We all have to start somewhere. With the competitiveness of an industry like fashion, internships are where it all begins. Whether it's a placement integrated into your school's fashion program or just an opportunity to get you one step closer to the field, internships are a valuable chance to gain hands-on industry knowledge and experience.
It's important to know that internships are far from the tabooed perception that interns fetch coffee and stand by photocopiers all day. "This is not the typical fashion internship," says Kristy Wieber, co-founder and president of Rent frock Repeat, an e-commerce website that allows women to rent designer dresses for a fraction of the retail cost. "We want them to come in and feel like the team. We actually give them a lot of responsibility, but along with that, we hold them very accountable."
Wieber adds that interns must do a lot of heavy-duty training like quizzes and submissions before they are walked through their shift. Internships at Rent frock Repeat are usually four months in length with the opportunity to extend, and include positions in styling, inventory management, social media, blogging, and a generalist role.
Internships in fashion retail can lead to great career opportunities with some of Canada's most recognized companies like Holt Renfrew and Hudson's Bay Company. "We've seen really good results from our specific internship, so for us we think it's really valuable not just for experience, but just the connections, people they meet, and the soft skills," says Wieber. "I know it sounds silly, but 'how do I answer a phone properly?' or 'how do I greet a customer?' There [are] a lot of these skills that sometimes you don't learn in school that they're learning here."
Wieber advises that while internships create the opportunity to build on career skills, it is really up to the individual to set their own goals and expectations of what they wish to achieve. "If [they] are getting these internships and they're not getting anything out of it and they're not getting the experience they need, then it's the wrong fit for them, she says. We have high expectations and we're very clear on those expectations. We don't want people to come in thinking they're just here to make coffee, but we want them to feel like they're contributing to this business and getting something really valuable out of it."