My Fashion Career Journey so far..

 

I get a lot of questions about my career and how to get into the fashion industry. I may still be in the early stages of my career but I've completed work experience, gone to uni, and even worked at a few different companies so hopefully I can offer a bit of advice of how I got here and how to get started.

I work in women's knitwear buying for a well-known British retailer. Essentially, it's a buyers job to build a range that's profitable and commercial for the company. By working with design, sourcing, merchandising and product development, the buyer pulls together everyone's ideas and develops pieces for future seasons that will make the company a lot of money! 

 
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My journey started in sixth form. I'd always done well at school and enjoyed true academic subjects - the likes of maths and science but I remember feeling a bit lost. I took Maths, History and Biology at A Level but I didn't love any of them enough to pursue singularly at University. I've always been a creative person but never had the opportunity to explore that too much at school. I was doing some work experience at a primary school and the class I was working with were sewing for a school project. The weirdest thing happened - I decided I had to study textiles. I'd never done any textiles before but I felt compelled to research more into the subject. That evening I typed the word 'textiles' into UCAS, scrolled down and found 'Management and Marketing of Fashion Textiles' at the University of Manchester - this was to be the begining of my career in fashion.

 
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After reading about what the course offered, I was obsessed. I got a train to Manchester the following weekend and fell in love with the university, course and city. My inner science-geek was ignited when I discovered the degree was a B.Sc (a science rather than arts degree) and there was even a textiles lab with weaving and knitting machines in the basement. I was almost at the stage I needed to apply to university and had never carried out any work experience in fashion and had no idea what I was doing. I started a fashion blog (That's so Phoebe - alas no more!), subscribed to Drapers (an industry magazine) and devoured everything and anything I could about the industry - books, online articles, you name it. By the time I applied to the course I had a fully fledged fashion blog (this was in 2012 so back in the day!) and knew a lot more than when I first found the course. A lot of late-night-study sessions later and I was in! 

For anyone interested in fashion buying as an option there's two main routes - university or work experience (or a combination of both). I chose university because I wanted the experience but both routes are viable option. My course was invaluable - I got to study modules in product development, management, marketing and commerce in addition to science modules in weaving, knitting and colour theory. I loved the course and would highly recommend it. My course was three or four years, depending on whether you carried out a placement year - something which I was set on.

 
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I really recommend carrying out a placement year. Even if you work in an area which isn't QUITE what you want to (which I ended up doing). It can be hard to get a placement but it's worth it - and generally, if you want one you'll get one. My placement was in buying and merchandising which was really interesting. I worked in homeware for a year (I was on the candle department which be may why I LOVE candles so much). It was fascinating and I learnt a lot. I gained a whole year working in a retail head office and really grew up a lot. I found out what I didn't want to do as much as what I wanted to do. I decided I didn't want to work in branded fashion (where you select ready made fashion brands/ pieces) and instead I wanted to work on a team buying 'own label' - where you get to develop the product yourself with a designer and build a range from scratch. I also wanted to work in a textile product area - I loved learning about knits and wovens in my degree and wanted to use my knowledge further. 

During university I also interned at a fashion e-commerce start up in Manchester. I got the internship through a blogging event through my old blog which shows networking can be pretty handy! I got to write blog posts on their website and research articles and customer behaviour which was interesting and definitely helped when I came to apply for jobs. 

 
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During university I also interned at a fashion e-commerce start up in Manchester. I got the internship through a blogging event through my old blog which shows networking can be pretty handy! I got to write blog posts on their website and research articles and customer behaviour which was interesting and definitely helped when I came to apply for jobs. 

I graduated university and took a graduate job at a well known high street retailer working on the footwear and accessories department as a BAA (Buyer's Administration Assistant). The role was exciting, fast-paced and very demanding. As a BAA your job is to manage to the organisation of the team - from samples, fit sessions, online shoots and product rack ups. You also have to raise the orders and chase suppliers to ensure you remain true to the critical path - this is crucial because if something is late to hit down in store, it might miss the big trend, the colour palette or the season. The BAA is the eyes and ears of the team, hunting down trends on Instagram and the catwalk to present to their busy buyer. It's hard work but also very rewarding. I learnt a lot in my year there but knew I wanted to work on a more textile-related department than footwear or accessories, which lead me to a trainee buyer position in knitwear at the company I'm at now.

 
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Although my career journey is just beginning I feel like I can offer some advice from what I learnt along the way.

1. Do your research

If you want to go to university, great, find out what area of fashion you want to go into and what course will help you the most. If you're more of a maths person, merchandising could be for you. Social savvy? Why not work in social media. Or if you love writing go for an editorial-based course. However a general fashion management course will give you an insight into all of these things!

2. Work experience

If you can get some before uni then that's the ideal, however I lived a long way from London and had no means or contacts to carry out anything unpaid. In that case you may want to think about starting a blog or portfolio to show your interest in the field. Whilst at university, carry out more work experience. Manchester is full of emerging fashion brands so that's something I wish I'd done more of myself! 

3. Understand the retail environment

Subscribe to an industry publication such as Drapers and make sure you read articles online. Think about what retailers are doing well and why, or what retailers are struggling, what could they do more of? Have an awareness of things like exchange rates and raw materials prices and how that might affect supply chain and costs. Understand how politics shape the retail environment. These are all things you will have to think about at uni and things you will most-likely be asked at a university interview so start thinking now.

4. Understand the role 

Without work experience it's hard to TRULY understand what life on a buying team is like, but reading job descriptions online, Linked In profiles or interviews can help you see what you'll be doing on the day-to-day, even if you don't fully understand it yet. 

5. Set up a blog

Okay I know everyone's got one these days but they are perfect for gaining fashion experience. By the time I went to uni I'd already worked with a few brands and had a basic understanding of the PR industry. It also shows you have passion. Fashion is very competitive so you need to show a hunger for it. Write articles on personal style, trends, exhibitions you've been to and you can show a potential employer you are really committed to the industry. 

 
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I hope that by sharing my journey I can help others. You don't need to have an aunt who works in fashion, live in London or have rich parents but you do need to be hard working and dedicated. If you have any more questions about getting into the industry then leave me a comment below or email me and I'd be happy to help where I can!