Working from the Floor Up
Published on March 3, 2016, at 9:00 p.m.
by Rachel Chandler.
Many aspiring professionals dream of carrying out public relations in the fashion industry, but working your way up can be far from glitzy and glamorous. Behind all the flashing lights are busy public relations personnel making sure every detail is without flaw.
One of fashion’s most renowned affairs is Fall/Winter New York Fashion Week. A select few fashion devotees are chosen to intern for either in-house fashion PR or for a PR agency. In-house fashion PR is the client side of the industry where employees work closely with one brand as opposed to working alongside numerous brands with an agency.
Chosen interns fly from all over the world in hopes of standing in the same room as famous stylists, designers or models while gaining noticeable practice for a successful future in a highly competitive line of work.
Sophie Puma, a NYFW PR intern for Oscar de la Renta 2016 Collection, described a part of her labor-intensive internship with her seven other teammates.
“On the day of the show, the interns and I started our day at 6 a.m. and vacuumed for four hours straight. Then we were given duct tape and asked to get on our hands and knees and pick up any fuzzies that were falling from the decorations during the set-up process,” she said. “And boy were there a lot of fuzzies.”
Co-founder of RunninginRockstuds Jordan Held has had her fair share of internships on both sides of the fashion PR industry. She has interned on the agency side for STARWORKS Group as well as the client side for brands such as Vera Wang, Stella McCartney and Zac Posen.
“One of the biggest struggles is doing the grunt work and being happy about it,” Held said. “It’s definitely a learning experience but then you can appreciate it when you’re on the other side with your own interns.”
She explained the harsh truth of working in an industry that rarely pays interns. One often spends time in an unpaid internship hoping it stands out for a real job, or risks going straight into job applications hoping to get hired.
Held brought up a great example with which many fashion PR hopefuls can relate. In a popular movie titled “The Devil Wears Prada,” a recent grad is hired as an assistant for the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine. After watching her ruthless work hours and stringent tasks, viewers slowly forget she is simply an assistant.
These kinds of situations are strikingly close to reality. In this business, if you are going for the big money, you will definitely be earning it.
Aliza Licht, former DKNY PR GIRL and author of “Leave Your Mark,” interned for Bazaar right out of college. She discussed the importance of passion to survive an internship.
“The key is make sure that you are a self-starter and that you are constantly seeking out projects and learning. Being what I like to call a zombie intern will not get you that reference,” she said.
There are dozens of reasons why interning in fashion is the way to go. It may require standing knee-deep in responsibilities, running on coffee and skipping meals for a while, but it’s a wise way to begin that professional climb.
Held mentioned, “Interning taught me that you might be the lowest position at the company but without you a company wouldn’t be able to function. Some people might show how much they value you and others might not; it’s the name of the game.”
Likewise, Puma discussed her appreciation for the long hours and seemingly pointless duties for the Oscar de la Renta internship during NYFW.
“Honestly I was honored to be on my hands and knees for the opportunity I had,” Puma said. “I was still able to finalize looks, meet people I’ve always admired and so much more.”
It’s evident that internships are immensely beneficial in the industry, but making connections is crucial. Developing friendships can make the professional climb not only easier, but much more enjoyable and worthwhile.
“My friends and connections were the ones who pushed me into starting a fashion Instagram and blog,” Held said. “They were the people who invited me to NYFW and gave my Instagram a chance.”
From a blogger’s perspective, she had some great tips for anyone pursuing a career in fashion PR and even PR in general.
“LinkedIn is an amazing place if you use it correctly. I have met so many people through it and that has helped me so much. I have been messaged just for the mere fact I went to the same college, so if there is a strand of common ground mention it,” she said. “Don’t hesitate. I have messaged so many people — some respond, some don’t — but there is no loss in trying. You’re in the same position as before if they don’t respond.”
Additionally, Licht had some final words of advice from a professional standpoint. “Develop a thick skin. Be indispensible to your boss. Don’t expect a thank you or a pat on the back. Do a great job for yourself,” she said.
So, when pursuing a career in fashion PR, it may not be as glamorous as seen on the runway or in the flashy magazines. But in reality, what job is? Take each day as it is and know that every little task, even picking up a fuzzy, is beneficial in the long run.