Fashion is a highly prized and competitive industry in which to make a career for many aspiring students in the UK. According to Fashion United, more than half a million people work in fashion-related industries in the UK. That number rises when you factor in the number of UK nationals working overseas in the sector. If you’re considering your career routes into the industry, check out our guide to breaking into various sectors here and in the global fashion market.
The success of the UK fashion industry
From designing ahead-of-the-trend dresses, to hosting the biggest events in the industry’s calendar, British fashion is a dominant force on the global clothing scene. 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.
However, don’t ignore a career in fashion based in another country if you’re a UK national. 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. In France, this number hits around $43.3 billion.
Forging a global fashion career
It seems like it can be tricky enough to get your first job in the UK, never mind in a country where you go on holiday. But, it’s perfectly doable if you have the right skill set and attitude. So, what do you need to carve out a career in fashion outside of the UK?
Learn a language
If you’re at college or university already or due to start, speak to your tutor about taking a language course. It will show a potential employer that you have the initiative and dedication to take on another challenge alongside your main course. Also, it will help you excel in your new job when you arrive in the country.
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. 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? UK brands like New Look are moving, or have already moved, into the Chinese market?
Get social online
During your studies, make yourself active and reachable via social media. For example:
- 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. However, it’s an opportunity 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, it’s a way to indicate your proactivity and creativity to potential employers.
Consider study abroad and summer programmes
Another bonus of being at university is the availability of study abroad programmes. They’re an ideal way to develop yourself in a foreign university while making relationships with other students and faculty members. This network 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 a community-based programme? Show an employer your ability to take on a challenge!
Make your LinkedIn profile relevant
Whether you’re still studying or a recent graduate, it’s never too early for job-hunting. Your first step is to ensure your LinkedIn profile is on point. 500 million people use LinkedIn worldwide and around four-fifths of employers search candidates’ names on Google when deciding whether to call them in for an interview. Remember, your potential new employer will be located overseas. Use the internet and social platforms to help them decide on your credibility and validity as an employee. So, make sure what they find is positive! A great LinkedIn profile should have a well-written summary that:
- Is personal
- States your career goals
- Offers examples of work experience
- Emphasises your personal and professional achievements
- Gives a call-to-action (in this case, looking for a fashion position overseas)
Include what talents you possess that make you ideal for the job you want in fashion. Proofread it to ensure it is professional and engaging to read.
Tips for hunting global fashion jobs
If you’re looking for a job in fashion abroad, focus on companies that offer international opportunities. 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. Also, Primark is currently establishing itself in the US and Marc Jacobs expanded into new Asian and South American markets.
Don’t fall into a rut when it comes to applying for a fashion role on international job sites. Some may ask for cover letters and online assessments, while others simply want a CV. Perseverance is key.
What about the UK?
That’s not to say that the UK isn’t a great place to launch a fashion career. In the Global Fashion School Rankings by Business of Fashion, four of the top ten undergraduate fashion schools and three of the top ten graduate fashion schools are 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.
Attending an establishment that offers degrees and apprenticeships is sometimes the best option for certain types of roles, such as fashion design and marketing. 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. The UK government also promotes apprenticeship opportunities in this sector, if you’re aged 16 years or over.
Internships and work experience
There are an estimated 70,000 internships on offer every year in the UK. Gaining hands-on, practical experience can help you develop and learn at a quicker rate than taking a more academic, school-structured path. Although, be aware that unpaid internships in the fashion industry are still common.
Work experience is also an asset to have on your CV. Researching fashion companies and requesting experience is tough, but key to creating a career in fashion. Working in a clothing store is always a useful experience. For example, you can ask to try visual merchandising to develop your skills on the job.
Regardless of country, you need to choose a branch of fashion that you enjoy and excel at if you want to get your foot in the door. However, there are plenty of opportunities, and once you’re in, you can start moving across different departments.
Thanks for this guest post go to our friend, Cerys Elder at Mediaworks.