Endless rows of exquisite heels, sparkling garments, and a multitude of shades of lipstick, nail polish, and eyeshadow, in addition to the fantasy existences of the rich and famous – these are the common images that come to mind when thinking of fashion internships. Popular television shows like Ugly Betty and films like The Devil Wears Prada have placed the world of fashion internships to the forefront. It is a lucrative industry, one filled with glitz and glamour, and while the endless hours of hard work to go into the final product are often ignored, it is still a path that could lead to immense fulfillment if approached correctly.
Fashion internships can be best divided into two main categories: fashion magazine internships and fashion design internships. As with all internships, the more prepared you are and the more knowledge you have of the magazine ore design house you wish to intern for, the greater your chances of actually landing the internships and being given greater responsibility once there.
Fashion Magazine: Fashion magazine internships are those made famous by popular television series and films. There are hundreds of different magazines, ranging from the high-end pure fashion magazines such as Vogue to the women-focused magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan. These are the ones that set the trends – they pick up on what's happening in the design world and broadcast it to the world – and people interested working at a fashion magazine are those immensely interested in the fashion industry with a good know-how, but no desire to actually be involved in the production process.
Roles and duties of a fashion magazine intern include, but are not limited to: basic administrative and other tasks (possibly the least glamorous side of a fashion internship and one often forgotten, but a very big part of an intern's responsibilities) such as making coffee, running errands, sorting files and paperwork; researching current fashion trends and finding celebrity and/or model images to support these; researching ideas for possible fashion articles and, if granted the opportunity, actually writing these; and assisting with photo shoots for the magazine.
Fashion Design: In contrast to the journalistic focus of fashion magazine internships, fashion design internships deal with the nitty gritty behind the scenes. These are for people who want to make the magic happen and have a say in how our fashion focus develops.
As with fashion magazine internships, fashion design interns will often be required to handle basic administrative and other tasks, but they will also be able to observe and – depending on the fashion house – help out with the creation of fashion items. This may be focused on a particular type of item, depending, again, on the type of fashion house and your particular interest, or on generalities. This type of internship is a lot more practical than the fashion magazine internship and a greater knowledge of fashion design – fabrics, dressmaking, etc. – is hugely beneficial and may often be required.
- New York City, USA: The city that never sleeps is also the one at the top of the fashion world. It has one of the highest concentrations of established and up-and-coming designers, primarily because of its many fashion schools, is unique in its concentration of showrooms and fashion labels in the Garment Center district, has an incomparable wholesale market, and is home to a wealth of fashion media outlets. New York's Fashion Week is also the biggest event of its kind and kicks off other fashion weeks in London, Paris, and Milan. Regardless of whether you wish to be a magazine or a design intern, New York's fashion makes it the perfect place to be.
- London, UK: London has recently risen to the peak of the fashion world, primarily due to the successful hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games and Kate Middleton's influential style choices. Like New York, London is a fashion hotspot, boasting a variety of international fashion houses, top magazines, and it is home to many leading designers. It is also closely linked to the rest of Europe, and is the city to be in for magazine and design internships.
- Milan, Italy: No fashion list would be complete without the inclusion of Milan. The city has had a long history with fashion and is still one of the fashion capitals of the world. It is home to most major Italian fashion houses – including Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace – and is renowned for its Fashion Week. Milan is possibly the fashion design capital of the world and is sure to make any fashion design intern's dreams come true.
- Paris, France: While New York may kick off the Fashion Week series, Paris closes it and helps dictate next seasons' trends. Paris is the French hub of fashion and home to a wealth of designers such as Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. It is also home to the world's leading fashion school – the Ecole de la chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne – and is a great place for classic fashion design internships.
- Barcelona, Spain: There have been many attempts to launch Barcelona as a fashion city and it is indeed quickly rising to the top of the world's fashion capitals. A goldmine for Europe's fashion industry, it boasts the Gaudi Home and hosts the Brandery, a bi-annual fashion show. Barcelona is a great place for fashion design internships in an up-and-coming market.
Planning Your Trip
When and Where to Look for a Fashion Internship:
While any time would be suitable for fashion internships, the fashion industry in major cities is often defined by annual or bi-annual fashion weeks. And these would be great events to work towards and around. Tension at these times may be high, but it is also the best learning opportunity – whether you're interning at a designer showcasing at the fashion week or a magazine covering it.
In the modern day, the best place to look for internships would be online, either with the magazine or designer directly (on their websites – many offer links to an 'intern for us' application) or through job listing websites. Alternatively, it might also be a great idea to browse through the various Fashion Week websites (search by city) for opportunities and/or attend local fashion events.
It is not always possible to network with professionals if you don't already have some connections, but there are always ways to gain these – attend fashion events in your home city whenever you can, follow your favourite fashion magazines and designers online for opportunities, make use of business network sites to meet people, and get involved with local designers, fashion school, and stores.