When you think about careers in fashion, you probably think of designers and models. And, if we’re to believe Zoolander, there are also those responsible for keeping the models from discovering the designers’ evil plots.
But there are thousands of other people behind the scenes putting in work to make it all happen.
If fashion is your passion but you aren’t destined for the runway, there are an abundance of other pathways to work in the industry.
Fashion, just like sports, music, film, craft beer, automotive, sustainable energy, or just about any other industry you could have a passion for, has a standard set of occupations found everywhere—accounting, sales, marketing, analysts, public relations—on top of the roles specific to the industry. Our personality and skills assessments at Vocatio can show you your own inclinations and proclivities toward these various career types.
In fulfilling your passion, we always talk here about three main paths:
(1) Get paid to do an activity you’re passionate about.
(2) Get paid to do something you’re good at, in an industry you’re passionate about.
(3) Get paid to do something you’re good at to support and fund your pursuit of your passion on the side, or to enable one of the first two points to happen.
Here are some examples of unique career options to make use of a variety of skills and talents in the fashion industry.
Accounting / Business Analyst
Management and analysis of financial data is vital to any company’s success, and it’s no different for fashion companies. This data–and the conclusions that analytical and accounting personnel make from it–leads to more accurate planning and better-informed, more intelligent business decisions, and helps determine future company direction. These types of roles typically require a bachelor’s degree, and certifications like the CMA or CPA can help separate you from the crowd in the recruiting process.
Rachel Cuthbert, a management accountant/business intelligence analyst at Aritzia, a women’s boutique fashion retailer, says “Being a [Certified Management Accountant] is one of those things where you can turn it into whatever you want. So, for me, I have a love for fashion. I really appreciate what Aritzia does and the culture… so I just applied my CMA to that.” In her role, she says, “I use…analytical skills…to help decision making, getting better information, and being strategic.”
Branding has perhaps more of an impact on pricing, prestige, and sales success in fashion than in any other industry. Marketing personnel are the ones who make that happen–creating a brand’s image and working to create associations in the public’s mind of that brand to certain lifestyles, words, and feelings.
The rise of hipsterdom and the advent of social media have changed the landscape of marketing, making it an especially interesting and challenging time for brands to try to build reputations of authenticity and gain customer recognition and loyalty.
The in-house marketing team handles creation of branding guidelines and marketing strategy, as well as implementation and execution of marketing campaigns. The actual creation of advertisements are usually done by ad agencies (which have numerous job roles themselves).
Marketing degrees are typically desired.
While print media may on the decline, there are still tons of outlets in various forms of media devoted to fashion. Full-time paid writing gigs are notoriously difficult to obtain in any industry without experience, but here are some tips from Glamour Magazine’s writers and editors on how to break in:
Elaine Welteroth, Senior Beauty Editor, says “Get a blog; get a tumblr, and get your name and your content out there. There’s no reason anyone who loves beauty and loves to write and wants to work at a magazine shouldn’t have a blog.”
Rajni Jacques, Fashion News Editor, says, “Get involved wherever you live. It could be [New York City], it could be New Jersey, it could be South Dakota. It doesn’t matter. There’s something happening there. And if you document it, and document it in a way where you’re passionate about it, that’s all you need to do.”
Merchandisers are in charge of presenting a brand’s clothing in an appealing way. This means designing window displays, styling mannequins, and arranging and promoting clothing in a desirable way in retail environments. It’s their job to make people want to enter a store, and to draw customers toward making purchases once there.
Higher up roles in merchandising could mean coordinating seasonal lines and determining how best to present them at a regional or company-wide level. A 2-year degree in marketing or fashion design can be a good starting point, but you can also just work your way up to merchandiser by starting as a retail sales associate.
Manufacturing – Production Management
Production managers work on the nitty-gritty of getting clothing made at the manufacturing level at scale. This means working with suppliers and manufacturers as well as the retailers. The environmental movement has made for exciting roles in finding ways to source clothing more sustainably and to eliminate waste, and human rights pressure has led to increased focus on worker-friendly factory conditions. Some roles could require as much as an engineering degree, others could require industrial management or labor relations degrees, and some may not have specific prerequisites.
PR in fashion often overlaps with marketing (or PR may fall under the marketing department at some companies). Your job is to keep a brand’s image positive, and get people talking about it.
A PR coordinator is always building relationships with the press, stylists, and influencers. Press relationships can lead to media placements in top magazines like Vogue or Elle. Strong relationships with a stylist can lead to a fashion label’s newest dress being worn on the red carpet to an event like the Emmys. Fostering influencer relationships can also be an important part of PR, since every designer wants their latest accessory to be part of an Instagram star’s #ootd.
Here, a 25-year old PR Coordinator describes her career at Prabal Gurung.
For any store to operate successfully, it needs an effective manager. They’re in charge of making sure customers leave a store satisfied and want to come back again, hopefully spending money in the process. Store managers track inventory and sales; hire, schedule, and manage employees; and maintain the general ambiance of the store. Many managers begin as regular employees, so no degree is required. You might get a leg up with a degree in a business-related field. Here is a profile of a day in the lives of store managers at lululemon and H&M.
These folks work for retailers finding, choosing, and buying clothing from designers.
Carmen Borgonovo, now a fashion buyer for MyWardrobe, got into fashion after having studied International Relations and Political Science. She was determined to work in fashion, so she just packed up after college and went to New York, interned for three months at a magazine, then got a job writing and styling, and eventually got her breakthrough.
As someone who hires others now, her advice is, “everybody’s always looking for a great assistant or a great intern…[When hiring], I want to see that this person is informed and hungry.”
She encourages young people to think outside the box and not be afraid to think of and share new ideas when they’re first breaking in or trying to break in. “Fashion is constantly moving forward. It’s an industry for young people. What can they bring to me that I won’t be able to see because I’m of a certain age?” What talent do you bring and what new perspective do you offer?
No matter your skillset, if you want to be involved in the fashion industry, there’s a job for you. It’s a matter of discovering and surveying your talents and interests, then seeing where those fit in with the marketplace, and going all in to make it happen.
Vocatio is a career discovery and exploration platform and media network, designed to help young people discover their talents, find careers in which they best fit, and connect with employers looking for high-match candidates. Click here to join the Vocatio movement.