Career

Cracking Couture: How to Break Into the Fashion Industry

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So what if you didn’t go to FIDM or FIT? These days it doesn’t matter if you even went to college. Just like any highly competitive, creativity-driven career path, the fashion industry is not about what you know, but who you know — and even more importantly, who knows you.

Cracking Couture: How to Break Into the Fashion Industry

Connect with industry leaders online and showcase your designs on Pinterest and Instagram

With the emergence of technology at the forefront of the fashion game, anyone who wants to break into the industry can instantly communicate with fashion’s heavy hitters with a simple tweet or direct message. Even though opportunities are everywhere, you have to have a game plan to get noticed. Here’s your guide for breaking into the fashion industry with no experience, no friends and no fear:

Social Is as Social Does

Social media has changed every industry in the world. Fashion is not just another example, but the epitome of how powerful social media is. Blogs, message boards and Pinterest pins influence how billions of dollars are spent each year, according to Social Media Link. Not to mention that many industry heavy hitters and superstars are well known for replying personally to tweets from their fans.

Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle

It’s all too easy to spin your wheels posting away to a dozen different social media sites and getting nowhere. So which ones work? How can you leverage your time, content and energy to get noticed in one of the most competitive industries in the world? Two words: Get specific.

First, select the industry leaders who are most valuable to you. These are not necessarily the biggest names in the industry, but rather are the influencers that speak to you, your passion and your ethos. They are the people that, in an ideal world, would be your colleagues and friends. Choose five to 10 of these incredible people and get to work!

Now is the time to be an incredible Internet sleuth. Figure out everything there is to know about your industry leaders. Find which social media outlets they have, and follow them. Then, look for the social media outlet they use the most. For example, if all their tweets are automatic reposts from Instagram, then you know the best place to interact with them is not on Twitter, it’s on Insta. Like, comment and DM, but don’t go overboard. This method of building a business relationship is much like a romantic one: Show them that you’re interested but not desperate. Let your interactions evolve over time, and don’t try to force it.

Cracking Couture: How to Break Into the Fashion Industry

Start your own small business, then parlay that into the career of your dreams

Understand Your Stepping Stones

The best skill you can have going into this job market is experience. Want to be a big name designer? Start your own small business. Sell your designs on Etsy. Or find a part-time gig that teaches you new skills — even if it’s something simple like developing your salesmanship with Amway or seeing what sells by working a retail job in a boutique. Learning to work with or manage other people, keeping your cash flow up and motivating yourself to work at it every day gives you invaluable skills and sets you up to be a networking guru.

While this position doesn’t have to be something you love or will do forever, think of it as a stepping stone. We all have to pay our dues. It’s never too late, and you’re never too old. In an industry that revolves around narcissism and appearances, humility and hard work will get you everywhere. Remember: Vera Wang didn’t start her brand until she was 40 years old!

A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

56 Comments

  1. Elsie Spurlock

    Great list! Inspiration & motivation go hand-in-hand & are both essential components for the success of any entrepreneur.

  2. Kimberly Vigil

    Thanks for the advice, this is one of the many reasons I admire and love Urbanette.

  3. Rosemary Robles

    This is a great advice! Fashion seems like such a fascinating industry!

  4. Merry Robinson

    Thanks for sharing these tips! 🙂

  5. Ashley Moore

    Interesting and helpful post. I love fashion and the industry so much. I want to work as a fashion photographer one day. This industry is such an inspiring and crazy world. If it’s something that you truly love tho, it will all be worth it in the end. <3

  6. Hazel Collins

    Great article Hilary! This was very refreshing and encouraging. I always enjoy the content of this site especially articles like this. I learned early on that the fashion industry wasn’t always glamorous. Some think its all glamour when its not. I’m glad this was a post that can continue motivating us in pursuing our dreams. 🙂

  7. Cornelia Green

    I’m already in this industry, and your advice are spot on.
    Thanks for always sharing with us your wisdom.

  8. Louise Stone

    Great article! Great advice that can be used on any industry.

  9. Camila Hilhorst

    Inspirational tips! I hope one day I’ll be lucky to enough to start my own brand.

  10. Helena Stevens

    I wish I had what it takes to be a fashion stylist.

