Monday, September 24The Voice of London

Expert Help: Breaking Into Fashion

Innovative fashion magazine XXY hosted a talk about the side of fashion we never get to see. Four industry professionals who have worked with the likes of Miley Cyrus, GQ and Vogue made up the panel, sharing their experiences on building their careers.

Words: Christie Bannon, Lauren Banton, Teh Yusof, Tsakane Chabane & Michelle Whitney, Sub-editor: Christie Bannon & Lauren Banton

Starting Out

One of the biggest questions that surround the fashion industry is: ‘How do I get in?’ With everyone wanting to work for big name brands, how do you work yourself up the chain? One of the first tips to remember is to be specific and know what you’re talking about – specifically never start an email with ‘Dear Sir/Madame’. Johannes Reponen, editor of Address, spoke about how important it is to know who you’re addressing and to tailor emails so they’re specific to each magazine.

Applying for any and every internship out there is another key point that was emphasised by Koral Leigh of Lewis & Leigh PR. Be prepared to make some sacrifices to your social life in order to better your future prospects. Leigh managed to get an internship with Vogue, which she stated was the best experience of her life. However, Vogue originally rejected Leigh saying she needed more experience, but were then impressed when she re-applied with a list of internships under her belt.

It’s also essential not to feel intimidated; the bigger companies may be daunting but making your mark by being pro-active with your work is a great place to start. The easiest thing to remember is that even the most intimidating editors are just normal people, as Leigh joked, even Alexandra Shulman presses the button in the lift!


Many of the panellists stressed how much networking will benefit you within the industry. Both Koral Leigh and Rachel Macbeth from Bricks magazine stated that attending networking events and exchanging contact details, as well as keeping others up to date with your latest projects will help you expand in the fashion industry. Leigh said: “I’ve had a business card from the age of 18, even when I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wrote that I was a freelance writer. I would go to events and hand my cards out to everyone hoping that I would be contacted”. This worked tremendously for her as her PR consultancy represents an extensive list of clients.

Macbeth said: “Your website should be your online business card, all your contact details should be readily available”. The general message was that you never know who has seen your work and who wants to work with you so make sure that any opportunity isn’t missed.

Even though networking is daunting, once you put yourself out there you’ll soon reap the rewards. Being well-connected means the content you produce will be varied and original, which in time will attract a greater audience. Whether you’re a fashion journalist, PR, magazine or an artistic director networking is a great way for you to get the break you need to enter the industry.

Social Media

The importance of social media managers was also discussed as being overlooked. Many companies now have a whole section of workers purely dedicated to social media. Leigh said: ‘There was one instance where a model wasn’t being put forward for castings because she didn’t have enough Instagram followers, that’s how ridiculously vital social media has become.’

Nonetheless, we can’t deny the importance of social media in our daily lives. Everyone with a smartphone can’t go a day without at least peeking into their social media accounts. We might vent in a tweet and post that selfie during that party. This is where we need to think thoroughly about our future career’s sake before hitting that tweet button. People tend to forget how public social media is no matter how private you set your account.

In the age of technology, social media has the capacity of being a part of your CV. By now we should be aware of how many employers are doing background checks based on social media accounts. You might want to delete those cringeworthy pictures. Social media is an extension of yourself, as fashion illustrator and creative director Nas Abraham commented: “There’s a lot of power on social media to convey your brands image and impact your personal career”.

Online presence is really important especially when you are in the creative industry. Abraham explained that he used social media as a platform to show the projects that he’s done. Networking is also done through online nowadays, Lewis and Leigh PR get their clients mostly from Instagram. Generally, your presence online reflects your personality and it is important to have one being in the industry but keep it professional.

The panel posing for pictures. Source: Teh Yusof
The panel posing for pictures. Source: Teh Yusof


A question emerged from the audience about how the digital evolution has effected the way we consume fashion. The general consensus amongst the panel was that it was a bit sad that we want to snap pictures at fashion shows and that we’re basically living through our phones.

Of course living through your phone takes away from experiencing certain things but we definitely should embrace technology. Filming certain parts of a fashion show allows you to relive it at home. It can remind you of the atmosphere and all the amazing pieces that you got to see.

Besides, going to a Chanel show isn’t an everyday thing, take pictures and enjoy the outfits! Fashion is a visual thing and it should be appreciated as much and as often as possible. It is art after all. So of course Karl Lagerfeld is going to make a huge spectacle of his shows. The entire concept was made to be spoken about and shared all across the media.

It’s okay to snap a selfie for Instagram or share your experience with your friends on Snapchat. Just make sure you give yourself a chance to be in the moment as well. See it through your eyes…as well as your phone.


It was refreshing to hear that the fashion world isn’t a re-enactment of the Devil Wears Prada in the sense that CEOs don’t swan around demanding coffee and flicking their hair whilst being really bitchy.

The amount of hard work which goes into end products is always behind the scenes and often overlooked. For example, an online magazine – people assume because there is no print product that everything is just produced and put up in minutes. However, copy has to be produced and subbed at least three times, original photography to a high standard has to be produced, layouts must be designed, and social media has to be up to speed. And this is not even mentioning the fact you must be at all the events, getting interviews, filming shows etc.

Leigh stated: “If you want to work in fashion you have to be prepared to not sleep”. An enormous amount of work goes into fashion based media, you just need a huge amount of coffee to survive. Despite the misconceptions, all of the panellists described the industry as an intimate, family type structure; in which everyone shares the same passion.