Get A Fashion Internship

A little over two years ago, I wrote a story on the last day of my first editorial internship at NYLON Singapore, “My Life As A NYLON Intern: Love At First Sight Or…” Months later, after starting this blog, I followed up that story by sharing my time as a fashion intern at Harper’s BAZAAR, “My Harper’s BAZAAR Internship: Fashion People Are…”

Courtesy: NYLON Singapore

Since, I’ve received numerous DMs from aspiring fashion journalists asking me for help on how to reach out to magazines. While I’ve moved on to interview 100+ media leaders (Mae Tan, Sharon Lim, Russel Wong, Niki Bruce, Daryll Alexius Yeo, Shawn Paul Tan, Jayden Tan, Preetipls, Adele Chan, among others), and have contributed to other titles like Buro Singapore and CLEO Magazine, I’m presently tackling employment uncertainty too.

Courtesy: Mae Tan

While I take these months to reach out to brands and agencies for full-time work (view my website, I’m officially free in August), I thought it’d be helpful to consolidate a how-to for students, overseas creatives and general enthusiasts on getting your (bruised) foot in the (slammed) door of the unglamorous fashion industry.

I have no experience, how?

Just because you don’t have fashion experience doesn’t mean you have no experience. Your commitments in and out of school can be great sells if you understand how those experiences have shaped you to be more equipped for the role you’re seeking.

Working retail at Topshop will not make you an expert trend forecaster, but it should have trained you to communicate sensitively to customers of different social needs. Editors are more likely to be lenient when assessing portfolios of potential interns, but that usually comes at them heightening expectations of you convincing them that you will prove their faith in you right.

Self awareness, i.e. humility, is perhaps one of the key indicators that a candidate might make a good intern. You’re probably in limbo in your career—just starting out, transitioning between fields, waiting for something big to happen—so expressing your situation clearly will assure your interviewer you acknowledge life and have probably considered how your internship can benefit it.

What stories should I show my editor/interviewer?

Covid-19 has definitely changed the way we tell and consume stories. Amidst circuit breaker, I’ve found more time to sit through personal writing as one alternative to human connection. Moving forward, we’ll hopefully see a more of an interest in longform online journalism.

That said, magazine editorials in the last few years has significantly faded into the background of social media culture saturated with street style photography and sexy selfies. Many brands have also reclaimed ownership of their storytelling—virtually every tech startup today has a blog on their website—leaving magazines to reiterate press releases and monopolise SEO (using more searched, clickable words) to justify editorial currency.

Is it possible today not to be judged by our Instagram presences? Why does everyone just happen to be sexy?

While those are perhaps more immediate concerns for editors, it’s still important for you to consider the landscape before adding to it. Approaching writing with a broader idea of creativity will be helpful in appreciating the occasionally mundane aspects of it. Show you can write, what you know, and that you know how. It’s like: have a personality, unless you’re an asshole.

What are ways to “hack” my internship?

Your internship should be as much a service to the magazine you’re at as a learning experience for you. It’s worth much more than a line on your CV, and you should take it seriously. It’s disheartening (and offensive) to have known of some interns (and frankly some full timers) who were not consciously grateful of their opportunity and platform to do good work.

Admittedly, your initial responsibilities as an intern will be disappointingly lame. But turn every why this? into what next? and you’ll quickly witness unexpected returns. Ordering your editor’s lunch can be a window of small talk expressing your shared interest in spicy food. Answering office phone calls could connect you with the PR of a big fashion brand.

How editors think: my intern can pick up loans = they can assist me on set = they can socialise with the creative team = they can work overtime = we can hang out after work = we might actually become more than professional friends. Okay, not all; but it’s still worth trying.

How to juggle internship and making money?

Ideally, you should apply for an internship while you’re still schooling (and getting pocket money from your parents). Otherwise, I’d suggest saving up a few months of expenses or take up a part-time job to supplement what you need.

Internships don’t pay much, if at all, but you can definitely benefit from it long-term by building connections, work experience, and transferable skills for future projects. If you intend to get a full-time job out of your internship, make sure you express that clearly to everyone who could help you. It’s never too much to ask until someone literally says, stop.

How can I apply my internship to life?

Speaking of transferable skills, fashion internships are extremely transferable work experiences. You’re managing expectations, learning through observation, developing your creative and professional voices, building connections with unexpected insiders (who could’ve predicted I’d spend an evening with Kim Lim, David Gan, Shaun Lee, the YSL Beauté PR team?)

You don’t always have to know where you’re going (your plans will fluctuate), but keep an open mind; as a general rule, say yes, especially to ideas of who you could be. Most of the people who have fancier titles have no reason how they got there—that should be truth enough that you can “make it” too. Build everything new on what you just did: you should always be trying something new.

Tips to start a fashion blog?

When I started this blog ~2 years ago, I was faced with the dilemma of: people don’t read, nobody cares about fashion. While fashion has certainly become more accessible thanks to social media and a consumer push for transparency, it continues to (and will always) be a subject that requires sincere studying, not unlike a business, technology or politics.

Despite what some fashion websites and influencers may perpetuate, fashion is not all about buying cool shit. It’s historically (arguably because it’s seen as a “women” business) been pegged as a joke, but it’s also one of the biggest industries in the world, supporting economies and multidisciplinary creative voices.

How can we tell fashion stories in a different way? I’ve realised that we often remove the human element from clothes and the wardrobes they belong in, which is why I’ve resorted to interviewing some my favourite people to ask them why they wear what they wear. For you, I hope you will explore the relevance of fashion to our lives (because it is), to enrich the lives of your friends who just want to shop.

All the best!