Almost everyone in the fashion world will tell you that The Devil Wears Prada accurately depicts what it’s like to be an intern within the industry. It’s a position that is difficult to get and once you do, its hard work with next-to-no glamour; all for the
stipend passion. Here are the real-life diary entries of a South African fashion intern. My first internship was part of an experiential learning course at fashion school. I elected to intern for a newspaper, eager to get into the media industry. For years (like so many others), I read and collected magazines, hoping to one day write the articles bound beneath the covers. My days were tough and non-stop busy — but I loved it.
I’ve been unable to sit still since forever, so running around sourcing clothing was fun to me. All of this sourcing would then lead up to shoot day, which allowed me to see the inner workings of stylists and editors. Naturally, on the day of the shoot, it was decided that someone’s mind had been changed and we desperately needed to find ten all-white sneakers, for another someone to then say it looked “nice, in an ugly kind of way.”
My misfortune was being stuck with an intern who loathed being there. Her willingness and dedication was tested, and when it failed, she resorted to an ensue of complaints which reflected badly on us both.
Being myself, there was one instance of self-induced, utter disaster. One morning, I was asked to clear-out the beauty cupboard. While trying to remove something stuck onto a bottle of nail polish, I accidentally broke the bottle, resulting in a splatter of orange paint everywhere — including the editors white T-shirt!
My experience overall at the publication was incredible: in a short time, I was able to learn so much. The current editor of the publication said that I was the best intern she’s had from my school, of which I am very proud.
Flash-forward to a couple of years later, when I experienced my second fashion internship. This time, I was assisting at one of South Africa’s Fashion Week’s. The internship was for 3 days and I was assigned to the marketing team.
Here, I saw the chaos that goes into the production of a fashion show event. Everything was last-minute, from the time I got a call-back, to the actual happenings on the days. Being here reaffirmed where I’d like to be: on the other side, collecting a media pass and writing all about it afterwards.
The experience was an enlightening one: from an observers point, I was able to learn about the people involved in the production-side of the shows and to see what happens on the front-line, from who’s invited to who actually pitches up.
As an intern, you need to be overly prepared, for any and everything that may pop-up. This time around, I was working with an intern who came fully prepared and willing. Every time someone needed a pen or a flash drive, she was there with it (note to self: this is exactly how you need to be!) Aside from ticketing, we had to cut drinks vouchers and put stickers on armbands.
Of course, my experience here was not a totally smooth one: First, we ‘broke’ a borrowed laptop by inserting the wrong charger in it, causing the already loose but inside to shift (thankfully, it was later fixed by a technician). To make matters worse, we became the interns who couldn’t even get printing done, after it took us 4 attempts of running uphill between the printing shop and the hotel. From not having enough cash, to not having a file that was readable to finally needing to have the work emailed instead. It was at this point when we were sent home for the day, our supervisor sitting with her head in her hands.
By the end of my 12-hour shifts at Fashion Week, with glimpses of the shows in-between, we were awarded with kind words for our efforts, from the most mundane tasks to the more exciting ones. Our final night drew to a close with some pinched deserts from the VIP section.
This is what the fashion world is like: getting your hands on whatever opportunity comes up, working hard and being willing to do whatever it takes to work your way up. The industry is small and competitive, so even having a chance at ‘making it’ in is no easy feat.