Internships - A personal story
Updated: Feb 16, 2020
I wanted to talk a bit about my work experience placements and how they have shaped my view of the fashion industry today.
At twenty years old, and after it has been drilled into the class just how much competition there is especially in womenswear design, it’s advised to start interning as soon as you can. This means working for free whilst gaining first hand experience in a variety of tasks such as: hand embroidery, fabric cutting, toiling, popping to Paris to collect a sample, tea making, dog walking, running errands, hair dying - you get the gist. All sorts. So as summer approached I had applied to a few relatively young brands that were showing at LFW and emailed in the hope I would get a response.
I was accepted for a two-week placement in the run up to fashion week with the hours being 9am til late. Based in the London Borough of Bromley, somewhere way beyond my tree lined comfort zone. I was extremely lucky to be able stay with a uni friend and her Italian grandparents (THE sweetest people), I returned late one night and her grandfather was worried I would be hungry so he made me pasta with homemade sauce – still the very best I've ever tasted, I was so grateful.
The first day I turned up I was petrified, I felt way out of my depth and the pattern-cutting table looked like intricate surgery. It was the top floor of a semi-detached house, full to the brim with samples, fabric and patterns. Apart from a quick hand-shake introduction I didn’t actually see the designer that much, we were in the back room with much less natural light.
I was tasked with cutting shiny black goat fur, and there is a knack to cutting fur in general. Turn it upside down (fur faced down) and only cut through the skin, not the fur. You’re left with a much more natural edge. Not that I’m a fur wearer, but that’s just a technique I picked up.
I do remember wishing that smartphones and google maps had properly taken off at this point, as there were many errands to be run.
As a dedicated tea drinker, the over-riding smell of coffee was foreign to me. I’d managed to convince a fellow intern of junior level to kindly show me how to use a caffetiere, in my mind I was a barista by the end of the week. Little did I know just how much I would be relying on the caffeinated beverage for years to come.
My second internship was with a Norwich based bespoke tailors (a sister company to a Savile Row based brand). I remember taking in my CV and calling them a number of times, their response was along the lines of.. ‘we’re not sure we’ll have anything for you to do here’ and they were probably right.
Aside from having zero skill in bespoke tailoring I reeled off my now improved tea and coffee making abilities as well as threading a needle and providing some much needed updates in youth culture (the average age was 70). It wasn’t about being able to make anything at all. I just wanted to be with the studio environment and be able to observe their craft.
I can’t speak highly enough of the wonderful staff, they were so fine tuned in everything tailoring and I often just watched in awe of how fast they could baste a jacket or insert a sleeve. Unfortunately they are no longer open as the owner retired and it’s quite a niche skill and the employees all moved on but it was such a privilege being a part of their team for a short time.
My advice, if you ever find that you have a spare moment between tasks, make coffee or clean something and you will always be appreciated.