Getting your break in the fashion industry is not always as easy as it may seem, and it may feel especially difficult when you don’t have any formal education or training in fashion to fill the requirements of your dream job and compete against graduates.
Being a corporate escapee myself, when I took the leap of faith to pursue a career as a freelance fashion stylist and creative consultant despite having studied to become a social worker. I was thrilled to find that many of the people I’d work with would have backgrounds varying from literature, law and communications to engineering, computer science and information technology.
It has become clear to me that the idea that you need to go to fashion school to work in this highly competitive field is more of a myth than it is truth! But how do you get started? This is the same question I asked myself at the beginning of my stylist journey and I came to find out that there are actually a few things you can do to get exposure as well as experience and stand out from the crowd, even without a fashion-related degree.
Take Advantage of Your Transferable Skills
While schooling is great, some would argue that hands-on experience is equally if not more important. For starters, when it comes to changing industries you’ll want to highlight relevant transferable skills from work experience in your previous field to strengthen your resume as you apply for jobs in fashion. These skills include tech skills, especially experience with creative programs like Canva, InDesign, and Adobe Suite. You might have used these in a non-fashion-related job, but they easily transfer into fashion roles and are essential skills to have to stand out to hiring managers.
Create Your Own Experience
Next, by starting your own projects, you can create the experience that hiring managers like to see in candidate resumes and portfolios. For aspiring fashion writers, creating a fashion blog and posting consistently on topics that interest you will get you ahead in building your creative voice and portfolio – platforms like WordPress and Medium are great for this. If you’re an aspiring designer and don’t have concrete experience with technical design skills, Style Nine to Five’s Founder, Christie Lohr says “Create a capsule collection! It might take you six months or a year, but once your collection is done, have a little event to showcase your collection and just start somewhere!” Projects like this will allow you to learn along the way and use it as experience in lieu of a fashion degree.
Build Meaningful Relationships and Ask Questions
One of the biggest advantages of going to fashion school is the knowledge you acquire and the opportunity to create a network of peers who are right in your industry. However, who’s to say that going to school is the only way to learn and meet people in fashion? Volunteering backstage for local fashion events, interning for fashion brands and magazines or assisting your favourite fashion professional is a great way to meet people, make those connections and learn the ins and outs of your dream job!
Find a Mentor
As you intern, assist and volunteer, you are likely going to meet people who will pass on valuable skills and information to you and motivate you – mentorship is so important when it comes to navigating your career. There will be moments when you feel stuck, without direction or uninspired to push through, however a mentor can guide you through each obstacle and coach you to get better and better at your chosen craft because they, too, have been through it.
And just like that, you’ve now got experience, references and contacts to start applying for jobs in the fashion industry. You’re now on your way to securing your first job in fashion!
Think you’ve got the skills and experience but not sure if it translating through your resume or cover letter? Christie’s got you covered with Style Nine to Five’s Resume + Cover Letter Refresh!
Anita Hosanna is a freelance fashion stylist and creative consultant with a love for fashion journalism and tech.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock