True Life of A Fashion Intern

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Fashion is glamorous but can the same thing be said about fashion internships?  Sure, there are wonderful perks of the job but a lot of hard work happens behind-the-scenes that people are unaware of.

I received my first Fashion Internship about a year ago and it was absolutely the best experience ever. Unless you know you want to work in corporate fashion, you may not feel the same way.  A Fashion Internship is no joke – there is a lot of work and most of the time it is unpaid. These factors can immediately be a huge turnoff  but everyone has to start somewhere.

Anyone that’s in the position I aspire to be in started where I am now: the bottom. The fashion world is a huge ladder that must be climbed but the view at the top is amazing.

I can recall countless times of running from my desk to the fashion closet to the door to grab samples from messengers.  Sometimes I would find myself running out the door onto the streets of New York to pick up or drop off samples of clothing for a client. If you are currently or ever have been a Fashion Intern then you are very familiar with the term “sample trafficking.” Sample trafficking is the process of loaning out products to publications or clients for the purpose of gaining publicity for the designer and their collection.

I live and breathe sample trafficking.

The people working in corporate fashion always know what is going to be published or who is going to wear what on the red carpet at least three months in advance.  I love having this knowledge and am always eager to grab the latest magazine to see if our clients are featured.

Then there are the shows during New York Fashion Week.  I have attended several shows and regardless of it being a Runway Show or a Presentation, things are always hectic. People are scrambling around to make sure everything is perfect because anything less would not suffice. Long hours are put into the production of a show but being able to watch the end result is just another perk of the job. There is also the thrill and fear of working backstage during a show with questions like, “oh god, how many seconds do I have left to help this model get dressed?” or “is the lineup correct?”  Fashion Week is one of the events that an intern looks forward to.  We’re surrounded by so many inspirational people in the industry that it quickly stands as a reminder to work even harder to get where they’re at.

Being a Fashion Intern can be painful; we look at a closet filled with the latest collections all day long yet we know that at the end of the day, we will not walk out with any of it. People constantly ask me if I get free stuff from the companies I’ve interned at. The answer? Sometimes. There are times when I have to attend an event and in order to best represent the client, I’m required to wear something from the collection. The best part about this is being able to keep the clothes but for the most part, getting free clothes is a very rare occasion.

So while I find that being a Fashion Intern can be enjoyable and as a necessary measure for my career, some will say that fashion interns are abused simply because they do not get paid and work too hard or too long. As a fellow Fashion Intern, I see both sides of the spectrum.

It’s true: we do not get paid enough (or at all) for the amount of work we do so if  you’re a Fashion Intern like I am, always take into consideration of a few things.

One of the first thing that every intern should remember is that if you are not getting paid then YOU set your work hours, not them. You should never let any big-named corporation push you over on how long you should work especially when it’s past your contracted number of hours for that day/week. There are laws and guidelines that every company should be following with their interns. The second thing that every intern should remember is that you came into the internship knowing it was unpaid so don’t act surprised a month later but if you ever feel like your time is being abused, quit. If the experience isn’t worth the time, having a big-named corporation won’t do much for your resume. I’ve contemplated quitting big companies before because I wasn’t getting paid and I wasn’t gaining anything out of it so what was the point of staying if I couldn’t even showcase my skills and talk about it at future job interviews. Finally, always take lunch. So many interns feel abused because they’re overloaded with work and do not take a break. Regardless if you’re a paid or unpaid intern, take advantage of your lunch break.

We interns do a lot of the hard, grueling work but I’ve managed to always enjoy the little things I get out of it. Don’t ever think you’re too big to do the little things even once you get to the top;  there’s always something to take out of everything.  Stuck running errands and delivering clothes all day? It’s okay!  Use that experience to familiarize yourself with the go-to NYC fashion locations and use that knowledge to your advantage at the next interview.

I know there are plenty of young ladies out there like me that love this industry and would go through incredible lengths to one day make a name for themselves. We encounter a lot of snobby people but also amazing supervisors who are rooting for us to be successful and one day work alongside them. Being a Fashion Intern has only shaped me into a bolder, more confident and determined person but always keep in mind the wise words of Diane Von Furstenberg: You don’t have to be a bitch to be successful.

Feature image: Mainstream, Creative Comomons

Jenny Le
I'm an avid coffee drinker with a love for wine too. I love all things oversized and comfy, also known as my bed and the hundreds of unnecessary pillows. I get to live the best of both worlds in California and New York.