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How to make the most of your fashion degree

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Fashion is an incredibly exciting yet highly competitive industry to break into. With approximately 3,000 fashion and textiles students graduating each year, today’s fashion graduates need to stand out from the crowd.

I now train the new generation of fashion talent at the University of Hertfordshire. Watching our students display their designs at our Graduate Fashion Show, about to take flight into the industry, inspired me to put together some tips for graduates who want to kick-start their career:

Experience counts double

One of the key things that will differentiate you is your work experience. Experience is like magic fairy dust on a CV.

It’s never too early to start, and don’t worry of you have to start small: my first experience of working in fashion was at my local bridal wear boutique, which helped me to get better experience during my second year and to eventually land my dream job at Hussein Chalayan.

Work experience will not only make your CV stand out, it will also enrich your learning, have a positive impact on your design work and extend your fashion network.  Intern magazine is one place where like-minded creative graduates can go to find new opportunities.

Know your strengths

When you work in fashion you can’t be shy. You need to sell yourself and let everyone know why you are different from the next fashion graduate.

If you don’t know what your strengths are yet, ask someone to help you identify them. For example you might discover you are an excellent visual communicator or an excellent print designer.

Whatever it is that sets you apart, make sure you shout about it from the rooftop. Clearly state your skills in your cover letters and CVs, highlight them in your portfolio, mention them in phone conversations, and ensure that your skills that are relevant for the posts you are applying for.

Get out there

You have to go and make opportunities happen, as they rarely come knocking for you. Don’t lie idle. If you can’t get a job, get a placement. Keep your foot in the fashion industry; as it is hard to get back in again if you move to a non-related industry.

A multi-faceted approach to getting your first fashion job is best:  email, call companies of particular interest, enroll with a fashion based employment agencies and take advantage of sites like Artsthread or Behance. Leverage social media to your advantage by creating on online portfolio and informing your contacts about your work via social media.

To put it into context my website is my ultimate piece of marketing as it has gained me so many commissions and collaborations.

It’s who you know that counts:

The well know phrase “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” could not be more relevant than in the fashion industry.

As a newcomer you might feel like the fashion world is huge, but you will be surprised how small it really is; everyone knows someone who knows someone.

Call in acquaintances - previous fashion employers, Great Aunt Hettie who works for Chanel, interested parties at your show/private view, and tell them what you are looking for, supported by a PDF of your work. You will be surprised how helpful people are.

You might be interested to know that until recently I had NEVER applied for a job or gone for a formal interview – all my work was gained through networking!

Think Positively

Sadly it is unlikely that your first step into the fashion industry is going to be handed to you on a plate and you will probably make several applications before you succeed.

Don’t lose faith, keep at it, evaluate why previous attempts have been unsuccessful, ask for detailed feedback and most of all DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Positivity is an attractive characteristic and it attracts positive results, as I’ve experienced many times in my own career when I have won a commission, despite being up against big industry names.




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