As a fashion student, there can be weeks of no sleep and long hours of homework, but the thought of an exciting career in fashion keeps you going.
Then graduation day arrives. Faced with the reality of the real world, you ask, “What on earth am I going to do now?”
On Nov. 4th two recent graduates whose careers are taking off at E! Fashion Police and Vanity Fair Magazine provided some of the answers. Instructor Cynthia Durcanin, the founding editor of Elle.com in Paris, invited them to speak to students enrolled FSH 617, Fundamentals of Fashion Journalism at the Academy of Art University.
Kate Hillenbrand, a former intern at Sony Pictures, who now works as a production assistant at E! Fashion Police, was joined by Jamie Emmerman, a Photography Associate for Vanity Fair Magazine; both are recent graduates of Emerson College in Boston.
They’re good friends, ambitious and have a lot passion for what they do. And while we all know there is no manual to adulthood, Hillenbrand and Emmerman pointed students in the right direction.
“Do a lot of internships,” said Emmerman, who is based in New York. Internships help train you for future work, but they also help you figure out what you don’t want to do, he explained.
Emmerman, whose work has also appeared in Vice, Interview Magazine and Slate, interned every summer in college. While looking for a job on the site Ed2010 (
) he applied to be an intern at Vanity Fair, “I didn’t even know that they had winter internships.” That was his first step, then he was hired as a photography assistant.
It’s also important to show a good work ethic. “You don’t have to have the most amazing resume to get the best internship,” said Hillenbrand, who works in Los Angeles. “You just have to prove that you will do the sh**y work. Just do it, and leave your ego at the door.”
Emmerman agreed, adding that the people you might work for some day also did their time as interns. “A lot of the editors at Vanity Fair started as interns, “ he said.
It’s also important to humanize the bold face names who do the interviewing. “You walk into a place with a huge name and you see that person as embodying the name,” Emmerman said. “But remember they’re just like you and they probably had an interview like that and they were petrified too.”
Hillenbrand emphasized the importance of mastering social media as part of a fashion education. “I used to think social media would merge with marketing, but now I see that’s not necessarily true, they’re two separate things,” she said. “Taking classes in social media is very valuable because it’s not going away.”
She also spoke about how social media is challenging what we think of as fashion. “People are becoming so open to conventionally unattractive clothing it makes it harder to be like; this is ugly, or am I just looking at it with the wrong point of view?” Hillenbrand said.
Apart from the realities of work, students also wanted to know about how to live on unpaid internships, lifestyle differences between the West and East coasts, and of course, what to wear!
“This discussion is just what I needed to hear to get an idea of what is attainable after graduation,” said Juan Mata, a student in FSH 118 OL1 Fashion Editing and Writing. “Some things that really struck me; you don’t have to start off with the best job or internship,” he said. “Everyone has to pay their dues.”
While Hillenbrand stressed the importance of dressing professionally, students were relieved to learn that they do not have to dress like Anne Hathaway’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“If you’re on a budget you can always wear basic black,“ she said. “It looks professional and no one really knows what label you’re wearing.”
Jeremy Foster, also an FSH 118 student said he felt encouraged by both Hillenbrand and Emmerman.
“Kate said that no one likes a person in fashion who is a bore. I think that is something that I worry about, how much of myself I can keep.” he said. “Clearly being myself is going to be my greatest asset.”
We learned a lot from our guest speakers. Not only from their experiences but also from their honesty about working in fashion. They talked about what all students fear — the pressure to do everything right.
“Perspective is the most important thing to have at any job,” said Hillenbrand. “Especially as an entry level employee, you feel like everything is kind of a job interview.”
Emmerman added, “Everyday you’re interviewing to move forward, so you need to take it easy.”
Their stories showed us that it is possible to land a dream job and that working in fashion can be the experience of a lifetime.
By Paula Gomez