How to start your career in the world of fashion brands.
Fast fashion to designer labels, high street favourites to small-scale independents. When it comes to the business of what we wear, the UK is packed with brands to suit every style and budget.
And it’s big business. Recent figures from the British Fashion Council show the UK fashion industry is worth £28 billion to the UK economy.
But there’s more to the industry than clothes design. It takes many different roles to bring a t-shirt from the drawing board to the shop floor (or your front door). Scroll down to see our brief guide to roles in fashion…
Getting started in fashion
Fashion is a competitive business to break into so be prepared for knock backs when you’re starting out.
Unlike some industries, there is no set career path. But there are often common routes to different parts of the business.
Most people working in the design-side of the industry have some sort of formal training in fashion or design. But people in more general roles can start out in a variety of different ways.
Look out for graduate training schemes from big retailers and fashion brands. These often provide a general introduction to different aspects of the business, with the option to specialise in a particular area later.
Internships and alternatives
Unpaid internships are a common entry point, but there are other ways to gain experience and show your passion and commitment.
Fashion buyer Sahar works at Arcadia. She combined studying for a degree in business computing with two evening courses at the London College of Fashion and weekend work at Miss Selfridge. When she graduated she approached a small, specialist employment agency. “The recruitment consultant could see how enthusiastic and passionate I was,” explains Sahar. “She sent me for a job at River Island and I got the job on my first interview, which was fantastic.”
At Pentland, the company behind some of the world’s best sports, outdoor and fashion brands including Berghaus, Boxfresh, Ellesse, Mitre, and Red or Dead, other qualities are more important than completing a string of internships.
“You don’t have to have experience to work here because we’re set up to train people ,” says Creative Director Katie Greenyer. “We look for people with great ideas, passion for a concept, and the ability to explain their viewpoint to the rest of a team.”
Simon Watt, Pentland’s Director of Organisational Development, emphasises the importance of people skills, “Trainees also need the ability to build strong relationships and work collaboratively, together with bags of curiosity and an appetite for learning,” he says.
A brief guide to jobs in the fashion industry
Still want to work in fashion? Here’s a selection of some of the roles out there…
Perhaps the most obvious, but this isn’t just about clothing. Textiles, footwear, and accessories – right through to store fronts, signage, and packaging all need designing too.
Market insight, analysis and business strategy
Roles in this area look at upcoming trends and sales figures to help shape the future direction of the business.
Not all brands design or make their own stock. Buyers select products and place orders from other suppliers.
From store managers to sales assistants and window dressers, there are lots of roles involved in selling fashion.
The growth in online sales means an effective website is essential. Developers, web designers, content writers, and photographers are all key roles. Sometimes these jobs are based in-house (directly for a brand). Sometimes they are provided by a specialist agency which will provide similar services to different clients.
Logistics and warehousing
Getting products from the manufacturer into stores at the right time requires a great deal of planning. And the rise in online shopping and next day delivery requires complex storage and warehousing operations to fulfil orders.
Support services – HR, finance, IT, legal and marketing, customer service
Most businesses require these support functions and the fashion industry is no different.
Journalism, styling and blogging
As well as writing about fashion for magazines, there are opportunities in making products look good in photographs (known as styling). Or try blogging to get noticed and add to your portfolio – in some cases this can lead to a full-time career too.
Footwear Technologist, Pentland
“I was attracted by product development, making sure that the design can actually be made.”
Commercial and Marketing Graduate
Ashley built up her work experience in fashion while studying for her degree and now works for Pentland.
Commercial and Marketing Graduate
“I get pumped round different departments and that’s what I like.”
Sahar, Buyer, Arcadia
“The really rewarding thing is when you walk down the street and see customers wearing the clothes that you’ve chosen.”
Nicola, Textile Designer, Boden
“I design everything from traditional florals to spots, geometrics, stripes, colour woven checks and jacquards.”
Find out more
Or find out more about working at Pentland.
ARTS THREAD is a free-to-use online resource, offering practical support and advice for students and graduates starting out in the design world.
Creative & Cultural Skills provides information on skills, training, and jobs.
Drapers, the fashion business trade publication, runs Drapers Jobs which lists opportunities in fashion retail.