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 if you're wondering how to get a job in the fashion industry, you may have a few things to learn first.
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:
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.
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.
You may have heard recent debate about the issues surrounding the "fast fashion" industry; namely, that producing massive amounts of clothing cheaply and quickly is detrimental to the enviornment and laborers.
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!
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!
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.
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! Featured Resumes:
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! Featured Resumes
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. Featured Resumes
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dear hiring manager,
I’m happy to apply for the role of merchandiser at Paillette Clothing, which I saw advertised on LinkedIn. As a longtime customer at Paillette, I knew immediately that this was the role for me. I’ve always admired the way Paillette has staked out a clear brand in the face of strong competition, and I believe that I have the skills and experience to help build that brand even further.
I have been fortunate to get my start as a sales associate for my local Heller and Michaels store. Though this was an entry-level position, I knew that I wanted to make it my own. I threw myself into learning as much as possible from my colleagues, seeking out opportunities to train and develop. I soon found that merchandising was a particular skill of mine; it allowed me to combine my analytical mind with my interest in the cutting edge of fashion. After I assumed merchandising responsibilities, our store’s quarterly sales figures went from 10th to 3rd in the state! Fostering that growth is one of my proudest achievements, and I know I can bring the same results to Paillette.
I’ve been so happy for the opportunity to transform my love of fashion into a career. Now I want to take that career to the next level, supporting a brand I love while cultivating and honing my skills in data analysis and sales.
You will find my resume attached. Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon!
Dear hiring manager,
I am writing to introduce myself as a candidate for the role of product designer at Heller and Michaels. When I saw this role advertised on Facebook, I knew I had to apply. I’ve dreamed of finding a role that will allow me to bring my experience of fashion design to a wider audience, and as a lifelong Heller and Michaels shopper, I know that your brand has an incredible reach. I believe that by combining my design skills with your amazing platform, we can both move from strength to strength.
Though I have prior experience as a fashion design intern, my most significant experience in fashion has been in my effort to build my own brand. As the director of Gold Leaf Clothing, I have had the opportunity to flex my creative muscles while developing business acumen. I have taken my brand from strength to strength through research, analysis of sales figures, and my own creative vision. In fact, my innovative design for a winter coat caught the attention of retailers across the region, and secured Gold Leaf Clothing a feature in Yes Magazine.
While I have loved creating my own brand, I’m excited at the idea of applying my independent experience to a company I truly love. I believe that my passion, creativity and expertise will breathe new life into the Heller and Michaels brand, and I can’t wait to discover what we can do together.
My resume is attached. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing back soon!
Summary I am a creative and results-driven sales associate with specialist workplace training in merchandising. Confident and compassionate, capable of working well with colleagues and building strong relationships with management. Exceptional merchandising skills with an ability to combine data analysis, forward thinking, and customer focus. Highly motivated and committed to achieving the best possible results, with a strong work ethic and proven ability to multitask.
Work Experience Sales Associate Heller and Michaels
Sales Associate (Part Time) Outdoor GO
Education Bachelor of Arts in Communications University of Michigan
Summary Innovative and forward-thinking fashion designer with a keen eye for the latest trends. Proficient in Sketchbook Pro, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, with a lifelong passion for creating new designs. Skilled in building and refining brands, with experience in all aspects of garment production from design to manufacture. Proven track record of building strong relationships with buyers, brand managers, and executives to deliver highly specialized products.
Work Experience Fashion Designer Gold Leaf Clothing
Fashion Design Intern Highmark Clothing
Education Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
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.
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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