the fashion superstars who started as interns

Because even the best sometimes have to make coffees.

by Wendy Syfret
28 March 2017, 3:00pm

Yesterday Chance the Rapper tweeted that he was looking for an intern. As you can imagine, the internet erupted as the employed and job seeking alike couldn't update their resumes fast enough. Even those of us with dreamy jobs had a moment where we imagined our lives remade in the shadow of the rapper and humanitarian.

That call for "someone with experience in putting together decks and writing proposals" attracted thousands of replies, ensuring whoever he chooses is going to be pretty special. But whether or not one of the most lauded artists of a generation is hiring, internships can be a great way to start a career. 

With Chance's employment needs in mind, we looked back over some of fashion's most fruitful internships.

Karl Lagerfeld interned at Pierre Balmain

Even the masters have to start somewhere, and for an impatient Lagerfeld that was Pierre Balmain. Speaking to students at Paris school Sciences Po in 2013, the mind behind Chanel and Fendi admitted, "I never studied because I didn't have time." Luckily after winning the 1954 International Wool Secretariat (alongside Yves Saint Laurent and Colette Bracchi) Balmain recognised his potential and gave him an internship.

Sofia Coppola interned at Chanel

Keeping the good will flowing, years later Karl would foster another young talent. As a teenager director and designer Sofia Coppola joined her parents in Paris for the summer, picking up work experience at Chanel. Reflecting on the experience to Vogue she said: "It was so exciting to go to Paris in the Eighties at the height of Chanel. I was in the design studio, so I got to see Karl Lagerfeld doing haute couture sketches for the final shows. It was incredible - he is so creative. I was getting coffee and doing intern stuff, but just to be around him was amazing."

Considering she's still a friend of the house, they must have been great coffees.

Tom Ford interned at Chloe

Fellow designer/director hybrid Tom Ford cut his teeth at Chloe, spending a year in Italy to work there in 1983 before graduating from Parsons. Interesting, he wasn't working in design, but rather in the press office. Although he told Esquire the job only involved "Wrapping shoes with tissue paper. Labeling them and putting them back on the shoe rack. That was about all I did," it did inspire him to shift his focus to fashion.

Chloe Sevigny interned at Sassy Magazine

Perhaps the most impressive former intern, future fashion star Chloe Sevigny was so loved at Sassy she ended up in the mag itself. In a 1992 issue founding editor Jane Pratt wrote, "We're having her work in our office, sticking mailing labels on things and stuff...Her tastes are ever-varied — she'll try anything, then get bored and move on."

Impressively Chloe didn't even have to apply: Sassy fashion assistant Andrea Linett spotted the 17-year-old on a street corner in 1992, loved her style, and asked her to model for the mag. Chloe's mother would only give per permission if she also did an internship. Speaking to Refinery 29 Pratt remembered, "Chloë was always a teenage girl that didn't seem like a teenage girl; she was older than her years in terms of how she owned her own style." Some things never change. 

Kanye West interned at Fendi

Not all designers did their time as kids. When Kanye West was getting serious about his burgeoning fashion empire he set out to learn from the best. In 2012 the rapper kindly tracked his whole fashion journey via Twitter. Over 70 Tweets he detailed how he had previously been offered a position at Versace, worked undercover at Fendi for months and snuck into Giuseppe Zanotti's factory to learn how to design shoes.

Impressively Kanye was a pretty committed Fendi intern. Talking to Hot 97 he confirmed he worked full time there, "going to work, walking to work, getting cappuccinos."

Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen interned at Savile Row

Central Saint Martin graduates Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen both spent time working for tailors on London's famous Savile Row. McQueen did his time as a tailoring apprentice with Anderson & Shepherd before enrolling in a Master's course. Legend has it he sewed "I am a cunt" into the lining of a suit destined for Prince Charles.

After her graduation McCartney spent years shadowing her dad's tailor Edward Sexton, her time there would go on to influence her commitment to feminine yet sharp tailoring. It wasn't her first work placement, she also interned for Christian Lacroix as a teenager. 

Raf Simons interned for Walter Van Beirendonck

Like Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons wasn't interested in studying fashion at university. Rather the Belgian designer opted for industrial design. Towards the end of his course he needed to work at a design studio to fulfill course requirements. The young Simons was already a fan of Walter Van Beirendonck and desperately wanted to work with him. Knowing he didn't have a lot of experience, he faked a whole folio to send to his idol. Among his counterfeit work was a fake i-D cover! 

Nicolas Ghesquière interned at Agnès B and Jean Paul Gaultier

Another ambitious teenager, Louis Vuitton's Nicolas Ghesquière spent a summer working for Agnès B in Paris when he was 15. He didn't get to do much more than observe, photocopy and make coffees, but he was paid in clothes which would have been a pretty exciting perk as a teenager.

Four years later he spent time under Jean Paul Gaultier, "It started out as a super small job, making coffee and dog walking, eventually doing color cards and photocopies, but it was fascinating."

Alexander Wang interned for Marc Jacobs

Considering all that Alexander Wang has achieved by the age of 33, it makes sense he started young. Already taking part in Central Saint Martin's summer programs in the 8th grade, he secured an internship with Marc Jacobs at the end of his first year at Parsons. Speaking to WWD years later he remembered, "Marc has a very specific way of working that works for him. He works on the collection and a lot of his creative ideas come toward the end. It's an amazing energy in the office. People get very excited by his energy and his ideas. They go all-in. It was an incredible time especially as my first New York experience."

It apparently made such an impression he decided to drop out of school to pursue hands on industry work. 

Ashley Olsen interned for Zac Posen

Both Olsen Twins spent time as interns when they finished high school, despite being worth hundreds of millions. Mary-Kate teamed up with photographer Annie Leibovitz while Ashley went to work for Zac Posen. In 2007 the designer told PEOPLE, "She came in person and knocked on the door to get her internship, which is four steps farther than most interns go. She had that drive and that's what makes someone special." He noted that she stood out for her "perfectionism and elegance." 


Text by Wendy Syfret

Alexander McQueen
Alexander Wang
Karl Lagerfeld
Tom Ford
chance the rapper
chloe sevigny
stella mccartney
kanye west
Sofia Coppola
Raf Simons