Way too many people grow up aspiring to work in the fashion industry. If you like clothes and dressing up, you assume working for the hamster wheel that churns out four seasons worth of essentials and accessories and respectively markets them would be a blast and a half. To be perfectly honest, the perks, events, freebies, and random inside access can be fun at times, but it can be a bitch to get to the level where you’re granted these things. As someone who has worked in the corporate offices of three distinctly different fashion brands, I’m here to give you four of the cold, hard truths.
You’re going to be thin because you can’t afford to eat.
First off, the salary. It’s not exactly the numbers you hope to see, especially if you’re paying Manhattan rent and buying the clothes “necessary” to keep up with everyone. This fashionista post racks up some of the average salaries for some of the more common positions. However, some of the listed jobs look a little too low or high–it really all depends on the specific brand and how much experience you have. Like any other job, you’re going to start off on the lower end and claw your way up, grasping at titles like a tiger cub going after a weakened gazelle.
The fancier the brand, the less you’re paid.
If you work at a luxury brand, it will most likely pay you less than a less sought after, more promotional brand when you first start out. Luxury brands figure their cache will keep you glued to your seat for the name on your résumé, delusions of grandeur, and to pacify that overblown perception of yourself. However, once you’re pretty high up in the ranks, the salaries are competitive and the brands will fight harder to retain you.
Consider a “hybrid” job.
Because of the cold, stark reality of the retail environment right now (people aren’t exactly blowing a lot of dough on fashion, no matter what your own credit card statement has led you to believe) many brands have drastically cut jobs and are operating with a skeleton crew. That forces everyone to take on more than one role, and essentially, have a fluid job description. That also means you may get paid more (or the same) if you’re doing three people’s jobs. Yayyyy! So, explore all your talents and present them in your portfolio or résumé. The more diverse your background is, the better.
Your friends are your greatest assets.
That whole networking “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and blah, blah, blah bullshit? It’s true. Fashion jobs are notoriously hard to come by unless you already have your foot in the door to be hired internally, or you know someone who can alert you of a job opening and give you a recommendation. This is why sometimes interning for free or working for low pay at an excellent brand isn’t the worst thing in the world. It pays off when everyone leaves for different brands, and you can freelance for them or abuse their employee discounts.
I hope this doesn’t deter anyone from following his or her “dreams” and that fun stuff, because at the end of the day, fashion really is a fun and rewarding career once you’ve paid your dues and buried the evidence..