How to Get a Job in Fashion: Your Guide to the Fashion Industry
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Believe it or not, the global fashion industry is expected to be worth $1.7 trillion by the end of 2022. If you have an eye for style and a readiness to put in the work, you could find yourself with your very own slice of that pie.

But is it worth it? The fashion industry has a fraught reputation, steeped in conspicuous consumption and challenging power dynamics. Plus, let’s face it – most of us don’t look like supermodels, and the standards of beauty perpetuated by the industry can be intimidating.

Fortunately, fashion isn’t all cutthroat colleagues and photoshoot-ready office attire! We’re here to cut through some of those alienating myths, and show you how you can get ahead in the world of fashion. Trust us: it isn’t as scary as you think.

In this guide we will cover:

  • Some myths and misconceptions about the fashion industry
  • Common roles and salaries in fashion
  • The challenges of getting a job in fashion
  • How to get hired in fashion without experience

Myths and Misconceptions About the Fashion Industry

It won’t surprise you to learn that people have a lot of misconceptions about the fashion industry. But if you’re considering a career in fashion, it’s time to put down your copy of The Devil Wears Prada and get to grips with the reality behind the myths.

To get you started, we’re here to bust some myths about working in fashion, and tell you what the field is really like.

Myth 1: It’s all glamor, all the time

This myth is particularly pervasive, because the fashion industry manufactures glamor. It makes sense that the industry itself would be wall-to-wall elegance and glitz, right?

In reality, the work that goes on in the world of fashion is still work. Sure, you might get to travel internationally on the job – but it will be for work, and you’ll need to put in the hours to make the most of your time on location. Similarly, you might get to see exclusive clothing samples before they reach the public, but you’re just as likely to end up hauling them across town to a designer.

This isn’t a bad thing! It just means that the industry is more down-to-earth and human than people usually think. You shouldn’t feel excluded from fashion because you aren’t a walking fashion plate, or because you aren’t an international jet-setter with a bottomless credit card.

As a side note, it’s also a myth that everyone who works in fashion is a size zero. The industry is a broader church than you might expect! You should always apply for jobs based on your career goals and your skill level – no matter your body type.

Myth 2: All jobs in fashion are creative jobs

There are certainly plenty of creative roles available in fashion! We’ll touch on some of them in the next section. The industry can be a great place for artists, designers and other creative thinkers.

But someone has to sell the goods, and someone has to keep an eye on how well the goods are selling. Even beyond that, the industry needs people to develop products, carry out quality assurance, source materials, and generally keep the creative work functioning as intended.

Again, it’s easy for people to buy into the romance of the fashion industry. It produces clothes, trends, and star-studded celebrity events – why would it need anything so mundane as data analytics or production management? That’s the myth, and we’re here to reassure you that sales, analytics and development roles are just as important to fashion as designers are.

So if you’re a data-savvy sales professional or a smart people manager, you should know that skills like yours keep the fashion industry ticking over. If you’re considering a career change, fashion could be the industry for you!

Myth 3: The industry is incredibly cutthroat

The mythology surrounding famous figures in fashion can seem frightening. Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, was notoriously the inspiration for the nightmare boss in The Devil Wears Prada. More troublingly, the industry is far from immune to abusers: Terry Richardson, celebrity fashion photographer, was able to continue working long after multiple models singled him out as a predator.

Fashion, like any industry, has its problems. But the major names who dominate the news emerging from the industry aren’t the whole story.

Most people who work in fashion are just regular people. Competition for roles can be stiff, and so people are inclined to work hard – but if you work in fashion, most of your colleagues will probably be much like you. Some of them may even become your friends.

On a purely practical note, fashion is a talkative industry. Anyone going out of their way to undermine or sabotage their colleagues will find that word of their behavior spreads fast. The best way to get ahead in fashion is to work hard, build a good network, and take what opportunities you can – but more on that later!

Roles and Salaries in Fashion

So you’ve decided to look for a role in fashion – but what’s the right role for you? Read on for a breakdown of three popular career tracks in the fashion industry, and see which one might suit your skill set best.

Sales

Average salary: $42,000

In the fashion industry, working in sales means getting apparel into stores, and then into customers’ hands. Yes, that includes roles in retail! Working as a sales associate on a shop floor might not feel particularly chic, but if you’re looking to break into sales in fashion, it can give you valuable entry-level experience for subsequent roles.

If you’re hoping to build a lasting career in sales, you need a head for data and a good eye for profit and loss. You should be able to combine that analytical mindset with softer skills, too – you will likely find yourself dealing with people, usually with a view to selling them something. Lastly, you will need an in-depth knowledge of the product you’re working with, so you can make informed decisions and suggestions to sell the product with confidence.

That combination of skills could take you far on a number of different career tracks. You might thrive as a merchandiser, analyzing sales figures and current market trends to determine which products customers can buy in stores. You could also find yourself working as an account manager or sales representative, developing and maintaining sales relationships with stores on behalf of a fashion brand.

With some time, depending on your skills and experience, you could advance to higher-level sales roles and assume management responsibility for your own team. You could even find yourself planning merchandising and inventory for an entire company as a high-level buyer!

Design

Average salary: $75,000

Of all the career paths in fashion, this may be the best-known – and it’s definitely the most public. Design roles in fashion are responsible for designing clothes and patterns for use as part of a collection.

Roles like this demand a high level of creativity, and a real passion for style. You’ll need to have your finger on the pulse of new and emerging trends, and you’ll need to be able to come up with new ideas quickly and frequently. You will also need to play well with others – designers don’t work alone, and their work is usually done in consultation with both sales and development staff.

