The fashion industry needs interns, every label high and low, big or small runs on an army of interns. Fashion students also need internships, it’s the only way you really learn and it’s your best chance of getting a job. It used to be that when you graduated you would intern for 2-3 years at various places until you got enough experience to get your first job, this was the case up until 2011 when the government suddenly changed the law to stop interns from being exploited. Seemed like a good idea but it hasn’t really stopped the practice it’s just means it works in a different way. The law states that the fashion houses can still have all their free interns but they’re only free while they are full time students.
All the major fashion houses in London are now desperate for uni students, this means a golden opportunity for you to get an amazing work experience placement but only while you’re at uni. In order for you to do really well at a high end place you need to get some experience at a smaller label first.
As soon as you finish school the first internships you need to try and get are working as dressers at the various fashion weeks. Contact London fashion week directly, Google who is running the “off-schedule” shows that run at the same time, contact them directly and ask to be a dresser.
You will gain an internship by contacting companies yourself, check out what they say online about hiring interns and be brave and email or better yet call them and make sure you have your CV ready to email straight afterwards. If you send them an email make sure you include an introductory paragraph about why you want to work for them. THIS MUST NOT BE GENERIC! You must write about why you want to work for THEIR firm, in order to write about their firm you must first look at their label online and research their shows over the last few years so you have a good understanding of their brand.
You need to try and get your first experience interning for a small label. Google the “off-schedule” shows to find out what all the different labels are called then search for them online and/or see if their contact details are listed in the schedule. Contact them directly and ask for an internship. Don’t work more than one a day week, except for possibly around fashion week. If this interfere’s with the start of your foundation or BA, just contact the uni and let them know, they should be very understanding (when you’re on the BA half of the teachers are missing for fashion week too).
When you first start the internship they will give you really easy tasks to do, these are tests, you pass the test you get more complex things to do. You may be sent off around town to buy or collect things, never pay for anything even if they promise to pay you back later (just pretend you don’t have any money on you). Going around the shops is a really good opportunity for you get to know where to source fabrics etc., make sure your phone is fully charged before work and make sure you get a couple of phone numbers of people before you go out (get whoever is managing you and another intern/junior just in case your manager is on the phone).
You need to target a small label for your foundation year and then start targeting some big labels as soon as you start your BA (don’t leave your small label until you have a big/better placement). The best way to get contact details of the bigger labels is to look on Google Maps as unpublished phone numbers go up on there. Some big places like Burberry have a massive job application for you to do, Google them all, call them and ask for the contact details for the person who handles intern applications.
The key thing to remember is that you want to finish your final year of university at a place that you think will give you the greatest chance of getting a job. Make sure you’re working somewhere that they actually like you and think you’re good at your job and somewhere that other people have been hired from their pool of interns or best of all somewhere they have told you they intend to hire you when you graduate.
You can also intern in Europe or the USA BUT this will cost you money. They won’t pay you and you’ll need some savings to pay for your rent/living expenses. In Europe they will want you to come and work for 3 months in the USA you can get away with going for only a month. If it goes well they may offer you a part paid extension which could become a full time paid role.
There is a good chance that this won’t be affected by Brexit as I met lots of people from outside Europe working as interns. Sometimes in Europe they call them Stagiaire. If you don’t speak French or Italian don’t worry too much as you can get away with speaking English but be aware it will be a struggle for you to make a good enough impression to get a full time job if you don’t speak the language. If you work for and Dutch or Belgium based labels you will find their English to be really good and it will be a bit easier for you.
If you do a placement in the USA get your VISA sorted out right away and make sure you get your timings right just in case they offer you a part paid extension, make sure you’re paying attention to the dates you’re allowed to stay.