How to be a piranha in the fashion student fish tank
Spending your days styling photoshoots, being the first to get your mitts on brand new collections and getting the chance to meet your favourite designers – working in fashion seems like everything you’ve ever dreamed of. But how do you get there?
A famously competitive industry, the fashion game isn’t for the faint hearted. Every year thousands of students flock to London from around the UK and beyond, enrolling on courses at some of the best fashion schools in the world, hoping to walk away with a solid degree and strut into their dream job. So how hard is it to make it in the fashion world, and what does it take?
I once lived with a fashion student. I say lived with, but I can hardly call it that because I barely saw her. Whilst I, a journalism student, spent half of my first year watching Gossip Girl and Charmed reruns whilst dwindling my student loan on take outs and wine, my fashion student flat mate was either at the library or asleep. The rest of our flat were music students – who never seemed to have as much work as her either.
Whilst the rest of us idly floated through first year, pulling last minute all-nighters in the library once a term but barely working for the rest of the year, she remained chained to her sewing machine, morning, noon and night. Just hearing about her work load made me tired and I was always amazed at how she managed to find the time or motivation for it all.
The fact is all creative courses are hard work. If you want to work in a creative industry, be prepared for sleepless nights, long days and countless ‘why the hell am I doing this’ moments. Studying and working in fashion however, is a whole different ball game. To be successful you’ll need to offer up your blood, sweat, tears and everything else to the fashion gods – and, of course, be really good at fashion stuff too.
The good news is, there are so many routes into fashion these days and if you really know your stuff, you’ve got as good a chance as anybody at ‘making it.’ Not saying you’ll stroll into a top editorial position at the world’s best fashion magazine a month after graduation – this isn’t The Devil Wears Prada. But if you really have passion, drive, talent and an interest in fashion there’s a course out there that will help you achieve your creative potential.
India Hasnip, studying Creative Direction for Fashion at LCF talks about how her course prepares her for a career in fashion: “My course aims to prepare us for the role of a creative director… It covers film-making, photography, styling, illustration, graphic design and set design.”
LCF offers some of the best courses in the country, making it a difficult uni to get into but one that provides amazing opportunities for its graduates. “I chose LCF because of the creative opportunities it offered and because it’s in London – it’s my favourite city.”
Like moths to a fashion flame, London attracts talent from all corners of the UK. “It’s one of the greatest destinations for fashion” says Lewis Bloyce, a second year student on the Fashion Merchandise Management course at the University of Westminster, “Four years ago I realised fashion was the only thing that really gripped me.”
A city as culturally diverse and iconic as London is an obvious choice for those who want to be inspired and pursue a career in the arts, but it’s also notoriously pricey. How do you survive as a fashion student in one of the most expensive cities in Europe? “Treat yourself sometimes,” says Lewis, “It’s the only way you’re gonna remain happy.”
Staying focused and knowing when to take a break are things that all students have to deal with, fashion students seemingly more so. “On my days off, I like to go to loads of galleries and creative events, gathering research for projects… Fashion is always changing which is what excites me,” says India.
Studying in London gives students endless opportunities to network and create relationships with other talented people. LCF alumni include Ophelia Wu, the assistant editor at Elle, Hong Kong, and Rinke Tjepkema, the deputy editor of Vogue, Netherlands.
Other schools like the University of Westminster boast alumni such as Mark Maidment, CEO of Ben Sherman and Stuart Vevers, creative director at Coach.
Although frighteningly competitive, the fashion industry is one that offers postgraduates a number of routes into fulfilling and rewarding careers.”I’d like to work at a multi topic magazine like Vice or Highsnobiety,” says India, “I’m more into street wear rather than high fashion.” Others might choose to develop their own brand or collaborate with other like-minded individuals.
“I’d like to be a solid member of a creative team. Playing with creative direction, styling and photography,” says Lewis.
Keeping a career goal in mind whilst working on your degree helps you to focus on the future and motivate yourself. But how do you know it’s all going to be worth it in the end? The fact is, you don’t. So what can you do to up your chances of landing your dream job? “The hardest thing about fashion is the competition. But focus on saving your money, explore the city and collaborate with as many creatives as possible,” says India.
Fashion students obviously have the best instagram feeds so follow:
@lewisbloyce_ and @indiahasnip