How to get a fashion internship

Shift shares essential tools and tips to help you bag your first industry placement

Think of the fashion industry as a tall concrete wall and an internship as a hammer to break through.

Networks and expertise is essential in any industry, but it is particularly vital for fashion. Getting your foot in the door with no prior experience often requires the same diligent strategy as those with official fashion qualifications.

Work placements and internships equip aspiring professionals with crucial skills and corporate etiquette. Organisational skills, time-management and networking are just a few lessons learnt while interning that can prepare you and open up a variety of possibilities. 

So, how do you get an internship?

Firstly, knowing where to look is crucial. Religiously checking websites such as Fashion Workie, The Dots and Fashion United for new opportunities is a good start. These sites showcase intern roles from more established and formalised companies.

Then there’s Instagram accounts like the ones below to help set you on the right path, such as Assisting Work, Creative Lives in Progress and The Learner Platform, run by the BRICKS Magazine editorial team.

However, the fashion industry runs on the unspoken rule: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. 

Elizabeth Rose, studio intern for Asian-American designer Chet Lo says: “I’ve found it’s mainly the smaller, high end brands in London that will advertise positions on their [Instagram] story. I recommend following your favourites if you’re on the hunt [for an internship].”

These opportunities aren’t just limited to main brand accounts. Stylists and photographers who collaborate with companies also advertise assisting work, usually on social media. So, the best advice is to follow anyone and everyone you can who works within the fashion industry.

Making yourself look good is also an imperative. From crafting a professional CV to curating a portfolio of work, be ready to show employers the best version of you and your work.  

“I make sure my portfolio is up to date and that my style is similar to the place I’m applying to, so that I’d feel confident if I were to design for them. I think it’s helpful to not only have a creative portfolio but also to have a separate portfolio of any previous industry work,” Rose says.

“A lot of skills are transferable. I think a lot about how the skills I may have learnt in previous positions could fit into different roles. For example, on my placement I was working collaboratively with a design team to produce a campaign, which shows I can work within a team. Also consider brand guidelines and ethos, etc,” Millie Plant, a studio intern for Good Day Studio says.

Stand out from the crowd, says Paul Toner, Deputy Editor of 10 Magazine. “I want to see someone’s personality come through in their application. I want to know what interests them and what drives them to pursue a career in the fashion industry,” he explains.

Internships provide an opportunity to gain knowledge and industry experience. Having any prior work experience is not necessary.

The next step is preparing for an interview. There is typically a standard expectation that you will have to discuss yourself, your personal experiences and your specialities.

“I think it’s easy to talk about your personal experiences or strong suits. What can help you stand out is saying how you can use these [strengths]. Be specific and tailor your response back to the internship or job brief,” Rose adds.

Applying for internships and going through the interview process can seem like a daunting task. But remember, everyone needs to start somewhere. Confidence in your self, ability, and skill set is an essential quality that is often all one needs to succeed. 

“Don’t try to dampen your personality to fit into what you think a certain person should look or be like working at a magazine,” Toner says. “Being truly yourself is what will make you stand out.”

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