Fashion Jobs Are Not All They're Cracked Up To Be

Illustration for article titled Fashion Jobs Are Not All They're Cracked Up To Be

Young women are lured by "glamorous" careers; Teen Vogue wants to help! Hence The Teen Vogue Handbook, a "how-to guide for students dreaming of jobs as a designer, stylist, photographer or editor." Except designers are going bankrupt. Magazines are folding.

As Eric Wilson writes for The New York Times today, teenagers around the world have become interested in all sorts of careers in fashion as a result of the industry's increasingly outsize place in popular culture.

"Project Runway," the designer competition originally set at Parsons the New School for Design, has alone been credited with causing a spike in applications to fashion schools. At Parsons, applications have gone up 41 percent over the last five years. At Pratt Institute, they have gone up 20 percent.


And then there's fashion week, fashion blogs and The September Issue! Continues Wilson:

For much of America's youth, fashion is where it's at. But this wave of Anna Wintours and Michael Korses in training is coming at a moment when the industry is shrinking; retailers are collapsing; several magazines within Teen Vogue's parent company, Condé Nast, have closed; and jobs, of any sort, are scarce. A report last month from the NPD Group estimated that 12 percent of fashion companies will not survive the recession.

Still, let's say you do get an internship in fashion. Teen Vogue's book warns, "Be prepared to suffer." Karl Lagerfeld says: "Are you ready to accept injustice?" There will be no hobnobbing, lavish lifestyle, reaping rewards. It's all grunt work. And I've been there. Steaming piles of dresses. Filing. Addressing envelopes. Stuffing envelopes. Paperwork. Packing boxes. On a good day? Cataloguing heaps and heaps of shoes. Quickly. On a deadline.

It's not that there's anything wrong with young women wanting to go into fashion — dreaming of being surrounded by pretty things, and models, and the beautiful life. But it is still an industry. A business. Which requires hard work, connections and skill to succeed. You'll make zero money, but be expected to dress well and live in an expensive city. People with better connections and a fancier college on their resume will always be ahead of you. And just because you love shoes or dresses doesn't mean you're cut out to be a designer or editor. And even if you do find a great job, there's still a chance that the business will fail; the magazine will go under. Take it from Teen Vogue's editor in chief, Amy Astley, who started at HG, (Condé Nast's House & Garden). Last week, she told "I love interiors still. I'm crazy about decorating and really thought I would be a decorating editor. HG was a wonderful place to start my career. I love interiors. I love flowers. I love decorating. I love food and tabletop. I love clothes, obviously fashion, so it's all of a piece to me… I worked at HG for about four years, until the magazine was closed, in 1993."


Still, if young women are going to spend money on magazines and books about fashion, Teen Vogue might as well get a cut of the cash, right?

Looking for a (Long) Leg Up [NY Times]
So What Do You Do, Amy Astley, Editor-In-Chief, Teen Vogue? []

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The big business of fashion has made it near impossible for American designers in two ways:

1. If you want to work for a company and you are not financially stable to work extremely low wages for years, you are screwed.

2. If you want to start a line, you better have millions in the bank / and or be a celebrity. Many of the small boutiques who mainly support independent designers have gone out of business or have a tough time paying their bills. As for department stores, those amazing 80% off sales are subsidized by the vendor—that's right, if I sell my items to a dept. store and they are discounted, I make up the difference. The company I work for goes an extra step and pays "discounts" to dept stores which essentially amount to us bribing them to carry our product. We are in an era where only the deepest pockets will survive, not the most talented.