Fashion… Internship… Paris… many dream of these three words put together. Buyers, journalists, designers, press officers, stylists – talk to anyone in the fashion industry and nine times of ten they will tell you that they started their journey as an intern somewhere. So how do you get one? Are they everything they are cracked up to be? Are they paid?
We talk to four up and coming fashion entrepreneurs who are embarking on the long road to success in the fashion industry. Currently or having undertaken internships themselves we get some useful insight and advice about what it is like interning in the fashion capital of the world.
To warm things up we have Joanna’s experience, currently studying an MBA in Global Fashion Media at IFA Paris. She’s a classmate and co-writer for this blog article. In case you were wondering, no, she did not come up with the questions that she has been asked, quoting her words, “No that’s weird, but cool more work for you Rudy!’
How old were you when you got your first fashion internship in Paris?
I was 20. I was doing my Erasmus year in Paris and really wanted to stay for the summer so I decided to go for it and try and get some sort of internship.
How did you get it?
It took a while. I emailed lots of different brands, companies and agencies. Everything was in French. I had to translate my CV which took a very long time! Finally I got an email back from a PR agency asking if I could come for an interview. The interview was in French so preparation was key. I went and amazingly I got it. It was a very happy day indeed, a lot of rosé was consumed that evening!
What did you learn from it?
I learnt so much! I was introduced to so many different designers, brands and magazines that I had never heard of before. It really was an eye-opener for me and confirmed my desire to work in the fashion industry. I learnt about the ins and outs of fashion PR, the difficulties, the stress and how fun it is working in a small team. I also improved my French and met lots of really cool and interesting people.
Was it paid?
Ahaa! No, unfortunately it was not paid. I was extremely lucky to have enough support to be able to stay In Paris and intern for free. I do feel however that experience-wise it was well worth it. I also got given two pairs of heels on my last day that are probably worth more than the average “convention de stage” salary…Hello E-bay! That was a nice gift though and they are shining brightly in my wardrobe. I was lucky because I loved my job, getting up and going to work everyday was not a chore. I would not recommend working for free if you aren’t enjoying it, it’s a waste of your own time and energy.
How many internships have you done?
I’ve done three internships so far. I’m currently interning for a fashion consulting and showroom agency which is really interesting.
What do you not like about interning?
Making coffee for French clients. I never get it right. Also French people making fun of my accent, it’s not that bad!
Any tips for future interns?
Put yourself out there. Email everyone and anyone if you are looking for some sort of internship. Don’t be afraid to email the head of companies either. Be bold and get your personality across. Be curious and talk to people. Be prepared to work long hours and to do some mind numbing tasks. Sometimes it isn’t about what you are doing but just by being there and speaking to your colleagues is a great way to learn about the industry. Importantly you should never forget that just because you are an intern this does not mean you are a slave. I’ve heard some pretty awful stories from interns so always stay true to your morals, never do anything you feel uncomfortable with.
Where was your first fashion internship in Paris and when?
My first fashion internship in Paris was in “Le Marais” and it was this year during Fashion Week.
Was it paid?
Yes, it was. And I got breakfast and lunch, even though we did not always have the time to actually eat the lunch, but theoretically it was included.
How would you feel about doing an unpaid internship in fashion? Even if it was something you really enjoyed?
Well, I cannot answer this question in general. It all depends on the person’s background and the actual work experience.
On one hand, I think, if you do not have any experiences in fashion, it is definitely a good way to get to know new working habits and interesting people in the fashion industry. But on the other hand, you need to make sure, that you are being treated in a respectful way and that it is not too long. I think an unpaid internship for half a year is for me, personally, too long for unpaid work. Another aspect is the education: If you still study, I also think it is okay to do an unpaid internship, since you are not yet totally “done”. But as soon as you have your degrees, you actually can bring ideas and concepts to the table and your work should be honoured. So to conclude, I think unpaid internships in fashion are very helpful, interesting and they can be a lot of fun for a limited time and for still-learning fashion enthusiast.
Would you do it again if you had the chance?
Well, since I have already over five years of working experience in the media sector and a job offer after my time at IFA, I am not planning on doing any unpaid internships. But I do not like to say NEVER, because you NEVER know. If Anna Wintour is asking tomorrow, I might change my mind. Hahaha
What advice would you give to someone starting an internship in Paris?
I would recommend to those people to be very open-minded and hard-working to have an inspiring and interesting internship time. BUT I would also recommend being confident and not afraid about determing limits. Just because you are on the lowest level in terms of working hierarchy, does not mean you have to deal with your boss’ dirty tissues, which you are supposed to throw in the garbage. If it goes against your morals or dignity, everybody should be brave enough to speak up. But besides that, the best advice is: to explore, to have fun and as a German I need to add: be on time hahaha.
What and where was your first fashion internship? How did you get it?
It was in 2005/06 in order to understand if I really wanted to try this path. By consequence I stepped into the workshop of a fashion and couture designer in Zurich called Chantal Pochon who kindly accepted me as intern although I had no experience or formation at all.
Was it everything you thought it would be?
Somehow and somehow not. As she is running the whole store and workshop on her own it was impressive to see how she manages to handle the different roles I might not have believed one person is able to do.
What did you learn from it and was it useful for you career wise?
This experience was very fruitful, as I have been introduced in all steps from inspiration or customer demand, processing in-house and production outsourced up to selling. Over Chantal I realized that this is the universe I wish to enter.
What qualities do you think you need to have to get an internship?
Do not be shy and show your passion and curiosity, willingness to learn, to observe and to listen. Be analytic and reflect on what you experience in order to understand what is happening around and with you.
Do you think Paris is the best place to intern if you want to work in fashion?
Not particularly. Here you might get into the mood and spirit of the most famous fashion spot in the world. But in terms of learning, achieving skills and having access to a job afterwards you might find easier access outside of Paris. But surely Paris is great in order to experience what fashion is about – or better said, that actually the clichés are true.
What’s your internship about?
My internship is at Elite Model Management and I’m helping the scouting team, and I also helped in the men’s division because they just open it in Paris. During PFW I helped the new face team with some new models that came for their first time to Paris to get used to the city.
How did you get it?
I knew the international scouter Iris Minier from one Elite Model Look Mexico, so I decided to send her an email and let her know I was here in Paris and if there was any possibility for me to have a stage.
Do you ever feel intimidated being around models all day?
Jajaja ok no, not at all, I mean they are gorgeous, such young, thin, women and men OMG Jaja they are so handsome, but I’m not there to be a model, of course I dress up, and I’m constantly checking on my lipgloss, hairstyle etc.. But that is just for my work, to be well presented.
What qualities do you think you need to get an internship?
First of all, willing to invest time to search one, and then, be committed to the work, and sometimes even if you don’t get paid at the beginning knowing that it is for your CV and being around, you get a lot of knowledge.
SOME GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT INTERNSHIPS IN PARIS
First of all it’s important to keep in mind that being on a paid internship status, there are some really precise laws to be respected.
Internship’s Salary: 2 months
The monthly internship remuneration can go up to 436.05€ (2013), considered as not enough to cover all interns expenses. In other cases, 2 months internships might not be remunerated at all, however this could change thanks to a law that forbids non remunerated internships, that congressman have recently voted.
It’s not always obligatory, so we advice you to ask your employer for the enterprise internship politics; but if it does, you can be sure that it will start running from your first day of internship and only if you are working for more than 2 months, as established by the law.
If you want to find more about it. Here are a few links where you can find some interesting information and Internship offers.
By Joanna Reid & Rudy Tun-Sanchez