22/01/2015

Common Misconceptions About Working in Fashion


I must admit, I had a few myself. Be it the Devil Wears Prada effect, or that time when Carrie Bradshaw was torn to pieces by the ruthless editor at VOGUE ("nobody cares about your agenda") - there are certain ideas rooted in people's minds about what "working in fashion" must be like. Myths that make little girls go starry-eyed quicker than you can say "magazine internship". Myths that make my parents sneer with disapproval and my friends sigh in envy, thinking I swan around LFW all day (nothing could be farther from the truth). After six years in the industry, with stints in three different countries, here I am busting a few myths and setting a few things straight.


Myth: there are no set hours and people come and go as they please.
False.
Oh if only this were true! In reality, everyone is at their desks at 8.47, after a refreshing run to work and an invigorating shower. When I shuffle in, desperate after yet another battle with London's despicable transport system, my fresh-faced colleagues have all already checked their emails and had a nutritious breakfast. And the notion that the more successful you are, the later you're allowed to arrive really only applies to Naomi Campbell.


Myth: Everyone is incredibly well-dressed.
True.
While eating my bean salad today at lunch, I spilled oil all over myself (because I am a clumsy woman-child of 31). As a result, every time I get up from my desk, I have to either bunch my shirt up in my hands or hold a notebook in front of my stomach. Which would maybe still be the case in the presence of mediocrely dressed people, but even more mortifying when everyone else is impeccably stylish. It's a fashion industry secret that the very same plaid dress /pleated skirt/skinny jeans that make you look and feel like you got dressed in the dark will look effortlessly perfect on your stunning coworkers.


Myth: everyone wears head-to-toe Balenciaga 
False.
A year ago I freelanced at the biggest name in fashion e-commerce, and while being introduced to everyone, I saw a girl wearing a H&M blouse I had literally just bought the week before. I wanted to wink to her in a "secret-society" kind of way, before noticing the rest of the H&M collection here and there, matched expertly with the likes of Louis Vuitton and Marni. Fashion salaries are notoriously low and not many of us can actually afford the stuff we sell. Note the somewhat contradictory co-existence of this rule with the previous one. 


Myth: you have to have friends on the inside to get a job.
False (at least that I know of!)
Since I left fashion school (where I got in without knowing anyone), I have worked at a national magazine in Sweden, a world-renowned multi-brand e-tailer in Milan, a huge online shopping channel in London, a cool, trendy Shoreditch start-up and then yet another cool, trendy Shoreditch start-up. I knew absolutely zero people in any of these companies and I still got hired. But, while in Sweden, I did get encouraged to socialise in certain places (subtle hint: places where I would never socialise) in order to meet the people that could be key to getting ahead. So there might be some truth to that.


Myth: the industry is full of eccentric personalities
False.
They exist, of course. But this is far from the only industry populated by extravagant personas. Most of the time, I find, fashion to be very conformist. Example: if the only thing you can contemplate to be doing on any given Friday night is appearing at only a handful of industry-approved overpriced hangouts in a "hip" area, then creativity and open-mindedness is the last thing that comes to mind. There is, unfortunately, still an undertone of "this is in and this is out" (and we thought we'd left that behind in the 90s). Same goes for clothes: only a few labels are insider-friendly - half of them relatively obscure and unknown, and the rest Mulberry and Alexander Wang. Eccentricity is, in my mind, not just about colourful handbags. It's an extremely open state of mind, and most people in fashion are just too anxious to fit in to approach it.


Myth: the days are excruciatingly long.
True.
Yep, this one is true, and no one ever complains about it. If you're not passionate about your job, you will never hack it in fashion. 


Myth: everyone is rude.
Partly true.
I am lucky enough to currently work in a great environment where everyone is super-friendly and relaxed (desk beers. Enough said). But, alas, this is far from the case everywhere. Through the years, I've experienced sneering, behind-the-back whispering, denigratory comments about my veganism, backhanded compliments and flat-out rudeness, Mean Girls-style (see this post). Most of all, people in this industry tend to be snobs, which is a personality trait I truly cannot stand. My response is usually to disarm them with vegan cupcakes.



Photo by Tommy Ton

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