Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Diary of a fashion intern - Part 5: Last days and FAQ

 Hello there! So here is the final part of my fashion intern diary. 

Click here to read the Russian version on Look At Me.

p.s. read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Finally, the Paris Fashion Week has come to an end. The last two days were almost unbearable - everyone has run out of steam, stamina, clothes and patience. 

The night before our last day in the showroom we went out for a VERY extravagant dinner at one of Paris' finest restaurants - La Societe. Surrounded by the fashion crowd and sipping our bellinies we were exhausted to even talk. The dinner was eaten in record time and we headed back to the hotel. By the end of the week you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and all you can think about is "how soon can I get back to London and sleep in my own bed?". 

The last day is quiet and the appointments finish at 3pm.. after that there is stocktake of all the items that are in the showroom - everything is checked off, organised into piles and packed into a million suitcases. When I say EVERYTHING is packed, I really mean everything - hangers, bag stands, plastic mannequins, chairs, telephones and printers - next week all of this stuff will make its way back to the London showroom. Everyone is so keen to get out of there as quickly as possible that  everyone is involved in checking and packing - normally it should be the interns doing it but tonight even the director of sales is running around packing things. Models and Paris interns are saying goodbye, hugging each other and exchanging phone numbers and emails. Every now and again someone yells out: "Bye! Add me on Facebook!"

Stocked up with bottles of french wine, cheese and macaroons we board the Eurostar to head back to London. It feels somewhat like the end of a school camp. Everyone is looking forward to going home and is chatting excitedly. The sales team haven't seen their better halves for 21 days between NY, London, Milan and Paris sales campaigns (apart from one of the girls whose husband came to Paris to surprise her for her birthday).

And so it's over until December - there are 4 collections a year so this madness happens every three months. All of a sudden December seems not so far away at all!  Until then, we are back in the office and back to relative normalcy...


I thought I would also use this opportunity to answer some of the questions that I get asked by my friends - if any of your questions are not here, please write your question in the comment section and I will do my best to answer them.

How did you get your internship? Can you get it if you don't know anyone in fashion?
I applied for a lot of internships - I sent applications to at least 20 internships. I got called back for 3 interviews.  I did try to get an internship through friends of friends in fashion but the interviews I did get were actually off my own back and had nothing to do with friends or connections.

How many people apply for an internship?
I don't how many people applied for this particular internship but one of the other brands I interviewed with had 200 applications for one role from people all around Europe. Having multiple languages really helps. 

What did they ask you in the interview?
Each of my 3 interviews was completely different - one was almost 1.5 hours long, the other just under an hour and the third (the one I ended up taking) was approximately 30 minutes. The questions are very similar to a normal job interview - tell me about yourself? why our company? why fashion industry? On top of that you have to be prepared to answer questions like Who are your favourite designers? What do you think about the current trends?

One of my interviews was with a major accessories brand and since I own a pair of their shoes (which I bought about 2 years ago) I decided to wear the shoes to the interview. The interviewer noticed the shoes and asked me if I knew the name of the model of shoes I was wearing. I didn't. I thought that would ruin me but I got an offer from them anyway. The lesson is - do your research!

What did you wear to the interview?
You have to wear something that you feel comfortable in and that reflects your style but you also have to think about the brand you are interviewing with. For one of the interviews I wore a white silk cami, with a flowing bright orange skirt and a jacket. High heels - of course! 

How long is your internship for? 
My internship is for 3 months and covers two sales campaigns September and December.

How much do you get paid?
The internship is unpaid but trips to Paris and Milan are completely covered by the company - accommodation, travel, lunch and dinner.

What perks do you get?
Every month we get a piece of clothing to a certain value.

How do interns live? How can you afford to work for free? 
Everyone is different - most interns are straight out of university so are still supported by their parents. I planned to make a transition into fashion for a while so I saved up for the internship. I also work in retail on the weekends. 
And then of course there are those whose better halves are kind enough to support them. Depending on how extravagant your lifestyle is you may need the support from your better half even when you are on a salary as the first couple of years in fashion always pay very little due to the intense competition for the roles.

Are the girls in your company all very skinny?
Our office does not have any anorexic looking girls but everyone is very health conscious and tries to eat healthily. Favourite lunch is some sort of salad.  
What do you wear to work?
You can wear whatever you want but generally people put in a fair bit of effort. Not everyone wears heels but people do dress nicely - I think it is only natural as people working in the fashion industry are all very interested in fashion. It was a big change for me because at my old job I would often roll-out of bed, put my hair in a bun and wear whatever is the first thing that I pull out of my wardrobe that morning (only grey or black of course.. ahh the corporate world).  Here I have to think about what I am going to wear because what you wear is very much part of who you are. 

What happens after the internship? Do you get a job?
The company does not guarantee a job at the end of the internship and they make it clear in the interview. However, because the industry is so fluid and people are constantly moving from one job to another, there is a chance that you may get a permanent position. My company is based in NY and the London office is very small and hence the prospect of a job is unlikely. However, having a big brand name on your CV is a big deal and will make other potential employers consider you more seriously. I even noticed it when applying for weekend retail jobs - big name showroom on your CV makes you a more favourable candidate over others.

Do you make many contacts during your internship?
It really depends. It depends if you get to work with buyers and if they remember who you are. You will not make a huge number of contacts because as far as buyers are concerned you are merely an intern but it only takes making one good contact to open future doors. The biggest lesson to learn is to never burn your bridges because the industry is in fact very small and everybody knows everybody so pissing one person off may have implications on your future professional relationships.
Was your internship what you expected it to be?
I didn't expect it to be so physically demanding and I most certainly did not expect to be working such crazy hours and give up my weekends during the sales campaigns. However, I do like the people that I work with - they are very cool and I enjoy their company which for me is an important factor. I have heard a lot of stories about how bitchy and mean the fashion industry is so it was a nice surprise that the people here are actually very normal - everyone has a personality but there isn't any intense bitchiness or politics. Apart from that I had very little idea of what the internship actually involved so I am learning a lot and I am enjoying it. 

Hope you enjoyed it! xxo


Unknown said...

Thank you for your diary! It was very interesting to read about the life of an intern! And your answers are very informative as well. I have one more question. You mentioned in your profile that you've lived in Russia. Does it mean that you're ethnically Russian? What is your native language? Cause if it's not English you must have a very good level of the language and no accent that you were hired as an intern.

Thank you in advance.

*sunday* said...

HI Anna, yes I am Russian and lived there until i was 15.. I dont have an accent but I do struggle with written tasks - those diaries are written in english and then i spend twice as long translating them into russian! I do have to deal with russian clients (amongst others) a fair bit in my internship so i'm glad i get to use it.