Breaking into the Fashion Industry

Anyone who has seen The Devil Wears Prada would probably agree that working in the fashion world would be glamorous, exhilarating and (possibly) terrifying. Last summer, Katie McCoy, senior Journalism student, experienced the industry first-hand in New York City as an intern for The Row, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s luxury fashion brand. 

A Position that Many Would Envy 

McCoy assisted the public relations coordinator with sample send outs, managing the communication between The Row and publications and stylists that wanted to feature the brand. McCoy and her fellow interns were responsible for updating the company’s program FashionGPS, which records the location of various samples of clothing and accessories using barcodes. They used this information to keep track of the pieces, so when a stylist or publication called to borrow a specific sample, they could find the particular piece or see that it is no longer in-house by simply checking the system. 

Stylists for celebrities like Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and Margot Robbie and publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle requested looks from the brand. McCoy would be responsible for finding the clothes, letting the stylists know what they had in-house and ensure they arrived on time, sometimes by personal delivery. After the photoshoot was done, McCoy was responsible for making sure the samples were returned to The Row. 

McCoy’s favorite part of the internship was seeing the things she’d styled appear on celebrities and in magazines. 

“Opening the September issue of Porter Magazine and seeing clothes that I’d sent off and seeing The Row featured in so many things was such a satisfying feeling,” McCoy said. “I'm glad I had an amazing first step into the fashion world. This is something that a million girls would kill for and I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity.” 

While learning to navigate the fast-paced world of fashion, McCoy said she mastered the art of multitasking. 

“Keeping a calm persona was the key to making it through the day,” McCoy said. “The fashion industry is super fast-paced and I learned how to deal with the speed and understand the personality of the fashion world.” 

Overcoming Challenges 

While she learned to cope with the stress, her long days and busy schedule sometimes overwhelmed McCoy. But in the process, she learned that mistakes were inevitable and okay to make, as long as she was able to learn from them.

“It's better to own up to your mistakes and try to correct them than to avoid the problem,” McCoy said. “It's very stressful. There would be days where I have no idea how I made it through the day, but I'm glad I did.” 

McCoy also dealt with financial challenges. Her internship was unpaid and she had to learn how to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the country without a steady income. 

Taking Initiative Reaps a Big Reward

McCoy didn’t discover this position through popular job sites like Handshake or LinkedIn. She emailed The Row using the contact information on their website to inquire about their internship opportunities. She heard about their public relations internship opportunities the next day. 

McCoy believes she stood out as a candidate through her involvement in MSU’s student-run fashion magazine, VIM Magazine, where she is the women’s fashion director. VIM also helped McCoy connect with other people who have experience in the industry. One of McCoy’s friends who also works on the publication interned at The Row two summers ago and gave her the advice she needed to be successful in the interview. 

“Being involved with clubs that help your professional growth is something you must do in college,” McCoy said. “I can't imagine where I would be if I was not a part of VIM Magazine.”

A Future in Fashion

For the other fashion gurus out there hoping to break into the industry, McCoy has this piece of advice— you have to work hard to stand out. 

“The best way to break into the fashion industry is knowing how cut throat it is,” McCoy said. “People are very competitive.”

However, she said that doesn’t mean you should be afraid of putting yourself out there. McCoy recommends making connections to build your network and, most of all, being brave enough to take the risk to apply. 

By Rianna N. Middleton