How to break into the fashion industry

Attempting to break into the fashion industry might seem impossible but here are some key tips that can help you land your dream job

Lee Lucas's avatar

Lee Lucas

June 24 2019
How to break into the fashion industry


Fashion is a billion-pound global industry, changing at a pace almost faster than retailers can keep up with. The need for STEM, technical and analytical skills are now greater than ever. 

The huge shift in consumer buying behaviour from in-store to online, from seasonal to weekly, from local to global, means that roles such as buying and merchandising have become far broader, fast paced and challenging. 

Shelf life is six weeks rather than six months, and before the stock has even hit the high street the next range is on order. The impact of fast fashion reaches right from the design stage to shop floor, affecting every department along the way. Resilience and agility are key to adapt to the demands of the moment, alongside tenacity and problem-solving skills.

Aside from the all-critical training required to start an entry-level job, a job in fashion is as much about what you can do as well as how you manage the pressure and pace of the environment.

While getting a first foot in the door may seem challenging, particularly given this is an industry all about connections, there are some practical ways to approach this. 

Work experience is vital

Work experience is vital if you want to secure a job in the world of fashion.  

Work experience will allow you to gain invaluable and relevant industry experience, learning the daily nuances of a job that a textbook cannot teach, including all the industry jargon that will help you to stand out and give you a competitive advantage over other applicants when interviewing for roles. Many brands require previous experience and references. 

It will also enable you to build a network of connections. During work placements, you will be surrounded by professionals in the industry so making a positive lasting impression is critical to success as you never know who may offer you a job or introduce you to someone else who is hiring in the future.

Interview preparation

Before you get to the interview stage, a professional CV is essential. This should include all of your experience as well as your personal attributes laid out clearly and without typos. Ensure that you include all relevant details while being concise – a CV shouldn’t be any longer than two pages. 

Most recruiters head to LinkedIn to find out more about candidates, so ensure you have an up-to-date profile complete with endorsements where relevant, and ensure your picture is professional rather than personal.

As most brands are looking for a combination of technical, practical and personal skills, coming across well in an interview is vital. Ensure you do plenty of background research on the company you are interviewing for and be ready to talk about what you know about them and how you can help them. 

Remember that an interview is a two-way conversation. More often than not, the interviewer will end the session by asking if you have any questions. This is the ideal opportunity for you to demonstrate how well-informed you are, and you should be prepared to ask at least three questions. Potential employers want to know that you are thinking seriously about what it would be like to work for them.

Also, keep in mind how important first impressions are, so make yours count. Make sure you are on time, and dressed appropriately. And remember body language can be just as important as anything you say in the interview.

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Five key skills that will help you score a job in the fashion industry

1. Creative problem-solving and critical thinking

At first glance, problem-solving, critical thinking and fashion may seem completely unrelated, but they are not. Design, technology and logistics are intrinsically linked through fashion so having the ability to recognise when and how to change direction quickly is essential. Similarly, critical thinking is vital as it allows you to take what might work in theory and make it work in practice.

2. Communication skills

Adept communication skills are essential in almost every career and fashion is no exception. From a business standpoint, from design, to sizing, stock control, staffing and distribution, every bit of the fashion industry relies on good communication.

3. Be organised

Fashion is fast paced and demanding, so you will sometimes be under intense pressure to deliver. You will be expected to manage multiple projects simultaneously while retaining accuracy and precision across the board. 

4. Collaboration

There are few sectors that are as collaborative as the fashion industry. It is an industry that rarely relies on a single individual to handle all aspects of a project, as multiple departments are part of the supply chain from design, buying, operations, marketing and sales. 

5. STEM skills

The fashion industry is becoming increasingly complex, and thanks to technology it is requiring a higher calibre of skills than ever before. The retail fashion industry is increasingly looking for graduates with STEM skills, as an increasing number of roles in the sector require technical know-how.

With the rise of online shopping and “multi-channel” experiences, the ability to analyse data to reveal trends and buying habits is also vitally important. 

Read more: The best fashion schools in the world 2019

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