are so far up their asses they will think you look good.
  • Don’t commit to more than 2 days a week. Honestly, you shouldn’t be interning for more than one day a week anyways since you’re not getting paid, but I know how badly you want this.
  • Don’t work for more than 8 hours a day. You are not getting paid, therefore you do not have to work overtime. I know you think it will make you look good, but it’s not worth it. They won’t even remember that you stayed late sewing roses onto a dress. Trust me.
  • You’re going to get blamed for something. Even if it’s not really your fault. You’re the lowest on the totem pole, that’s just the way things go. So either don’t make mistakes or don’t intern…or basically work anywhere, ever.
  • If you don’t like the way you are being treated, just fucking quit. Honestly, you aren’t getting paid, they aren’t going to offer you a job afterwards, and you don’t even have to put them on your resume.
  • You’re probably going to find something really cool, like fabric, or a trim that they decide to use. Don’t expect to get any credit for it.
  • Don’t intern for someone that nobody has ever heard of. No matter how cool you think it will be. You’ll have better luck getting an interview or hired at someplace if you have a big name on your resume.
  • You’re going to hate a lot of the other interns. Trust me on this. Do your best to pretend to like them. It’ll be hard, but you can always talk shit about them later.

So, here is my final piece of advice for you young women out there trying to claw your way to the top of the fashion food chain: