There’s more to a catwalk show than designers; and more to a photoshoot than models. You don’t have to be mad about the clothing sector to work in it. As London Fashion Week (Sept 14-18) proves, stylists are needed, hairdressers are sought-after, make-up artists are a necessity – and there are plenty of people doing the jobs in between.
But, although it may seem like a glamorous industry to work in, with lots of potential for travel, you’ll be expected to put in the hours.
Catherine Dearden, placement team leader at the London College Of Fashion’s Fashion Business Resource Studio, says the best way to get a foot in the door is to network.
“Often it’s about who you know in the fashion industry,” she says. “Get out there – attend events, be prepared to sell your skills at every opportunity. You need to be persistent – and ready for some rejection along the way.”
To dip your toe in the water before committing to a career, bag yourself some work experience. “Interning is almost essential in the fashion industry. It’s a great way to gain insight into a company, you can develop core skills, and build future networks,” she adds.
In terms of qualifications, the London College Of Fashion offers everything from part-time short courses to postgrad MAs. But go
into the industry with your eyes open.
“Be open-minded,” Dearden says. “The fashion industry is not one-size-fits-all, and if you choose a career in it, it can be exciting, rewarding and fun. Just be prepared to put in the hard work to get there.”
James Brackenbury, 23, who lives in Seven Sisters, is a sales executive with Vivienne Westwood. He sells the collections to stores across the world.
After studying for a degree in Contemporary Art Practices, Brackenbury decided to get into fashion, interning in the sales department after working in a Vivienne Westwood store for three years. After his placement, he was offered a job.
“If you want to get into the fashion industry, persevere. Interning can be brutal at times, but it gives you access to companies and professional situations that would never ordinarily be available to you,” he says. “And you get to travel – I get to go to Milan.”
Brackenbury has also rubbed shoulders with the stars, meeting Kanye West, Paloma Faith, Jessie J and Janet Jackson. “Kanye was quite dismissive, the rest were lovely,” he adds.
“During London Fashion Week, I’ll be working the door, which will include a lot of crowd control, ensuring buyers are seated and taken care of.
It’s a stressful environment, but as soon as the lights go down and you know you have done your job it is worth it,” he explains.
In a job similar to Brackenbury’s, you can expect to earn between £24k-£50k.
But, if you fancy a more hands-on role, look into hairdressing.
Session stylist Christopher Appleton (christopherappleton.co.uk), 29, started in a salon in Leicester aged 13, working his way up through the ranks before winning awards, including BBC Young Hairdresser Of The Year.
He can now be found doing photoshoots for the likes of Vogue, Marie Claire, Grazia, Look and Vanity Fair.
“At London Fashion Week, I’ll be assisting hairdressers on numerous shows, doing catwalk hair – fast. Working with celebrities is part of the job, anyone from Lady Gaga to Claudia Schiffer.”
When it comes to salary, Appleton says if you want big bucks, expect to long hours. “It’s not a 9-5 job. You’re always on it, pushing boundaries and ideas. I travel so much, I sometimes don’t know where I am!”
And when it comes to qualifications, Appleton says: “Apart from the usual NVQs and training, you need creativity, passion, commitment, and broad shoulders!
“Just keep pushing and don’t take no for an answer. “It’s a fast pace and you have to ride that wave otherwise you’ll drown.”
Fancy learning in your spare time? London College Of Fashion offers part-time and flexible courses – perfect if you’re not ready to ditch your current job for a career in the spotlight. Check out the list at http://www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/courses/flexible
The college’s Catherine Dearden says look at the best of fashion – such as Stella McCartney – for inspiration. But she adds there’s always scope to become the next big thing.
For up-and-coming designers to check out, see Louise Gray, Christopher Raeburn, Mary Katrantzou and Ada Zanditon.
Photos: Getty; Christopher Appleton