35 realities of working in the fashion industry

Losing friends over lost samples, feeling more important than you actually are when you get an expensed Uber, and learning that the devil might wear Prada but it's not a prerequisite; here are 35 realities of working in fashion.

by Bertie Brandes
24 June 2015, 3:20pm

1. It can actually be fun. Shocker, right? Sure the devil may wear Prada but most people wear jeans and a T-shirt and aren't determined to re-brand you as a heavily fringed, bead-wearing super slave.

2. Not everyone is terrible and the terrible ones have no real friends and will probably die alone surrounded by stuff they bought at Dover Street Market. Don't envy them.

3. Some stuff you get free is actually quite useful. Sure giant gimmicky rubbish isn't worth the heckling you'll get on the overground carrying it home but face creams, books and candles are day-making and not at all unheard of. Just never promise PRs coverage because before you know it, you'll be begging your boss to let you write-up a mint-green jelly flip-flop handbag hybrid after they send you four and twenty increasingly angry follow-up emails.

4. Which brings me to the multiple email addresses you'll need and learn to love like a family member. People who work in fashion collect email addresses like Pokemon cards. Why? Because you can never underestimate the power of a well-placed signature and logo, even if you haven't worked there for six years. A boss cutting off your email address is one of the most brutal rejections in fashion - trust me, I should know.

5. You will find out who you get on with pretty quickly. Some editors won't take your shit and some will. Ditto, some people will like your experimental, totally blurry take on a full looks story where you can't see any of the clothes and some people (most people) will cut it immediately because the advertisers would pull out and the issue would flop. Learn who you work with best and don't constantly stress yourself out trying to shoot or write for places you know aren't a good fit.

6. People will always hire their friends first. Re: the above. If you find an editor you get on well with it's probably because you're quite similar and therefore it's not lame or sycophantic to actually become friends with them in real life. The perks are that you will then get bumped up to the top of the pile when it comes to money jobs and, more importantly, you have a new friend!

7. You learn to trust yourself implicitly. When you do get those money jobs, it's up to you to decide how crap you're willing to go. Everything comes down to horrendous advertorial if you want to make actual money in fashion so find the line you're not willing to cross morally or artistically and then cross it so many times you can't even count anymore. You're fine. Right?

8. Get a mentor.  Finding a good mentor in fashion is actually not that hard because the term "unpaid intern" is a bit illegal now but successful people still need slaves to send their mail and sort their inboxes out for free. Having a good, fair mentor can be an absolute godsend. Make a good bond and they'll have your back even after everyone else has shunned you for bad-mouthing a Margiela collection on ShowStudio.

9. Parties. Your mentor might take you to some parties too, which you will get an immediate taste for because there is loads of free vodka and an abundance of beautiful people that you have an unbelievably high chance of making out with in a toilet stall. 

10. On a good day you're the best stylist on the planet. The great thing about fashion is there is literally no way of deciding what is or isn't good. Believe you are amazing and you will be. That's basically all there is to it.

11. Embrace the power to change the world with an image. Believe you're great but don't get complacent. Do good stuff and be creative and thoughtful - otherwise you might as well be a robot which just sends out random emails starting "Hi hun how r u??"

12. Describing stuff technically counts as work. Your new favorite words are "textured" and "exciting".

13. It's VERY competitive. Prepare to lose friends over lost samples and resent people for $8 Uber journeys they didn't send you the receipt for. It helps if you're a slight sociopath because you won't mind this so much. Unsurprisingly lots of people who work in fashion are.

14. Taste is infinitely more valuable than the most expensive fashion. This kind of goes without saying, no?

15. Taxis are glamorous and don't let anyone tell you they aren't. No matter how many times you cry in the back of a taxi about how late and exhausted you are you will never, ever not feel secretly fabulous and VIP.

16. It's pretty much all admin when you get down to the core. The reality of fashion is a lot of spreadsheets, a lot of tissue paper and a LOT of emailing. If you don't get good wifi in your house, move.

17. You don't need to wear designer clothes to be the best dressed in the room. Another pretty obvious one but it can be hard to remember that when everyone else is wearing Acne jumpsuits and Raf Simons jackets.

18. Fashion shows are highly stressful and arguably unnecessary. But if you're going, take a notebook, a bottle of water and your most unflinching self-confidence. Sit, concentrate and then GTFO.

19. Most people don't actually have a skill, which is encouraging if you do. If you don't, that's also fine.

20. People in fashion actually eat so much shit.

21. It's the women's glossies where you'll be encouraged to adopt macrobiotic Monday and fasting Friday. Avoid those.

22. Brands set aside entire budgets for taking people like you out for brunch meetings.

23. Order everything. Every time. If there aren't four cold pressed juices spread out in front of you at the Ace you're doing it wrong.

24. Be prepared to cry over the late delivery of a hat to a central London office. This is the life you chose.

25. Titles mean absolutely nothing. Fashion hierarchy is bizarre and totally unfounded on any rationale. You may be given a place on the masthead of a magazine you've never even heard of, while slogging away for 10 years in the hope of an unpaid Junior Fashion Editor credit which you will never, ever receive.

26. eBay is your new additional income. It's an unspoken rule in fashion that everyone has an anonymous eBay account where they flog freebies and old samples. I once found the Vogue fashion directors and no I will absolutely not tell you what the username is. Yes you might feel like a grubby MP but when you're on $10 a day expenses you really can't afford to take the moral high ground.

27. No one wants to pay you. And if you don't constantly remind them to, they'll simple "forget." One good way of getting around this is to create a fake law firm logo and send multiple letters to the accounts people threatening immediate legal action. NEVER send these to your editors or you can kiss goodbye to ever getting commissioned again.

28. Lonely people will try and make you ruin your life so you're as lonely as them. A friend of mine once got told to dump her long-term boyfriend because he'd probably "get in the way of her career." She left, they're still together, and she's infinitely more successful. Never compromise your sanity or happiness. 

29. There is definitely such a thing as good fashion and bad fashion. Bad fashion is boring and commercial and made god knows where. Good fashion is brilliant, political and inspiring. Pick your side.

30. Fashion extends past Instagram. Please remember that.

31. You will find out a huge company's car service account number and you will use it. Often. And not feel bad.

32. You probably won't work in fashion forever. But you will always be proud that you a) once did and b) don't any more.

33. It's only clothes.

34. It's only clothes.

35. It's only clothes.


Text Bertie Brandes
Photography Piczo

Bertie Brandes
the 35th birthday issue