    • There’s no reason why you can’t be one. Start by styling your own shoots and posting them on social media. 🙂

  11. Olivia Peterson

    I have been wanting to start a fashion line for sometime now, but I don’t have any artistic or fashion skills. But i have a vision for my designs, is it a bad idea to start a fashion line not being able to design my own clothes? I would essentially have to outsource for everything.

    • If you have the money, you can outsource. If you don’t, you can learn to sew… 🙂

  12. Great tips! thank you!!!! I’m dying to become a fashion merchandiser!

  13. Great advice! Interning is a fantastic way to learn about the industry and try a few different roles. I highly recommend doing as many internships you can in different areas to gain experience and figure out what you like and don’t like!

  14. I can’t stress enough how valuable internships are! It definitely helped me narrow down career options!

  15. This is such a great post, I think that there is definitely a lot of hard work and sacrifice that goes into pursuing your dream career, even if it’s not in the fashion industry. If it’s something that you truly love though, it’ll all be worth it in the end 😉

  16. Thanks for the advice, this is one of the many reasons I admire and love Urbanette!

    Writing has always been something I loved. So of course I was able to incorporate that with my love for fashion, good luck everyone on your career paths.

  17. Thanks for sharing these tips! 🙂 It was a great read.

  18. Great tips! I totally agree with you. I’d like to add something; loving fashion is WAY different than wanting a career in fashion.:)

  19. Greatly helpful post. I love the fashion industry. It´s such an inspiring, crazy world and I definitely want to work as a fashion journalist one day!

  20. I really like these tips you gave! It’s so true!

    It’s so easy to forget that something isn’t always what it seems on the outside. I wanted to go into film and television production. I used to love the general idea of it all. Once I started taking classes at my college I got to experience some of the hectic side of it. I think being able to experience that I’ve grown a deeper passion for it because now I know what it is that I’m getting in to 🙂

  21. Dana Rosatti

    Awesome tips, I couldn’t agree more! But here are also some pretty cool up and coming fashion tech companies that you can get involved with in, on more than just the fashion side – like in marketing, finance, engingeering etc.

  22. Lucretia Asher

    These are great tips! I volunteered as backstage manager at my local fashion week and it was great experience. My struggle is living in the Dallas area now where there aren’t quite as many fashion HQs! Great advice – thanks 🙂

  23. Samantha Anthony

    These are great tips! I volunteered as backstage manager at my local fashion week and it was great experience. My struggle is living in the Dallas area now where there aren’t quite as many fashion HQs! Great advice – thanks 🙂

  24. Samantha Anthony

    I love your perspective, thank you for taking the optimistic side. A nice inspiration and reminder to what success is.

  25. Debbie Jones

    It’s imperative to know that there are many levels of success. Thanks for writing an article that reminds us that having your head in the stratosphere can be just as satisfying as having it next to the stars. 🙂

  26. Elin Hanks

    “Behave as a business, not as an artisan.” is the best advice I was given!

  27. Lin Del Rey

    Inspirational article! Taught me a few things, hopefully I can put in practice.

  28. Christina Norelli

    This is really informative for someone like me that is trying to break in the industry… Thank you!

  29. Sonja Fallow

    Inspiration read! thank you!!

  30. This is something I in some ways know very well, but at the same time, not very well. I appreciate your encouragement for designers. And like you said, school is a small thing.. i think its more for exploration and learning that actually building towards a career/future/business)

    I think a great resource for anyone truly interested in starting is fashion-incubator.com, it goes into deep realistic topics. fashionista.com has some great business info too… but even they admit 98% of the designers they cover have very wealthy sources. (like Vera Wang…)

  31. Sarah Uibel

    This article is really helpful. I feel so overwhelmed most of the time. I needed something like this to simplify my habits/thoughts. Thank you!

  32. Thank you for sharing these tips about breaking into the fashion industry! I also found that interviewing designers and bloggers also provided me with a great perspective of the field.

  33. Andrea Mitchell

    That is a great advice. I want to be a personal stylist and want to setup my own business.

  34. Sydney Nowak

    Great tips! It seems like such a fascinating industry!

