Breaking into the creative industries is difficult, expensive, and takes a hell of a long time. But don’t give up hope just yet! You’ve just left school or finished university after weeks of rinsing Wikipedia for all its worth, gallons of instant coffee, and slightly sour milk; you’ve forgotten what your family looks like, your own name, and anything that wasn’t relevant to your final exams. And, now you have your whole life ahead of you to become the writer/stylist/photographer (delete as appropriate) that you’ve always wanted to be. But where do you start?
With tales of canine beheadings at glossy magazines, returns in the rain, returns in general, scooping up dog poop, being called the wrong name, having no name, 24 hour days, 7 day weeks, scurrilous lawsuits, and, ultimately, earning less than a volunteer charity worker (at least they’re getting good karma and probably Oyster card expenses covering beyond Zones 1&2) underpinning any current conversation about internships, it seems to be getting increasingly hard for young creatives to get their foot in the door. Rumours aside, internships are a great place to kick-start your career. Not only do they equip you with the skills necessary for becoming the next Carrie Bradshaw, they also provide you with an insight into the mechanics of the creative industry: yes, some interns really are kept in kennels.
If you’re lucky enough to get an internship, try and get everything you can out of it. And I don’t mean sucking up to the boss (it might help though…). If you’re an editorial assistant, make friends with the design intern, and discuss how you might envision your own magazine. Likewise, if you’re running around a shoot like a headless chicken, steamer in one hand and list of credits in the other, befriend the photographer’s assistant; take what you’ve both learnt on set, and reshape it into something new. On top of this, why not create a blog like Fashion Intern Problems and turn your shitty experiences into witty memes? Or start contributing to Intern magazine; set up its equivalent; or even start a professional returns service, so you won’t have to drag heavy suitcases around London anymore. To editors and art directors you may just be the house elf, but to other interns you are brothers and sisters in arms, so unite!
However, just like with Throw Back Thursdays (some pictures should be left firmly in the past), watching YouTube videos of a slow loris getting tickled (it gets boring after a while) and instagramming a packet of kale crisps (this isn’t Goop, and you’re not Gwyneth Paltrow) there’s also a downside to internships. Although last year saw HMRC clamping down on employers to ensure that all interns are being paid minimum wage, at £6.31 an hour, this is hardly going to cover your rent - the average cost of living in London is £1,211 a month - let alone that Meadham Kirchhoff dress you bought at the last sample sale, those extra levels you purchased on Candy Crush (just one I promise!) or that drunken Uber ride you took last Saturday. And for those living outside the capital, it probably won’t cover your daily commute. So, internships aside, how do you get your big break? How do you get a magazine to answer your calls, emails, calls following up your emails, emails following up your calls and ultimately, your prayers?
“If you’re an editorial assistant, make friends with the design assistant, and discuss how you might envision your own magazine. Likewise, if you’re a fashion assistant on a shoot, befriend the photographer’s assistant; take what you’ve both learnt on set, and reshape it into something new.”
Constantly exhausting itself - flowers for spring (revolutionary), minimalism, colour blocking, even bindis and dip dye jobs are like sooo 2013 - the fashion industry is always on the look out for fresh meat. Open any spring issue of your favourite magazine and you’ll see a spread of ‘’bright young things’’, ‘’next big things’’ and ‘’hot new talent’’. However, that doesn’t mean that those featured are necessarily destined for success. It’s when these new models, designers, writers, artists, stylists and photographers collaborate, with each one bringing to the table something fresh, something specific to their generation, that people start taking notice. When it comes to generation “me”, working alongside other young creatives will be the key to success. And now, thanks to the internet, you can find these creatives at the click of a button, and start a cultural revolution fo’ free!
Indeed, we live in an age of unprecedented access to information and, as a result, endless possibilities. Why not exploit the internet to showcase your work (and, occasionally, your left nipple) like Slutever’s Karley Sciortino or curate a magical dream world on Instagram like artist Petra Collins? Incidentally, after meeting online, Sciortino and Collins have collaborated on numerous ventures and feature heavily on each other’s digital platforms.
Alternately, use the internet to reach out to fellow creatives; last year Pandora Lennard and Lucy Greene pooled together their collective styling talent to form Anti-Agency, a modelling agency that focuses on personality and style as opposed to the standard modelling criteria. ‘’We had both worked hard at big magazines and companies,’’ says Lucy, ‘’and wanted to start doing things our own way.’’ Recruiting friends and people they stalked on Facebook, this is the perfect example of how creative collaborations can lead to glittering success. The same can be said for Adwoa Aboah and Madeleine Ostile’s casting agency AAMO. ‘’After interning and making cups of tea I felt like it was our turn to make a mark and break out,’’ says Adwoa. ‘’We know better than anyone what the young want.’’ Far from being professional casting agents, these girls are just two creative minds trying something different in an industry of sameness, which is probably why they’re doing so well.
Another way of collaborating with like-minded people is by starting your own fanzine like Tavi Gevinson did with Rookie, Alice Goddard did with Hot and Cool, and Bertie Brandes and Char Roberts did with Mushpit. ‘’Breaking into any industry is easier when there’s two of you,’’ says Bertie, ‘’we’re 100% more ruthless and self-motivated because there’s 100% more of us.’’ Why not take a leaf out of their book? Fill the pages of your magazine with shoots by people you found on Tumblr and photographers you stumbled across on Twitter. Find someone from art school to help you with the design stuff or go to some rotting warehouse in Peckham where the wild things lurk in strange art collectives. Write an accompanying think piece; interview your friends; and report on what other young creatives are doing. Because no one will understand them quite in the way that you do and, in this sense, you will always have the edge that established brands and big dawg magazines would pay good money for.
After all, i-D only begun in 1980, when Terry and Tricia Jones took a risk and put straight-up pictures of punks on the pages of a homemade fanzine. This endeavour wasn’t about making money; it was about cataloguing the DIY aesthetic of punk that was spilling and spewing all over the streets, which commercial magazines refused to acknowledge. Just like Terry and Tricia did in the 80s, it is by pushing the boundaries of creativity, working alongside new talent, and trying to produce something new, something different, that will not only grab the attention of the creative industries, but will get the creative industries flocking to you. As i-D’s founding sentiment goes: originate - don’t imitate.