Last week, I read this article from The Grindstone about whether or not interning in the fashion industry is the worst job ever. Their article was a reaction from this post on Fashionista. The Fahsionista post talks about all the horror stories from fashion interns, which are quite entertaining if you are curious. Interning is a tricky concept in the fashion industry. Many college students are so excited to finally be getting their feet wet in the industry that their judgment is skewed about the actual relevance to their career path. The lawsuits against major fashion houses for the mistreatment and unpaid wages for people interning is also a real problem. All of these articles are offering little in ways to help college students or anyone new to the industry achieve a positive, or productive work relationship that will lead to an actual paying job.
My experience interning is very similar to this story, from Fashionista. I went to college in Michigan and midwest fashion was not the industry that I was interested in exploring. I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to do as a long term goal in my career but I did know that I wanted an intern experience that was hands on, informative, and personal. I wanted ultimately to see how a designer created, produced, marketed, and sold products so I chose to work under a small label. I did, however, receive compensation periodically through clothing which was very cool. I didn’t learn very much about any of my ultimate goals but I did learn that choosing where you intern is a very important decision and you need to ask a lot of hard question before you commit.
I am no expert, but here is what I think I could have done differently to make the most out of my small label interning experience.
1st Do the research. Get as much information as you can get about the company before the interview. You need to know the financial strength of the company to decide if they are going to be in a position to hire any new people regardless of how well you perform.
2nd At the interview or after they offer you a position, ask how many other interns they have. This will help you gauge free labor verse actual learning experience.
3rd Ask what starting positions they are looking for or will be open after you complete your internship. Also, ask what those wages are and the hours that are expected. You need to know from a superior position how to get to the top.
Here is an FYI from my intern days, out of myself and two friends, and five internships combined none of us work for the companies that we have interned with. All of those horror stories that are so entertaining and a right of passage are true to some extent for each of our internships. My advise to those looking to break out into the fashion Industry is to keep your mind open, you may stumble upon a career you never thought imaginable.
Oh, and if you would like to vent about your interning experience please send us your stories.