With the industry connected on a global scale, the fashion world has become a global influence. As a global giant, the fashion industry is a dream career goal for many. Fashion United reported on the industry’s employment in the UK, with more than half a million people working within fashion in some capacity. In this article, we explore the different recruitment processes across the world, to give you as many routes for consideration as possible.
The UK leads the way as a key player in the fashion industry, setting trends for party dresses and casual wear alike. In 2016, the UK exported $9.2 billion worth of clothing, which shows how interconnected British fashion is with the rest of the world. Although styles and trends may have become similar across various countries, does the workforce behind the fashion differ?
According to Fashion United, the industry only makes up a small portion of many countries’ employment rate. In France, approximately 1.13% of the entire labour force works in fashion-related jobs, while the rate is 1.12% in the US, 0.98% in the Netherlands, and just 0.81% in Germany. Interestingly the UK labour force shows the highest percentage of employees in fashion, with approximately 1.68%.
But although the workforce is comparatively small in many countries, the industry pulls in a lot of economic success. For example, in the US, the fashion industry has a domestic market value (DMV) of $385.7 billion, while in the UK, this figure reaches around £94.1 billion. The German fashion sector has a DMV of about $83.6 billion, and in France and the Netherlands, this number hits approximately $43.3 billion and $16.5, respectively.
So, what are the different routes into the fashion industry in different countries? In the US, internships are very popular, potentially due to the fact that guidelines created by the US Labor Department make it relatively simple for companies to hire interns. Many American university students use their summer breaks to carry out internships at fashion firms and this not only gives them real-life experience in the sector, but also shows a future fashion employer that they have the confidence and proactiveness to succeed while still learning.
France’s economy benefits greatly from its fashion industry. According to reports, fashion is the greatest growth sector in the country, which suggests that it will require greater levels of employment to keep up with demand. Fashion degrees are very popular in France, and like the UK, its fashion schools consistently rank highly for student experience and course quality.
Naturally, French universities have a broad selection of fashion-related courses, with a keen focus on practical skills that can be used in a professional setting. Director of management programmes at Institute Français de la Mode (IFM), Françoise Sackrider, said: “At IFM, we have our eyes set on the job market”.
Fashion students from around the world would jump at the chance to gain a place on a French fashion course – luckily, private French fashion school ESMOD focuses heavily on opening its doors to international students. Consequently, French fashion companies and houses recruit many international, as well as French, employees.
Across in Japan, the economy there enjoys a yearly average of $96 billion USD from its fashion sector. In Japan, it is customary for fashion houses to promote from within. This means that showing practical experience and starting from a low level with the determination to climb is key to succeeding in the Japanese fashion industry, making programmes like internships key to progression.
As the country faces an increasingly aged population, Japan has turned to international recruitment to support its fashion sector. Does this suggest that breaking into fashion for Japanese nationals is currently easier, due to less competition, than it may be for other nationalities in their home countries? To combat the issue, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is working to attract more international fashion designers to Japan and make it simpler for them to work legally here for longer periods. Once numbers of international employees begin flooding into the Japanese fashion industry, this will almost certainly change how national workers and students break into the sector.
Over in Europe, the EU generally experiences success in the fashion industry, save for Germany. In early July, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, met with members of the Fashion Council Germany (FCG) to discuss essential funding — approximately €30 million — that was required to support development programmes. Currently, no German fashion schools feature in the latest top ten global fashion schools’ rankings lists compiled by Business of Fashion. So, considering that there will potentially be governmental investment, the industry might channel more funds into academic fashion courses and create more practical recruitment routes to improve the health of the sector.
The fashion industry varies quite a bit between countries. But how can you forge a rewarding career in the UK?
A career in fashion in Britain
For those living in the UK and wanting a career in fashion, you already have a great start. The UK is one of the best countries in the world when it comes to fashion schools and recent rankings prove that studying here is a great way to get onto the career ladder.
The Global Fashion School Rankings named four of the top ten undergraduate fashion schools as UK schools, and three of the top ten graduate fashion schools were also British. What’s more, the UK clinched the top spot in both lists, with Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design coming first in both the undergraduate and graduate categories. Also making the top five were London College of Fashion as an undergraduate school and Royal College of Art as a graduate establishment.
Roles like fashion design and marketing would clearly benefit from having attended a fashion school. But of course, this is not the only route into the industry available in the UK. Institutions such as the Fashion Retail Academy and Fashion Enter offer a range of apprenticeship courses — like merchandising and garment technology — to thousands of students every year, while the UK government also promotes apprenticeship opportunities in this sector, if you’re aged 16 years or over.
Another potential way into the industry is through internships. There are an estimated 70,000 internships on offer every year in the UK and gaining hands-on, practical experience can help you develop and learn at a quicker rate than taking a more academic, school-structured path. Although, it should be noted that unpaid internships in the fashion industry are still common.
You can bolster your CV with work experience too. Researching fashion companies and requesting experience is tough, but key to creating a career in fashion. Even if you work in a clothing store, this is experience — plus, you can ask to try visual merchandising to develop your sills on the job.
Be ready for competition, whatever you’re applying for. According to Alexandra Alberta Yeo of jewellery brand, Alexandra Alberta: “Fashion jobs include everything from photography and styling, to merchandising, buying and designing. Home in one area and then go from there.”
The hardest part of getting into the fashion industry is getting your foot in the door. So, regardless of country, you need to choose a branch of fashion that you enjoy and excel at. Once you’re in, you can start moving across different departments.
There are plenty of opportunities for those dreaming of a career in fashion. Work out which area you want to progress in, then establish which route — degree, apprenticeship or internship — will help you succeed the quickest.