The dissertation is out of your hair, the mortar boards thrown in the hair in glee, and you can finally add those extra letters after your name…but what happens next? Life after university can be daunting, and especially when you’re venturing into the competitive world of fashion. The wonderful Ellie Burns talks to us about her life after University, and her advice to grads everywhere…
Three months ago I handed in my final ever project deadline of my Fashion Promotion degree. Now, I’m two months into my first *proper* job as a PR & Social Assistant for Skinnydip London.
And guys, it feels AMAZING.
I moved to London three years ago to study. A combination of wanting to explore a bigger city and the reality that the majority of the fashion industry is here, I knew that with the expensive living costs along with the demands of needing to intern and gain experience – it made sense. And so I started three years of balancing uni, working part-time (as my loan only juuuust covered rent) with interning. It was mental, exhausting but so bloody worth it.
I didn’t really know what area of the industry I wanted to focus on at the start so I said yes to everything.
Finding internships on mainly Fashion Workie and through Instagram, I managed to get some part-time internships which meant I could balance it with uni during the week so I could work at weekends. I started off working in PR working both in-house and for an agency, although reeeeeally dull and mostly spent running around with loads of bags, it was there I got to know the stylists names, key publications and where you could buy 500 envelopes in one go. Interning isn’t like The Hills, but it gives you the key experience you need to understand the basics of an ever-growing industry, and one that really relies on interns to keep going. You’re needed and loved, little interns…even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Since, I’ve worked in events production (including working the Versus Versace show, taking sneaky pics of Donatella from afar to send to my Mum!), in magazines, in the V&A museum to last summer where I went on tour with All Saints (the band. Yes. ALL FREAKING SAINTS!!) assisting styling them.
I knew I never wanted to be a stylist or work in a museum, I met some amazing contacts and was pushed so far out of my comfort zone it takes a lot to make me shocked by something weird in the fashion industry now. I now know how to take 3 suitcases on the tube at once and how to panic sew someone into a top (I also know how to iron my own clothes now too, a MIRACLE). It really augments your skill set, and without even realising it you’re taught time management, working to deadlines, managing people…and how to keep a smile on your face at all times.
Going into my final year of university, I felt I had the industry knowledge to push my work, make the most of my contacts that I’d made over the past couple of years and most importantly have the stamina to work really bloody long days to make sure I made work I was pleased with. Taking on what I’d learnt and discovering the areas of the industry that truly interested me in order to stay true to myself, it allowed me to realise what was going to be expected of me to make it in this world.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the stereotypes of the fashion industry: you’ve gotta have your nails done, the latest season clothes and a Mulberry bag but I think what I’ve learnt the most is that, actually, if you’re yourself, a real hard worker and kind to everyone then that will go a lot further.
There were days all I ate was a packet of microwave rice (that’s also because I’m a really bad cook), had to wait until 9:30 on the dot to tap into the tube to get off-peak fare to save as much money as possible, but I think if you want something that badly, you’ll do whatever you can to make it work and you know what, it really does pay off! (I went to Lovebox VIP last week with work and NEVER in my wildest dreams did I think I’d end up being able to do that!!!!!!).
So the long and short of it is – yes, it’s pretty long and unglamorous being a fashion student. It’s not The Hills, it’s not endless parties, and it’s not schmoozing with celebs. It’s hard work, long hours, gross bank statements and wondering when it will ever end…
But trust me, when you’ve put all that work in, the end tastes sweeter than you ever could have anticipated.
By Ellie Burns.