Tips for UK Fashion Students Hoping to Break into the Global Fashion Industry
Many aspiring students across the UK will currently have dreams and ambitions to have a successful career in the highly prized but very competitive fashion industry. In the UK currently, Fashion United suggests that there are over half a million people working in industries related to fashion — with this sum obviously increasing when the number of UK nationals who are working in the sector abroad is factored in too.
Join us as we advise on how to break into various fashion sectors throughout the UK, as well as analyse how fashion recruitment varies around the world…
How successful is the UK’s fashion industry?
British fashion is no doubt a dominant force on the global clothing scene, as evident when looking at everything from the fact that some of the biggest events in the industry’s calendar are hosted across the British Isles to the abundance of ahead-of-the-trend going out dresses which are designed throughout the nation. In 2016, the UK exported $9.2 billion worth of clothing, and across many international fashion industries, the UK labour force shows the highest percentage of employees in fashion. Approximately 1.68% of the entire labour force works in fashion-related jobs, while in the US, this figure is 1.12% and only 0.81% in Germany.
If you’re a UK national though, these figures shouldn’t make you ignore a career in fashion that’s based in another country. In the UK, the fashion industry has a domestic market value (DMV) of approximately £94.1 billion, while in the US, the fashion industry has a DMV of $385.7 billion, and in France, this number hits around $43.3 billion. Clearly, this industry is profitable, and you have the opportunity to be a part of it even outside of the UK.
Advice when pursuing an international fashion career
Securing your first job in the UK seems like a difficult enough task, so the thought of trying to get work in a country that you’ve possibly only holidayed in or have never even visited before may be considered a mammoth task. But, it’s perfectly doable if you have the right skillset and attitude. So, what do you need to carve out a career in fashion outside of the UK?
Preparing a CV for a job in fashion overseas presents both college and university students with so many fantastic opportunities. If you’re at university already or due to start, speak to your tutor about taking a language course — not only will this help you excel in your new job when you arrive in the country, but it will also show a potential employer that you have the initiative and dedication to take on another challenge alongside your main course. Across the fashion industry, brands and companies hold language in high regard. The British Fashion Council has stressed the importance of learning a language to help better the influence of UK designers, while the Commercial Language Training organisation claims that international fashion firms usually keep an eye out for language skills when recruiting new employees. So, could you get ahead by learning French or Italian — two countries typically associated with high fashion — or even Mandarin, considering that leading UK brands like New Look are moving, or have already moved, into the Chinese market?
It’s wise to make yourself both reachable and active on social media while still studying too. Follow a range of fashion brands and fashion-focused career sites on Twitter and Facebook so that you can stay on top of new opportunities. Also, launch your own blog — this doesn’t even have to be fashion focused, but it might be wise to highlight your love of the industry, whether you upload regular articles about what’s new in the sector or create regular posts about your favourite trends. Why not start your own YouTube channel and showcase your fashion talents in a series of online videos? Some YouTubers get millions of subscribers, but even if you only have a few, being able to invite potential employees who perhaps can’t hold an interview with you in person due to distance to watch your channel will indicate your proactivity and creative skill — two essential attributes in the industry regardless of country!
Study abroad programmes should catch your eye while you’re at university as well. Many establishments offer these and they’re an ideal way to develop yourself in a foreign university while making relationships with other students and faculty members that may be able to help you find a job in the country when you graduate. If a whole year abroad isn’t feasible, why not try a summer school programme during your break or make a difference by volunteering abroad in a conservation or community-based programme — ideal for showing an employer your ability to take on a challenge.
Don’t think you need to hold off job-hunting until you’ve finished your studies and received your results either. It’s never too early and your first stop is to make sure your LinkedIn profile is on point. 500 million people use LinkedIn worldwide and around four-fifths of employers search candidates’ names on Google when debating whether to call them in for an interview. As your potential new employer will be stationed overseas, using the internet and social platforms to decide on your credibility and validity as an employee will be essential — so make sure what they find is positive! A great LinkedIn profile should have a well-written summary:
- Be personal
- State your career goals
- Offer examples of work experience
- Emphasise your personal and professional achievements
- Give a call-to-action (in this case, looking for a fashion position overseas)
The talents that you have which make you perfect for your ideal fashion job should be included too. Furthermore, make sure you proofread your profile to ensure it is professional and engaging to read.
Companies which provide international opportunities should be your initial focus when hunting for a fashion job overseas. According to Monster job site’s career expert, Vicki Salemi: “One of the best ways to get a job overseas is to do a rotational assignment.” This means the company will sort out visas, accommodation, and moving costs for you, making the whole relocation process simpler. Luckily, many fashion brands based in the UK have international offers and the potential for employment abroad. QUIZ, for example, recently launched in Spain, while Primark is currently establishing itself in the US, and Marc Jacobs expanded into new Asian and South American markets.
It’s important to avoid falling into a rut while applying for fashion roles on international job sites. Some may ask for cover letters and online assessments, while others simply want a CV. Perseverance is key, but there are many international sites that offer openings for people eager to get their foot in the door or a fashion job outside of the UK.
Advice when pursuing a fashion career in the UK
You can also have a highly successful career in fashion across the UK. In the Global Fashion School Rankings by Business of Fashion mentioned previously, four of the top ten undergraduate fashion schools and three of the top ten graduate fashion schools were based in the UK. What’s more, the UK clinched the top spot in both lists, with Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design coming first in both categories.
For some types of roles, including fashion design and marketing, it’ll be wise to study at an establishment which provides degrees and apprenticeships. Institutions such as the Fashion Retail Academy and Fashion Enter offer a range of apprenticeship courses — like merchandising and garment technology — to thousands of students every year, while the UK government also promotes apprenticeship opportunities in this sector, if you’re aged 16 years or over.
Have you also considered an internship? There are an estimated 70,000 internships on offer every year in the UK and gaining hands-on, practical experience can help you develop and learn at a quicker rate than taking a more academic, school-structured path. Although, it should be noted that unpaid internships in the fashion industry are still common.
Don’t underestimate how effective having work experience on your CV can be as well. Researching fashion companies and requesting experience is tough, but key to creating a career in fashion. Even if you work in a clothing store, this is experience — plus, you can ask to try visual merchandising to develop your skills on the job.
Above everything else, one crucial piece of advice whether you’re looking to pursue a career in fashion in the UK or abroad is to choose a branch of the fashion industry where you’ll enjoy the work and have the opportunity to excel in your role. However, there are plenty of opportunities, and once you’re in, you can start moving across different departments.