As someone who is applying to university this year there is one question i always fear being asked.’What do you want to study’. To some people this might seem like a weird fear but when everyone around you wants to be doctors, lawyers and engineers i find it really hard to talk about what i want to do. Once you tell someone you want to study fashion you wait for the superior look to cross their face. Surely studying fashion is a dream of 6 year old girls not a realistic career choice? The misconceptions then seep in. If i like fashion i am only able of discussing clothing as that is all my measly brain can handle.
Of course, like any stereotype it comes from somewhere. Men and women of the upper class wore extremely elaborate and decorative clothing up until the nineteenth century. Men were also as interested in their appearance as women, in some cases even more so. Certain aristocratic men would actually travel around from place to place with other men in order to show off their beautiful and decorative clothes. However when the nineteenth century arrived gender roles became extremely strict. Men began to wear dark suits, which were simplistic compared to the flamboyant clothing from previous times. It was then decided that men were intelligent and serious beings whilst women were superficial. From then the world of fashion was confined to women and since has remained pretty unchanged. Presenting women interested in fashion as shallow.
So does studying fashion mean you can’t be smart?
No, of course not. There are plenty of extremely intelligent people who work within fashion who engage with ideas, have amazing degrees and enjoy reading criticism for fun. The way in which we present ourselves to the world is extremely important and all the semiotics of dress and identity are extremely complex.
Fashion alone is a way to engage with various cultures. It is an industry that contributes £26 billion to the UK economy and in 2013 was actually worth more than the GDP (gross domestic product) of the UK and twice of Canada’s. It is an industry that interacts with issues of race, gender, sex, consumerism. As well as presenting a labyrinth of questions about ethical, moral and environmental issues.
The fashion industry is no different to any other. An understanding of your market well and what’s missing from it is key. You need to know your numbers and have a plan but most importantly you need to be able to sell, whether that’s yourself, a brand or a product. The industry is tough, competitive and hard to get into. At the end of the day it’s a business.
So what does it really mean to work in fashion?
So really to work in fashion it takes serious hard work and determination. The chances are you’ll have to intern for free and be extremely self sufficient. You can’t just be creative and know what looks ‘pretty’ but also have an awareness of culture, history and the extensive list of influences on fashion. The industry can be cruel and you are bound to have your work criticised but you can’t be sensitive and let that stop you. And importantly you need to be a people person. You have to have the skills to network and communicate. And not only do all this but to show a passion and excitement whilst you’re at it.
Of course i am in no way undermining the importance or intelligence of any other job or industry. Simply proving that it takes more than knowing how to put an outfit together to work in this industry. What do you think? Have you had any bad experiences with telling people what you want to do? Let me know in the comments below 🙂 xx