With the right skill set and a degree of talent, you could find yourself working as a fashion designer, designing new clothes for fashion brands. While some designers are able to establish their own brands, many early-career designers work in street fashion, designing clothing to be mass-produced at an affordable price. You could also work as a graphic designer, producing logos and designs to be featured in clothing, or as a textile designer, designing patterns and fabrics to suit clothing styles.

Over time, you could progress to become a senior designer or design director, leading and inspiring your own team of designers. You might even advance to become creative director of an entire brand, setting the tone and the trends in your own right!

Development

Average salary: $58,000

Development is the practical side of the fashion industry – it deals with the production and engineering of clothes. If you’ve ever wondered how the sartorial sausage gets made, a role in development will give you a ground-level look at the process from beginning to end!

Above all else, development demands an eye for detail. You’ll be responsible for the finer points of some of the most vital and unseen processes in the industry, so you need to be able to stay on top of everything! You’ll also need to be a capable manager of people, as most roles in development will require you to take some responsibility for others’ work.

If that sounds like you, you could find yourself working as a product developer, overseeing the journey of a company’s apparel from early design to manufacture. You’d act as the clothing company’s liaison with the factory, handling cost negotiations and sourcing any necessary materials. Alternatively, if you have an eye for manufacture yourself, you could work as a technical designer and determine exactly how any given garment ought to be constructed.

Eventually, you could advance to a higher-level role with more oversight and more responsibility. You might find yourself promoted to the role of production manager, with responsibility for junior production staff and oversight over exactly which factories your company partners with. You could even work in quality assurance, checking on every stage of the production process to ensure that standards are met.

How to Get a Job in Fashion

Competition for roles can be intense in the fashion industry. Fortunately, there are ways to give yourself an advantage over other applicants – and no, they don’t involve scattering beads underfoot on the catwalk. Here are a few simple ways to boost your profile as an applicant!

Build Your Network

Fashion isn’t all about who you know. However, getting to know people in the industry can still give you important insights that can help you get ahead.

Look around for Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and join in the conversations taking place there. Keep it organic, and don’t beg for work! Remember, the goal is to show your awareness of the industry and use it to make contacts.

And if you happen to know someone who knows someone in the industry, now is the time to reach out! Let them know you’re looking, and ask if they’d be prepared to take any questions you have about working in fashion. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to extend a hand to help.

Think Laterally

If you have prior work experience, use it! Even if you’ve never worked in fashion before, it’s highly likely that the skills you’ve developed elsewhere will still benefit you in your job search.

Think carefully about how you arrange your resume. You need to make sure that the most important skills are front and center for a hiring manager to see. If you’re stuck, remember that VisualCV has a range of great resume templates to help you get started!

Build Your Skills

When you’re new to any industry, it can be hard to show that you have the skills you need to make a lateral career move. One way around that is to look into certifications – qualifications you can take online to prove your credentials in a particular skill or field.

Certifications are available on all kinds of schedules, at a range of price points. With a little research, you’ll be able to find one that works for you.

You can then list your certification on your resume, and prove to any potential employer that you take your career development seriously. A certification not only proves your expertise – it shows initiative, and hiring managers love candidates willing to go the extra mile.

How to Get a Job in Fashion With No Experience

If you’re coming to the fashion industry with no prior work experience, there’s no way around it: you will need to work harder to catch a hiring manager’s attention. Here are some ways you can build your resume and get ahead.

Be Prepared to Work

Whether you love them or hate them, internships are still a fact of life in the fashion industry. The right internship can help you get your foot in the door, introduce you to potential friends and mentors, and give you valuable experience of working in fashion.

The work itself might seem a little thankless, but think of it as a stepping stone on the way to greater things – and don’t be afraid to think strategically about the internships you apply for! Many fashion conglomerates own a range of brands, some more accessible than others. An internship at a high street brand owned by a luxury conglomerate could set you on the path to working for a more illustrious name someday.

Create Your Own Opportunities

No matter how entry-level your role, you should try to get as much out of it as you can. It might seem like a lot of extra work in the short term, but you will thank yourself for the effort later on!

If you’re working in retail, volunteer to help out with merchandising – it will teach you skills you can rely on in later roles. If you’re interning for a clothing brand, volunteer for any extra work that comes your way – the internship is meant to be a learning experience, and if you show willing, your colleagues will remember your enthusiasm.

And if you don’t yet have work in the industry, why not find ways to show off what you can do? If you’re a designer, a website can be a great way to show off your design portfolio and draw attention your way.

Start Small

It might sound obvious, but if you don’t have any prior work experience, you’re unlikely to land your dream job right out of the gate. If you’re struggling to get any invitations to interview, consider setting your sights a little lower for the moment.

The goal in the first instance is to find your way into the industry. Once you’re in, you can build up the skills and experience you will need to progress to more advanced roles. It will take a little time, but with some hard work and staying power, you’ll get where you want to go.

If you’re looking for a career in fashion, now’s the time! It’s a trillion-dollar industry with a huge range of roles and a wealth of opportunities to advance. If you find the right role, trust us: you’ll never look back.

Want to give your resume a style update before you start applying for jobs? Check out our resume samples for inspiration – we’ll get you looking great in no time.

Waverly March

Written By

Waverly March

Content Writer + Resume Expert

Waverly is a freelance writer, former HR officer and current international traveller. They believe in doing your research, showing up prepared, and bringing your passions with you to work. They've helped countless job seekers create better resumes and cover letters to improve and grow their careers.

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