“Designer studio seeking young enthusiastic fashion design intern. Must be hard working, presentable, and able to work in a fast paced environment. Flexible schedule is preferred, and above all, must be hungry to learn.”
As the year comes to a close and we turn over to a new season in the fashion calendar, and it can only mean one thing. The hunt for new interns is on.
“Tell me about yourself”, I ask her. It’s the beginning of the summer. She’s sat across the table from me, and she’s shaking. As she swipes through her portfolio on her Ipad, I can tell she is just so nervous from the moist imprint of her finger on the screen as she turns to the next page.
That was me in that same seat. Exactly 5 years ago. Fresh off the plane from England, I had my long hair in a braid and I was wearing a white jersey tank top. Told I had one week to show what I could do, I had never worked so bloody hard in my life.
You see, if I hadn’t made that leap back then, I’d still be managing the fitting rooms at Zara in my hometown. Not that there’s anything wrong with a start job in Zara, however I had just completed a three year university degree in Fashion Design, and nothing had prepared me for the real world. What to expect? Where to begin?
I remember my first internship extremely well. It was in the basement of this fashion accessory silk screen print company in East London. I was folding scarves. Literally. Me and three girls, it’s all we would do all day. Kept there until 8pm every night, unpaid, folding away. I wish I were kidding.
That flash back of the folding silk scarves pops into my head as I finish up the interview with her. Already I know she’s a keeper. From the firm handshake, her up right posture across the table, the perfect red lipstick she’s wearing. It’s really hard to believe Victoria is only 19 years old.
The laws recently changed in New York and that interns doing full time work must be paid. And I second that. Every candidate I hire I do my absolute best to ensure that they are learning to the fullest. To this day, I still hear mixed stories of the life of the fashion intern in New York, depending on the company as to how they are treated, however when they’re under my roof, I make a point to be the best teacher I can possibly be.
That jump into the real world is just so important, and I really don’t think university prepares students for that. At least mine didn’t. I was stuck in a hard place either taking an unpaid internship folding scarves, or earning money in a retail store, which was not what I wanted to do. It’s hard. But you’ve got to go for it, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.
We only had the pleasure of lovely Victoria for that one summer. Probably the best intern I have ever worked with. So professional, so on point. One day I hope to be as elegant, smart, and sharp as herself.
It’s Victoria’s last day in the studio, the day we were all dreading, and I come back to my desk to find a beautiful handmade card resting on my keyboard. I can tell instantly the card is her own design. I turn it over, on the back is a note in her tiny neat Italic handwriting.
“Dear Sophie, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your guidance, support and patience during my time here. I have learnt so much because you are so amazing at what you do! It has been a pleasure working with you and I will miss you. I hope to stay in touch!
Designer studio seeking young enthusiastic fashion design intern. Must have a dream, and not be afraid to go for it.