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How to get into the fashion industry

Last week, I spent the day at Lancaster University’s Fashion Recruitment Fair, chatting to lots of students about their plans after graduating and giving advice on how to get into the world of fashion.

As a fashion buying and merchandising graduate, my advice to anyone hoping to start a career in this sector would be to get as much experience in the industry as you can, to grow your network. If you have a few ideas about what you want to do within fashion, but have not yet entirely made up your mind, then the best thing to do is to get out there and get experience in different areas to build up your knowledge. During my time at Uni, I tried to get involved in as much as possible in the areas that I was really interested in.

Breaking into the fashion industry can be hard work. The industry has become increasingly competitive over the years, but if you work hard and are passionate, enthusiastic and driven, you can get there! If you are looking to work for a fast fashion brand, traditional retailer, supplier or manufacturer, there are a lot of opportunities across the North, including core cities like Manchester, where I completed most of my work experience.

I had a part time job at Topshop, working as a Sales Assistant, but also in the personal shopping department. This was great because it enabled me to do styling as well as customer service. One particular part I enjoyed was facilitating the launch of 'Kate Moss' for Topshop by setting mini sales targets for the collection and pulling together clothes, footwear and accessories based on client briefs.

In my third year at Uni, I was fortunate enough to be offered a placement at Boohoo. The interview process for this included a first stage phone interview and a second stage assessment centre, as well as a one to one where I had to prepare a SWOT analysis and present this to the buyers and HR department.

During my time on placement I got involved in lots of different projects; from being in the buying team, assisting the studio team and liaising with the marketing team on a weekly basis. I particularly enjoyed working with the marketing department and coming up with new ideas and ways to promote the brand. It was exciting to be a part of the earlier years of BoohooMAN and to see it grow.

One of the highlights of my internship at Boohoo was when I attended the company trade meetings and supported the team in preparing for this. These meetings were usually only attended by senior staff and assistants, however I realised that if ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and as a result was able to attend twice. Another memorable highlight during my time at Boohoo, was when I created some content on my own Instagram for promoting their accessories, which was then shared on Boohoo’s official Instagram account.

After my Boohoo placement I then went on to work for John Lewis’ buying and merchandising department in London. This experience was unpaid but really rewarding as I learnt so much. The saying ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’ was very true for me, as I secured this opportunity through a friend.

Here I was able to gain additional experience in a retailer which operates both in stores and online. Which allowed me to acquire further insight into buying and merchandising, as well as marketing and how they are crucial functions in a fashion business.

All in all I would say that although your degree is important, my biggest piece of advice to students aspiring to get into fashion is to immerse yourself and get involved in as much as you can to find your feet in the industry.

For any graduates looking for a role in fashion or retail, whether it be traditional or digital marketing, ecommerce, PR, social media, content or blogger outreach – then get in touch. At Forward Role we specialise within these areas to help sought after fashion brands attract the brightest talent.

Alternatively, if you want to come in for a chat and discuss possible avenues then give me a call on 07741 656 897 or email aimee@forwardrole.com.

Aimée Buchan is a digital marketing and ecommerce recruitment consultant at Forward Role.