The price you pay when you work in the fashion industry | Working & living in London
Tuesday, 16 June 2015
"Choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life" - Confucius
For a lot of people all around the UK, working in fashion is the dream. You know if you fall into the criteria: You watched Devil Wears Prada and instead of recoiling in fear and loathing you felt motivated and thought to yourself "I would never have quit, it was only one year she had to stick out!" I myself carried out various internships whilst at uni (all unpaid, obviously) to make sure I had a good leg to stand on once I graduated. I graduated, landed the first job I could to get me into London (Headhunting: great money, great laugh, shit hours, a lot of pressure), and then got my break into the fashion world and felt like all my dreams had come true. Until you look at the cold, hard facts.
#1. Prepare to be poor - for a long time. I took a 12k pay cut to get this job. This was including great guaranteed bonuses and commission which came with the headhunting label, but twelve grand is a big cut to accept. I knew I would have to take a pay cut to change my career, and I was ready for it. The fact of the matter is, fashion doesn't pay. This is something everyone I know in the industry can agree on. Whether you work in editorial, merchandising, buying, finance, or logistics - if you work for a fashion company, your pay will be significantly less than if you were to work at a creative agency, in advertising, or for any other type of trader. I don't know why this is, perhaps it's because people will drop dead to work for a credible fashion brand and name. Who knows, but it is what it is and you have to give it a lot of time and promotions before you can expect to be comfortable. Leading me onto my second point:
#2. London is the only way.It is what it is, there are no jobs in fashion outside of London, give or take a few in Manchester. (Boohoo, Missguided, I'm looking at you). No surprise, given that London is a fashion capital and any events that happen are going to be down here. And for many people, the hustle and bustle of London is what motivates them. The hard grind, the buzzing atmosphere, the fact you will never struggle to find a great and quirky new bar or restaurant. (I found one that only served exotic animals, Zebra to start, Buffalo for my main, scorpions on the side.) But there's another side to London. I come home every day with my skin feeling dirty from the tube. The average commute across London is over an hour - this is because nobody can afford to live central where they work. I live in zone 2 and work at the other side of zone 2 - my commute hits an hour each way. You can't go shopping at the weekend unless you have 4 hours to put aside because it's so busy all the time. Expect to spend half an hour a day queuing for any sort of purchase. And worst of all - the house prices. Kiss goodbye to dreams of owning your own house unless you have a 30k deposit for a tiny 2 bed on the outskirts of zone 3, a bus ride away from the nearest station. With the smallest houses pushing an average of 450k and rent just as bad (it's gold-dust to find a nice flat in a decent location for less than 800 per month - not including bills), you will spend a huge cut of your hard-earned salary on a roof over your head. Seeing friends in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Scotland purchasing their first homes makes my stomach writhe with jealousy knowing that is so impossibly far away for me. A sacrifice you have to be ready for.
#3. It's competitive. Really, really competitive. You have to slave yourself at free month internships for as long as possible to build up your portfolio and network up to give yourself the best possible chance of getting a job. I was lucky that my family home was commutable from London to do this, but if I lived up North and would have had to travel down and work for a month for free whilst finding somewhere to stay (and potentially pay rent for), it would have been a nightmare. Logistics are difficult, although it's worth noting most places will pay your travel expenses. (Within reason.)
These are all things I wish someone had told me ages ago so I could have worked out if it was worth all the sacrifices I would have to make in my twenties to follow a career path I'm passionate about. Don't get me wrong, there are great points to the fashion industry. It's fluid, it's fun, you're constantly surrounded by fabulous, eccentric and creative individuals and you get to pore out your love for the job every single day. But for anyone who is in two minds about what to do later and is considering fashion, these are the points I wish someone had told me about before Uni. At the end of the day, if you're doing what you love you won't dread waking up.
Full-time writer and blogger. I write about fashion and occasionally scathing accounts retelling instances where people have wronged me. I am a strong believer, proud advocator and solemn enforcer of the Wine Wednesday movement.