“The distance between your dreams and reality is called action.” ~Unknown
Every decision you make and opportunity you take is a step toward your goals, future career, dreams, and aspirations. Steps toward your future goals can also be done through research and receiving a proper education; however, the real way to catapult any career is to gain a plethora of work experience. Education is important, and having the mindset to never stop seeking knowledge is even more so. Being only twenty-one years of age, I have always had this hunger within researching, designing, and looking up the best institutions to pursue my education in the hopes of getting my return on investment through a vast pool of knowledge of the industry I would be working within in my future.
If your dream is to work in the fashion industry, considering applying and participating in fashion internships is a crucial stepping-stone to a successful career. I am very lucky to have had four internships within the fashion industry, all within completely different sectors, as my goal has always been to have a holistic understanding of the industry as possible.
Additionally, I was able to surpass my own goals having the ability to participate in two international internships, being that fashion is a complex multi-billion dollar global industry. Having these experiences has given me an understanding of the global fashion market, trends, connections within it, and broadened my horizons that maybe my future could entail more than just within the borders of the United States of America.
My First Internship
Being fortunate enough to have a high school that valued and pushed all their students to gain work experience, it is my advice to source your first internship in fashion as early as seventeen years old. My first internship was at a quaint mom-and-pop boutique called “The Fig Leaf.” Although it may be difficult to obtain established, paid fashion internships at such a young age with limited education and work experience, small businesses are always a great foot in the door to the fashion industry.
My daily tasks taught me all the ins and outs of working and running a small business, which is something that I hope to do in my future. I worked with a small team of sales associates and was responsible for assisting clients in-store and on the phone, providing an exceptional, personal customer experience. Since I was interested in design, the owner, Lynn, let me assist during gown fittings and perform hand-sewing alterations on store stock. She also let me sit in on buyer meetings when they would come to the store so she could select the gowns and garments for the following season.
The biggest takeaway I had from this experience was the importance of understanding your customer and making sure that you cater to their every need. Without an understanding and nurturing of the target market, there is no business.
My Second Internship
In seeking my second internship, I wanted to make sure that this time it was specifically geared toward fashion design. With only two years of my degree completed, I foresaw that it could be difficult to penetrate the fashion industry within one of the fashion capitals in the world: New York City. Difficult does not mean impossible; therefore, I once again maintained my strategy of seeking a smaller firm in which I could gain valuable hands-on experience.
In the summer of 2018, I was hired as a design intern under the brand director for the luxury women’s wear ready-to-wear label NiNA TiARi. Here I gained an immense amount of insight that could never be learned within classroom walls or a sewing studio. I shadowed the brand director during fabric consolations with mills across the city, sourced fabrics and trims throughout the garment district, created tech packs and line sheets to be submitted to factories for production, draped and patterned over ten garments, and two of my very own design were selected to be within the Spring/Summer 2019 collection.
Finding an internship with a job description of what you would like to do as a career one day is the best way to find out if it is truly right for your future and most importantly gives you happiness. I came to the realization that the design process within companies is much different from the individual process that you hone in one during your education, but it did confirm my love for fashion design.
My Third Internship
After conquering the Big Apple, I had my sights set on work experience abroad and made the executive decision to have an internship abroad during my allotted study abroad semester in my third year of college. This was by far the best decision I have made in my life as it completely changed the way I not only perceived the fashion industry, but I fell head over heels in love with European fashion.
This has shifted my career goals to pursue a future fashion career within London. Since this was another major fashion capital of the world and the gap between fashion education in America and Britain was unclear, being placed into another small firm was the best course of action. I interviewed with and was then hired by Nico DiDonna and an Italian designer based in Soho who produces one-of-a-kind garments for both men and women. Within his atelier, I worked directly alongside him and his head design assistant as I was responsible for organizing all the fabrics within the studio, cutting out garment pieces, and prepping them to be sewn. At a first glance, this seems quite trivial; however, it was a large responsibility as I had to work with a range of fabrics that had different piles, weights, grains, and above all, very expensive.
Gaining this valuable technical design experience, I learned the importance of strategic cutting and the importance of costing, which is applicable to any fashion firm both big and small.
My Fourth Internship
After falling in love with London, my heart was set on interning there once more, and so began the hunt of finding my way back there for the summer of 2019. I reached out to multiple internship companies that help connect and place you abroad. After many hours of research, spreadsheets, interviews, and inquiries I was accepted into Capital Placements summer program and accepted their offer for an eight-week internship in London for the summer. They helped me secure my placement as a Fashion Design Intern at Plus Samples, a luxury production company based in northwest London that provides pattern making, grading, sampling, and sewing services.
The owner, Nailya, launched her own luxury, bespoke private label for gowns at the beginning of 2019, which is where most of my tasks for the summer lay within. I designed over fifteen textile prints digitally, designed gowns for clients, and attended two highly coveted textile fairs on behalf of the company to make fabric selections for the Autumn/Winter 2021 season. One fair was within London and the other was the Milano Unica held in Milan, Italy. I was beyond grateful as I was once again only just an intern, but Nailya trusted me to fly solo to Milan and network her company to fabric mills all across the world.
I was able to gain insight into the future season, which personally benefited me as a rising senior who must create an entire collection in her final year of college and further understand what goes on behind the scenes during the design process.
All of my fashion internship experiences were so distinct, each teaching me new aspects of the ever-changing fashion industry. I firmly believe that education should provide you with the necessary foundation for your dream, but interning within the fashion industry is a necessary action to make a successful career your reality. I am thankful that all of my fashion internships were overall positive experiences, but it is not necessarily harmful if you do one and do not like it: you just found out that it is not right for you and a classroom may not ever be able to teach you that. Obtaining an internship in fashion is vital, but I highly recommend doing one that takes you overseas.
As previously stated like a broken record, fashion is a global industry: mills and production facilities are scattered around the globe. Only 13% of American college students go abroad while pursuing an undergraduate degree and of that 13%, only 1% have an internship abroad. Not only is it invaluable insight into the fashion industry, but also it gives you a greater cultural awareness that in turn will make you more hirable, catapulting your dream fashion career into reality.
Kristina is now pursuing her Masters in Contemporary Fashion Buying at the Istituto Marangoni in London and taking the fashion industry by storm!
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