  35. Shannon Bradley

    Interning is always a good idea. Great advice and you are such a wonderful example to look up to!

  36. Anna Kaplan

    Great tips! I have always wanted to be a designer (since I could hold a pencil)! I’m still pursuing it but doing freelance work to build up my portfolio. I also started an online boutique a few months ago and it is SO much work! I would say with any position in the fashion industry to be prepared to WORK HARD. It is not always fun, but things have to be done and at the end of the day, you really have to love what you do. It’s definitely not how it is perceived on the outside. With that being said, I love what I do and look forward to future opportunities with the blog, the shop and my designs.

  37. Betty O'Leary

    Thank you so much for these tips and links 🙂

    I’ve been wanting to get my foot into the fashion industry for awhile (probably since I’ve graduated college last summer), but it’s difficult to land a position without contacts and prior experience.

    I’ve been trying to look at internships and unpaid positions in hopes of gaining some experience.

    Your post is really helpful <3 Thank you!

  38. Julia MacLean

    I learned early on that the fashion industry wasn’t always glamourous. I think that’s what drew me to want to be involve in the fashion industry. Although I change my dream of being a fashion designer, I still want to be involve some how. I’m glad this was a post that can continue motivating me in pursing my dreams. 🙂

  39. Celine Carter

    I want to study business/ marketing in college to apply that to my future in fashion. There aren’t many internship possibilities here in the Midwest. Is there a chance for me coming from a small town? What can I do?? Any advice on where to go to college near me that does have possibilities? Any advice on what to study in college?

  40. Franny Pimms

    Given an internet hivefive for your post. It’s really nice written. Fashion is my passion, so I’ll never stop working hard for it!

  41. Lana Urie

    I work as a buyer and believe me, my assistant days were anything but glamorous. It’s still not glamorous today! But if you love the product, the passion get’s you through!

  42. Monica Conover

    This is the best motivational read about fashion industry I have come across… It’s to the point.. It uplifted my upset mood and gave me a new ray of hope..thanks a ton 🙂

  43. Marina Henderson

    This was a great article, inspiring and helpful. Thanks! <3

  44. Colleen Frasier

    This is such a great article. As a college student trying to break into the fashion world myself, it is inspiring and invigorating to hear such down to earth advice from someone so ingrained in the industry! Thanks Hilary!

  45. Danielle Wilson

    Love it, so inspiring to read!! I can’t wait to be at that point in my life! 🙂

  46. Indeed technology continuously make it big for the fashion industry! If you really want to be successful, you should learn to eliminate that fear! Don’t hold back, get out and show what you’ve got!

  47. Wonderful tips and this article is definitely worth sharing, esp I have friends who aspire to have a great career in the fashion industry!

    And oh, I love Vera Wang, I really admire her brand…

  48. If you really want something, you’ll definitely work hard to achieve it, you will never stop and you’ll bear in mind that best things are not achieved easily. Making it big in the fashion industry is not as simple as 1-2-3. It’s all about holding on and never giving up. Connect and communicate more to those who are already in the business 🙂

  49. Gabby Williams

    What a motivating article! Indeed, social media is playing a great role to network, communicate and seek advice. For me, hard work and dedication are important keys to success in the fashion industry. And yeah, I definitely agree! One is “never too old” to start something new, something innovative!

  50. I personally think that believing in yourself, in your skills and talents will help gain that big career in the fashion industry! Hilary’s right, start by having a small business or selling your own brands / designs on Etsy or other online sites. After all, “great things start from small beginnings…”

  51. Hannah Mayers

    I guess, whatever career someone chooses, research is the key to making it big! I agree that one should not get lost in the shuffle! Follow, read and learn more 🙂

    • I am with you, Hannah! Research is vital! I also agree with Hilary, that we should learn new skills. And yeah, during my free weekends, I try to engage in part time gigs that teach me something new. I also find these gigs as great opportunities to meet new people and create networks that will help me in all possible ways!

  52. I am so thankful Google directed me to this article! The tips given are very helpful for someone like me who wants to achieve a “big” name in the fashion industry. Being a “protégé” helps. You’ll learn a lot and at the same time, you’ll meet networks that will help you achieve your goal 🙂

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