It’s easy to slip into the mindset that New York is the only place to be to work in fashion. While it might be the ultimate location, it is in no way the only location.
I grew up in Houston, Texas – a city known for being an oil and gas center not a fashion capital. Like many others, my dream was to move to New York and work with the likes of Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg, and Karl Lagerfeld. However, my college journey didn’t take me to New York, it landed me in Chicago. While I was originally disheartened by my chances at fashion opportunities in Chicago and Houston, I learned to maximize the experiences I had and change the way I thought about the fashion industry outside of its main hub.
With five easy mindset and habit changes, I was able to land myself with some invaluable opportunities in the fashion industry that have prepared me for my pursuit of a fashion PR job after graduation.
Leverage retail experience
The only job experience most college students have is retail and it is often a way that many students support themselves while still in school. During my freshman year, I worked at a boutique for a knitwear designer, Souchi. Rather than using slow hours to do nothing, I took on responsibility for social media management and content creation. I took Instagram photos each day, updated our Pinterest boards, and even modeled the clothing for the blog our owner updated on our site. As a 5’3” woman, I am no way built as a model, but it gave me the opportunity to show future employers that extra dedication.
Keep track of the lifestyle PR firms and fashion events your area
I follow bloggers, department stores, and PR firms in the Chicago area. For example, the Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue posts about stylists and designers coming into the store for events. These events allow you to introduce yourself and possibly even get a business card from somebody on their team.
If a firm lands a new client, they almost always take to social media to celebrate. When I was pursuing my current internship with C1 Revolution, a PR firm in Chicago, I first learned about their bridal and ready to wear client, Sarah Seven, when the company posted about it on Instagram. When I contacted my boss about internship opportunities, I made sure to mention my fashion experience. As an added bonus, if you are already familiar with a firm’s clients, it shows you really did your research before approaching them.
Remember: Smaller doesn’t mean less significant
There are so many emerging designers coming from all different parts of the country. Matt Baldwin, A CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist, is even based out of Kansas City. Opportunities are everywhere. You just have to look for them. During my many Google searches of Chicago fashion, I stumbled upon a jewelry company called Lana Jewelry. It wasn’t a name I had ever heard of, but when I started working there, I learned they sent jewelry to the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Cara Delevingne, and Chrissy Teigen.
Being a part of a smaller team gave me more opportunity for responsibility. I was entrusted to pull pieces for celebrities and shoots for magazines like Women’s Health and Vogue. I was put in direct contact with prominent influencers in the fashion industry, which I may not have been able to do at a larger label.
Think beyond public relations
A company may not have an exact PR internship, but don’t forget to look in other areas of the company that are similar to PR. My first fashion internship was in marketing and ecommerce at a Houston based brand called Elaine Turner. In this role, I was able to write copy for email blasts, track our social media analytics, and even assist with the re-launching of their online website. This experience actually proved to be advantageous in landing my PR internship with Lana Jewelry. I had previous experience in updating an online store and had much more Excel experience, which made it easier for me to create charts and formulas for reports. The more analytical experience I had was able to set me apart from other potential applicants.
Don’t let the length of your search dishearten you. I stayed in contact with my current boss for over a year and had two other internships before I was able to land an internship with her company. I didn’t just send her hello emails to see if she had a job available. I also sent her different projects I had worked on to keep her in the loop on the experience I was gaining. When a position opened up, and she knew I had been working in fashion, she brought me on board to help out with Sarah Seven. If you are willing to put in the effort, you will find an opportunity.
About Kendall Thompson
Kendall is a senior pursuing her degree in PR and advertising at DePaul University in Chicago. Having spent the last few years building a career in fashion PR, she is now the PR Assistant at C1 Revolution where her focus is on fashion and lifestyle brands.