Most people when they look at the fashion industry see it for all its fame and glory. Runway shows, free designer clothes, styling celebrities and fancy trips to Milan and Paris. The stigma is that it’s all glitz and glamour…the good life. To some extent that’s true; I do get a great discount on clothes, and insider access to things that are highly raved and talked about ( i.e. award shows and TV shows). But it’s not always fun and games. The fashion industry is intense. To say it’s highly competitive is an understatement. The saying “it’s all about who you know” or “ your network is your net worth” really holds true here. You can’t get an internship let alone an interview without some type of connect or big named company on your resume.
The jobs are a dime a dozen. Entry level positions left and right and there are a ton of different opportunities based on what you want to get into. You want to do management? Enroll in a store management program. You want to do merchandising? See if they offer an internship. The opportunities are really endless, but sometimes to reach your goals things aren’t always so cut and dry.
For the past two years I have been freelancing. Basically what that means is you get paid for the hours you work. No benefits, no sick pay, no vacation time (or if you do go on vacation it’s without pay), no holiday pay…Nothing but the flat rate hourly pay. By law you get overtime but usually as a freelancer( depending on the job requirements) they don’t have you work overtime. Why do this you ask? Because it gets your foot in the door. Sure you’re not building much equity in the company, and your money isn’t the most secure but it does gain you experience. And experience translates to money. Broke now but rich later.
My first gig was an internship that turned into a job. They paid me $15 per hour, my commute was 2 hours each way and I had to pay for my own parking ($5 a day). Now for those of us that live in California that’s barely, if at all, enough money to cover your bills. Let alone the time and gas you spend just getting to work every day. I was pretty much breaking even on my checks but I was getting good experience. I was working in a showroom that carried a few top brands and I had the opportunity to get a glance at behind the scenes. I didn’t like my boss, the environment was stifling, the company was poorly managed, but It was my first gig after college so I stuck it out.
3 months later they let me go, and I was really upset. I was planning on at least staying for a year! What was I going to do with just 3 months on my resume? Back to the drawing board it was…
The job ended in October and I wrapped up my undergrad in December. I now could devote my full time and attention to job hunting. This go around I knew what I wanted. Reputable company, I wanted to be doing merchandising (my degree is apparel merchandising) and at least paid parking. I wanted to make more money but I could afford my bills with $15 per hour, so worst case scenario I would take that. I also wasn’t very confident in myself either. As far as I was concerned I was starting over because in my mind 3 months wasn’t enough experience; but all experience is good experience! Even if you were let go, Always value yourself!!
February hit and I was able to land a gig at Hudson Jeans. I’ll talk more later on how I got the job (it wasn’t easy), but nonetheless they hired me. I was working in sales, even though I wanted to be in merchandising, but the company was reputable and I knew it would look good on my resume. This time I was going to make it to at least a year. The company had its rough parts but it was an upgrade from what I had come from so I felt good about it. The terms were the same though. I was a freelancer, and I only got paid the hours I worked. Again I took less pay than what I was worth because it was a good company and I just wanted to get hired.
The job was supposed to be temp to hire but they never actually “hired” me. They just kept me on as a freelancer, never making me permanent or with any chance of a pay increase, benefits…. nothing. I was quickly growing tired of it. I started exploring other options in LA but the truth was I was very homesick. I just wanted to be back in the Bay. November hit, I put in my two weeks’ notice and left. By the end of November I was back in the Bay Area.
I was feeling really bad about myself. My resume was beefed up but I had no money, no savings and nothing (monetarily) to show for it. I was back at my parents’ house in the same situation I was in before I went to college. But the truth was…I wasn’t in the same situation. Things were very much different. I had built a year worth of fashion experience on my resume, I made connects, I learned about what I wanted, didn’t want and overall honed in my skill set. Mentally and emotionally I was way more confident. I had my family here, my very supportive friends, and I was back in my favorite city ever. It’s crazy how time and your environment can change your mindset.
I moved in with my parents in November, but since it was so close to the holidays it was really hard to get an interview. Most companies were wrapping up 4th quarter, trying to make their financial goals for the year. They didn’t have the budget to hire anyone new. I enjoyed my two months off of work and in January I hit the books again.
This time I knew exactly what I wanted, how much money I wanted to make, what company I wanted to work for. I had it all written out and I waited patiently for the right opportunity. I got a call from GAP HQ, to work in their merchandising department for Gap Europe Online. I jumped at the opportunity, and within 10 minutes of my interview they called and said I got the job. Buttttt……It was freelancing….again. I was filling in for someone on maternity leave and the gig would be 6 months. I wanted the position to be permanent but any experience is good experience and since GAP is my dream company I decided to just make the best of the situation.
I’m currently finishing my contract (about 4 months in now) and so far I love it. Love the people, the company culture and best of all the fact that I get to work in SF (which is my favorite city everrrrrrr).
I know you may have been reading this thinking I landed some awesome job in New York or London with incredible pay and benefits, but that isn’t the case for me (at least not right now). I wanted to share this with you because there are some important lessons to learn here. One being never give up. Every opportunity is a good opportunity you just have to choose to see the glass half full instead of half empty. Secondly, Always know your worth! If you sell yourself for a nickel that’s exactly what people will pay. Third: know when to walk away: I had plenty of opportunities come and go but I waited until I got what I wanted. And lastly, never take a job without some type of upgrade. You should always be growing!
Anyways I know this post is long but I hope you learned something! If you have any additional questions feel free to ask!