1. The work is a lot harder than it looks
While it’s not all Devil Wears Prada, it is quite tough and growing a thick skin is encouraged. Don’t argue unnecessarily with the boss; but if you strongly disagree with something, try your darned best (with as many mood boards as necessary) to show why you believe in it. If you do get shut down, at least you know you tried. Then it’s time to move on to the next struggle.
2. Admin is everything
Keeping track of invoices, calendars and other paperwork is the key to making sure s#!t does not get lost. A well-oiled, organised fashion team goes a long way.
3. The clothes you’ve shot have to appear as if they’ve never been worn
Internationally, most designers have samples and so the stress of a R65 000 dress being ruined isn’t quite the same as we have here. Items for shoots are sourced from stores (where other customers will eye you out to see how a girl in scuffed sneakers can afford Gucci), and taken to shoot. They are then returned, packed in such a way as if to appear like they’ve never been used. Panty liners will even be attached to the bottom of shoes to prevent wear and tear. It’s the fashion magic of ensuring happy relationships and fewer dry-cleaning bills.
4. Free stuff can be the best kind of stuff
Exciting PR packages will come into the office, and we will Instagram it. At luxe store launches, we might receive a huge-looking goodie bag with something actually quite tiny in it. Yay for new sneakers (sometimes) and the wallet you definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford yourself.
But at the same time, no one really needs 500(+) USBs and multiple tins of shoe polish.
5. Instagram isn’t necessarily the truth
We try our very best to show the ultra-glam side of this industry. Behind all of that magic are long hours at the office, dark circles under eyes from 4am call times, and even occasionally mysterious bruises acquired carrying all the product.
6. Never underestimate the power of the ‘schmooze’
The ability to talk to anyone from an intimidating PR person, feared new fashion editor or (slightly) terrifying photographer is gold. You’ll never know when you need them in a crisis. Also, they most likely won’t introduce themselves, so you’ll need to make the first move.
Same goes for the many events you will attend where you will need to talk to people, from the host to the other attendees.
Talking points to get you started will include: what they’re wearing, which is simply fab and how and great/gross the champers is.
7. Friends are important
The idea that we all hate each other is largely untrue. Sure, it’s a competitive industry but finding your gang (sometimes, by schmoozing as above) can totally change the game. Sharing your struggles makes the whole process easier.
9. Also important: a mentor
Chances are, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a person in the industry who you hugely admire. They might even be the reason you got into this crazy business in the first place. Respect them, learn from them and then try your absolute best to get to know them. You’d be amazed at how much they can teach you when you work for them, and even more so when they see your ideas and encourage you. This feeling is quite possibly the best.
7. Fashion people actually like to eat
Treats and good food are never unwelcome and what has been said about fashion people not eating is a lie. Knowing the office’s sushi order is also a sure-fire way to land in the good books, and remembering that the photographer likes Coca-Cola in cans only can make your life a whole lot easier.
10. Fashion week is hard
After a long day of working, fashion week is sometimes the last thing we feel like. Water bottles and power banks are more important than your outfit (shocking but true). Pro tip: Take note of new designers and if you think their clothes are incredible, go and tell them. Then make sure you build up a good relationship so that they think of you first when wanting to give their stuff to publications.
11. You gotta love it
Working in this industry can be the hardest you’ve ever worked, but also the most rewarding. Take advantage of the opportunities you can get, the parties filled with fabulous people and potential connections. You will have to work your way up to the top, but being up there isn’t the most important thing. Talk to everyone, and don’t forget to be kind to others in the industry. We’re all in this together after all…
This article originally appeared in marie claire South Africa