fashion insiders share their advice for breaking into the industry
To set you out on your fashion journey, we’ve asked the who’s who of the global fashion industry to share their advice on how to make it.
Photography Tim Walker
This story originally appeared in i-D's The Homegrown Issue, no. 355, Spring 2019.
Want to get ahead in fashion? Still trying to work it all out? To set you out on your fashion journey, we’ve asked the who’s who of the global fashion industry -- from fashion designers, to photographers, stylists and editors-in-chief -- to share their advice on how to make it in fashion.
Coming at you with even more career advice from the world’s best.
“Working in fashion... Remember -- fashion may change daily. Personal style is for life. A quote from an early i-D (the bible of style) ‘Brave babies must have style’.” Terry Jones, founder, i-D
“I’ve always said the same: chose companies you would most like to work for and apply for an internship scheme… be the best intern they have ever had and sooner or later you will be in a place where there’s a job vacancy and with some luck, and much hard work, you will have your foot on the first rung of the ladder. Learn from the wisest and most talented of those around you, don’t be in too much of a hurry -- it’s the work you do that will be noticed and remembered. Above all, once/if you become successful in your chosen field, keep your feet on the ground, be respectful of everyone and help younger people coming up behind you. When we sold i-D to Vice in 2015, over half of our staff had started this way -- including the wonderful Holly Shackleton!” Tricia Jones, Original Mum, i-D
“Inform yourself. Read as much as you can and then read a bit more. Be tenacious. Knock on doors to the point where it’s obnoxious. Ever wondered why that really irritating person you were at college with seems to be leapfrogging you in their career? It’s because they are pushy and fearless and don’t mind emailing an editor for the fifth time to ask about a job. That said, if you are emailing an editor five times, make sure your ideas are decent. Pitching a story you just read on Vogue.com is lame. Do your research. Be kind and helpful. Pay attention to the details. Be organised. The public assume the fashion industry is peopled with chaotic halfwits -- don’t be the cliche. Always wear shoes you can walk in.” Jo Ellison, Fashion Editor, The Financial Times
“This generation needs to set itself apart from what algorithms and robots can do. Break free of doing everything on screen, learn skills, draw, sew, pattern cut, develop your own obsessional knowledge -- go hard into sustainability -- investigate bio-design. State who you are. Share your knowledge… I am seeing new areas of work open up which have never been there before… People are looking out for extraordinary voices who are doing things that stand out against the computerised mass.” Sarah Mower, MBE, fashion journalist and BFC’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent
“Work experience is invaluable. I have often employed interns, who have gone on to great careers in the industry. Try to embed yourself where possible. Even if you get a part-time job in a shop where you’re not so into the clothes, you will learn tonnes, or even work in a bar you know everyone goes to, so you are becoming visible on the scene. Get yourself out there. If you want it badly enough get an evening job to top up your income. Those who come in to my office and moan to me about how they don’t have time, I hear you, but the ones who succeed, they make time, just as I still do now when I take on a project I badly want to do. I’m as hungry for it today as you should be starting out.” Mandi Lennard, fashion PR legend
“The one thing you need to know about working in fashion is that it is all about building relationships and collaboration. Fashion is a big global community of very diverse people with different viewpoints and experiences, and as such, a lot of the best outcomes are a result of overcoming cultural, geographic and creative differences to build new businesses, projects, collections, events or ideas that may seem impossible at first, but with the right people around the table become a reality. This is what I love about working fashion.” Imran Ahmed, Founder and CEO, Business of Fashion
“Learn a language and read a newspaper.” Penny Martin, Editor-in Chief, The Gentlewoman
“When people first enter the industry there’s a tendency to want to please their superiors and go with the status quo. This is not how change will be driven, and change is sorely needed. If things don’t seem right, speak up! If you are dissatisfied with the system, think of ways to change it! It’s always been odd to me that an industry that outwardly prides itself on newness and evolution seems to always be so stuck in its ways. We live in an age where everyone can have a platform and that can be harnessed and create momentum. In the last five years, through conversations speeding up on social media, we’ve seen brands and publications falter, respond and ultimately listen to what is being said. Now’s the time to really incite a new way of doing things, whether that’s in regards to sustainability, diversity or meritocracy.” Susie Lau, fashion journalist
“My advice would be… ONLY PHOTOGRAPH WHAT YOU TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY LOVE.” Tim Walker, photographer
“Always follow your instincts and trust yourself. Stand up for the things you believe in and don’t worry about what other people think -- fashion is not about pleasing everyone, it’s more important to stand for something.” Stuart Vevers, Creative Director, Coach
“I’m a big believer in apprenticeship and paying your dues, having said that, I think it’s about the new generation educating us rather than the other way around. Nothing ever came from listening to your elders! One thing’s for sure, you can’t do it alone so seek out those that inspire you and see what you can bring to the group.” Alastair McKimm, stylist
“Never ever take no for an answer. Everything is possible, strive always to turn those NOS into YESES. Perseverance really does work. Always treat people with kindness and treat everyone how you would want to be treated yourself. Make sure to remember you can learn a lot from one another, so always listen. Never take this wonderful world of fashion for granted, we are so lucky to experience the magic of other people’s creativity and vision, celebrate it always and celebrate each other’s creativity.” Sophia Neophitou, Editor-in-Chief, 10 magazine
“The best advice I received came from one of my Saint Martins tutors called Michael Rosen who questioned why I was at college and told me to ‘Just get on with it’ -- which didn’t really make much real sense the day he said it, however, pretty soon after I met Rankin and Jefferson in a bar, left college and the rest is history.” Katie Grand, Editor-in-Chief, Love Magazine
“Be passionate. Know your shit. Look with your eyes, not through your phone. Listen to other people, but don’t listen to other people’s opinions. Read about things other than fashion. Watch television. Go to bed early. Don’t go to parties unless you really want to. Talk to people. Say please and thank you. Never think you’re better than anyone else, but never think you’re less either. Don’t be ashamed of where you come from. Welcome distractions. Laugh, and maybe cry. Take everything seriously, but nothing too seriously. Overspend. Under-pack. Over-prepare. Pay your share. Make up your own mind. Work. And don’t fuck it up.” Alexander Fury, fashion critic
“Be brave and follow your gut! The fashion industry is constantly evolving and it’s important to have an adaptive attitude to this change and take advantage of the open dialogue with other industries such as art, music, cinema and technology. Use this to inspire creativity and innovation in your chosen field.” Caroline Rush, CEO British Fashion Council
“Have a little patience; in terms of your career and when it comes to voicing your opinion. Value education and knowledge over self-indulgence and ego. Don’t become someone who’s known for their wardrobe over their talent or mind. Show interest in people older and wiser than you and give them your generational point of view in return. Be polite, generous and gracious. It counts for more than a good street style look.” Anders Christian Madsen, Fashion Critic, British Vogue
“It takes a crazy amount of investment to get to anywhere in fashion: financial (let’s be honest, all that free labour), physical and mental. It helps to be aware of this from the very beginning of the journey.” Olya Kuryshchuk, 1 Granary