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Undoubtedly one of the most demanding careers to embark on is in the fashion industry. I am often asked how I got into it and if there was a carefully planned agenda to getting there. The simple answer is no. Yes I have always had a dream, but a dream alone and an itinerary won’t do all the hard work. The important thing is knowing where to start. Fashion has what I call an umbrella structure, where many sectors of expertise fall, such as marketing, design and styling. The first step would be to choose which area you would like to further pursue. With this is in mind I would like to share with you a few step by step pieces of advice which have led me to where I am. This however is all subject to personal needs and wants.
1. Enrol on a starter course at college. To take the first step to an education in fashion, a course at college is the perfect starting point. An extremely worthwhile course to look into would be a BTEC National Diploma in Art & Design. This is a very good way to cover art, fashion, textiles and photography. The beauty of it is that each area is covered comprehensively and this allows you to formulate an idea of which is best for you on a more full time basis. It was during my time on one of these courses that I decided I would further expand my fashion skill set and then enrolled onto a BTEC Fashion Design course. With the course only lasting a maximum of 2 years, it seems such a small amount of time to get a great education in not only fashion, but art history and concepts. These are all important factors when understanding fashion and its rich history. During your time here you should ensure you build a credible, design rich portfolio. Fashion is all about selling yourself and showing how you channel your creativity, a strong portfolio is the ideal keepsake for this.
2. Look into higher education. Higher education courses at University can often seem daunting and time consuming. I myself felt like this when I began to look into my options after college. It was never my intention to go to Uni, and personally I don’t believe I got much out of it in terms of creative licence or freedom of expression. A degree will often help your chances of securing a job in some places. The reason for this is respective employers will see the length of time you spent studying and see that you have abilities to apply yourself when there is an end goal in sight, in this instance the degree. Choose very carefully before making a decision, as this is a really important one to make. Now after college you could try and gain experience somewhere and work your way up the career ladder, but in the same space of time you could easily gain a degree. The one beauty of Uni is the wealth of knowledge the tutors have and the bucket load of advice and mentorship available.
3. Seek relevant work experience. During my studies I was fortunate enough to get an industrial placement. It was a great way to get industry knowledge and also apply everything I had learnt in an educated environment, to real life work cases. What may appear to be the smallest of roles can more often than not prove to be the best to keep you focused. I had worked in a dress makers for 2 years and while there I gained so much knowledge in not only the construction of garments but also expressive pattern cutting and people skills. It is usually the case that most students will seek employment in the retail sector during their studies and, like me once graduated, will still stay there for the duration. This was the case for me. I was still in a retail role for 4 years after graduating. It’s easy to think that this could be demoralising and a waste of a degree, but I did gain a lot from the role. I learnt a lot of insider knowledge on visual merchandising, styling and once again honing my relations with customers. It’s a very narrow minded view to think that fashion retail isn’t a career, as for some it can be just as rewarding. As previously mentioned there are so many sectors to fashion and you do what you have to do to gain experience and get somewhere
4. Don’t be afraid to ask. Opportunities won’t come knocking on the door if you don’t market yourself and your skill set. The best form of this is through social media. The past 5 years or so has seen an increase in users worldwide and it is the perfect spring board to sell yourself. Create an online portfolio of work. There are also plenty of sites that allow you a free domain to create your own website. In the last 3 months the majority of my freelance projects have been accessed through social media. It’s also a great way to liaise with fashion aware people and good to bounce ideas off each other.
Above all, remain determined and focused. I’m not saying it is easy, but if you keep this to the forefront of your mind, you will go far. Fashion is a fickle industry that won’t settle for the blasé and relaxed individuals. They want confident, fashion aware and passionate people to help their business grow and work towards their end vision.
I wish you all the best of luck in your fashion journeys and future endeavours.