Archive: New York City

A Passion for Fashion

The 27th Street Campus of the Fashion Institut...

The 27th Street Campus of the Fashion Institute of Technology between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, seen from about 3/4s of the way towards Eighth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry—it is a glamorous business and a serious moneymaker. Nobody will argue about the excitement that a career in fashion brings—fueled only by famous TV shows such as Project Runway and, quite ironically, movies like The Devil Wears Prada.

It takes a tremendous amount of talent and panache to get this industry going. The aforementioned pop culture references provide a good insight on the different fashion career niches. There’s design, product management, merchandising, retail, photography, visual presentation and styling, marketing and PR, and journalism.

And where else can the industry thrive better than in New York City, the center of the fashion universe? The city that never sleeps has every opportunity to offer to anyone aspiring for a career in fashion—it has the best schools, the best internships and the best jobs.

Learning the craft: going to school

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me 6 hours to chop a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Anyone who wants to bust out of the industry needs to build a good foundation: get a good education.

New York has some of the best fashion schools. Fashionista.com, in fact, lists 4 New York fashion schools as among the top 20 in the entire country:

#1 Parsons The New School for Design

This school boasts of fashion design, fashion studies and fashion marketing programs. Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Narciso Rodriguez, Alexander Wang and Anna Sui are just some of its famous alumni, many of whom, like Karan, are now members of the faculty. Other alumni have joined Vogue, Elle, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys. The school offers one-on-one career advising, and even runs a career services blog.

#2 Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

Part of the SUNY network, it has one of the most inexpensive tuition fees around and offers programs in design, business, marketing, textiles, visual arts, styling and countless other fashion-related degrees. Reema Acra, Nina Garcia, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein and Michael Kors are among its famous students and grads. Other grads have joined Conde Nast, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Vogue. Alumni are mighty proud of the lecture series and the Museum of FIT run by director and chief curator Valerie Steele. Another big plus? FIT offers lifetime job search assistance.

#3 Pratt

The Art & Design School of Pratt offers an undergraduate fashion degree that offers electives in fashion editorial/magazine. Famous students include Jeremy Scott, Betsey Johnson (didn’t graduate from Pratt), and Andy and Debb.

#20 LIM College

While LIM does not offer a fashion design degree, it does have fashion merchandising, marketing, management and visual merchandising programs.

You don’t need to go to a fashion-centric school, though, to get into the industry. Many colleges and universities offer degrees that also provide great educational foundations for a career in fashion, such as in journalism, PR and marketing.

New York University (NYU)

NYU’s The Gallatin School of Individualized Study has a visiting professorship in fashion and fashion business through a $2.5 million grant from the Guess Foundation. Their career services are very personalized, offering one-on-one advising.

Fordham University

Fordham has communication and media studies degrees, including a journalism program. The Gabelli School of Business offers programs in marketing and business, and runs its own career center that provides field-specific advising. Alumni have joined Elle, Kenneth Cole and Anny Taylor—one notable alumni was even a former Burberry CEO.

Honing your skills: internships

Breaking into the fashion industry requires more than getting an education. Every fashion career professional knows the importance of getting an internship first before landing a job in the industry. Internships are meant to provide relevant experience to those who want to join the field. It’s an all-important right of passage—nobody gets in without being an intern first.

Nina Garcia, Fashion Director at Elle and Marie Claire magazines, revealed that she began her career interning at Perry Ellis and Marc Jacobs. Her internships during her stay at FIT are what allowed her to narrow down her field of interest. Internships are opportunities to find out how areas in the industry work and which area you’ll fit in the most.

Interning for top fashion magazines, PR firms and design houses provides a lot of perks—it allows you to work side by side with the best, the brightest, the most creative and the most sought after in the industry. In the business where who you know determine how successful you can become, this perk means everything. This is why the most coveted internships are those that place you in the middle of the action, during Fashion Week, when everybody who is anybody in fashion converges in New York City.

Unfortunately, internships are far from being glamorous. Most internships are unpaid. Interns are also known to keep long hours and perform tasks that are routine and menial—at times, even belittling to the point that it feels more like a sorority hazing than an apprenticeship. The sad reality is that many who want to join the industry need to take on several internships before they even get a paying gig. This has been the status quo for years, but only recently has unpaid fashion internships received a lot of attention and criticism for such practices when a former Harper’s Bazaar intern sued the magazine’s parent company, the Hearst Corporation, for violating labor laws.

Despite the negative press, internships remain a pivotal step towards a career in fashion, the allegorical foot at the door. Many interns willingly suffer long hours of mind-numbing work just to get a taste of the action and to receive a recommendation letter from their supervisor, the key to getting a paying job in the industry, at the end of the internship. The fact is, in spite of its pitfalls, internships can open a lot of doors, introduce a fashion rookie to the right mentors, and provide invaluable experience that nobody can teach in school. In fashion, you learn through experience.

Carving out a niche: turning an internship into a job

Turning your current internship into a job that pays is not unheard of—some interns do get hired by the companies they interned in. However, these positions come few and far in between and many vie for these limited positions. So make every hour you spend as an intern count. Find a mentor, somebody who can show you the ropes and share with you his or her experience. Be a willing hand and offer help whenever you can—this is how you learn and get the experience.

If your internship does end and you don’t get a job offer, don’t lose hope. Keep in touch with everyone you’ve worked with. Networking is key. After all, that’s how the people in the business get ahead with their career.

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