Fashion industry interns tell all

Many have seen “The Devil Wears Prada” and heard hundreds of intern horror stories; fashion industry intern myths can discourage even the most driven fashion or journalism students from applying for a life-changing experience.

The global fashion industry is worth more than $450 billion, but it is still relatively new and can be largely misunderstood by someone on the outside looking in.

One myth many are faced with is that big named companies don’t take interns from small Midwest universities; several ISU students proved this to be untrue.

Last spring, students all across campus — both men and women — applied for summer internships that took them all over the United States, as well as abroad to places such as Ghana, China and England.

Shannon Bauer, senior in creative apparel design, interned for Marie Claire magazine in the fashion closet. She said she believes internships are given to the person that shows passion and persistence.

“I sent two emails to the fashion assistant who was in charge of hiring interns,” Bauer said. “She emailed me back after the second email, and we set up a time for a phone interview.”

The phone interview was short. Bauer sent a thank-you email and, a week later, another follow-up email.

“Following up was crucial to getting this internship,” Bauer said. “I needed an internship for this summer and when this opportunity presented itself I did everything I could to make sure Marie Claire was where I completed the experience.”

ISU graduate Kayla Clawson interned for Kleinfeld Bridal but originally wasn’t sure she would even receive an interview.

“Kleinfeld Bridal is a pretty well-known company because of the TV show ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’” Clawson said. “After doing some research and reading blogs and articles from people that have done the internship, I knew it would be a great fit for me.”

Many believe a job as a fashion intern consists of only running errands and getting coffee, but it can be much more than that.

Jordan Callahan, senior in creative apparel design, interned at Nanette Lepore in New York City. Nanette Lepore is smaller than some brands, so interns work on a lot of hands-on projects.

Callahan was given a lot of different responsibilities such as sourcing fabrics, trims and beads for samples from local shops in the garment district.

“Myself and other interns were in charge of cataloging and organizing Nanette’s vintage archive,” said Callahan. “My biggest project was creating a textile print repeat design in Photoshop for an upcoming line.”

Depending on the internship, the first day on the job can be stressful or very laid back. Callahan’s first day was more of a laid-back feel.

“I arrived at my internship way too early and waited for what seemed like forever,” Callahan said. “I was introduced to the other interns, with whom I quickly bonded.”

Callahan only had one errand that day, but when Nanette needed an intern in her office to remove the trim off of a dress, Callahan was the only one available.

“She handed me the seam ripper and said: ‘Don’t ruin the fabric’,” Callahan said. “I was so nervous that it took me way longer than it should have, but I didn’t want to mess up.”

Starting her internship at Marie Claire the day after a photo shoot, Bauer was put to work on her first day.

“We spent the next 12 hours organizing and returning garments from the shoot,” Bauer said. “There is no such thing as 9-5 in the fashion industry.”

Bauer believes one of the most difficult aspects of her internship was learning to prioritize. She explained that many editors will give interns a long list of things to accomplish and expect them to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“It is up to the intern to figure out what is most important to do first and get everything done to the highest possible standard in the shortest amount of time,” Bauer said. “A fashion magazine is a high stress environment and navigating the different personalities and expectations is not always easy.”

No matter the workload or the internship, all three women had similar advice for students applying.

“Enjoy your time at your internship,” Callahan said. “Never take an opportunity for granted — you are going to miss it when it’s over. So disregard the myths, be persistent, make yourself stand out in positive ways, network as much as you can and the last, and possibly the most important piece of advice, don’t wear heels as an intern,” Callahan said. “Your feet will never look the same again.”