It’s no secret that the fashion industry is competitive—it’s pretty much like The Hunger Games, except that instead of people savagely killing you with swords, they kill your ego and then ask you to come back for more.
This is an industry for the thick skinned crocodiles out there; this isn’t an industry where you can have mixed feelings, or worse, no sense of your path to industry power.
Last month, I introduced myself and my story thus far as an intern in the fashion industry to readers.
Since then, I’ve been graciously invited to cultivate a column– sharing stories and insights– and will no doubt be narrating the whole thing in my head as Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project. My premier goal is to help clarify just one possible path the fashion-inspired can take on their way to professional respect and success.
I’ll start by saying that before my current design internship in Manhattan, I had only visited the city once; I had no connections, no family, and no friends on the east coast.
Landing the Job
After graduating a year ago, my search for an opportunity had come to a dramatic end: someone, my current boss, was willing to take a chance on a 24-year-old baby with no design background, but plenty of other ingredients, that, when culminated into a Skype interview, was enough to land me my first break in the city.
And I couldn’t have done any of it—the cover letters, the interviews, the moving to a foreign land– without my supportive family, who continue to aid my ambitions and lay that golden parachute beneath me.
The easiest part of moving is buying the airfare. Everything else—it’s like going on a first date and you’re not sure whether you’ll come out as Jane Bennett or Jane Eyre. I limited myself to 2.5 suitcases: two checked and one carry-on. It wasn’t that hard to say goodbye to my old things; I’ve always been an “out with the old, in with the new” kind of person.
Moving to Manhattan
As a fashion girl, I made sure I had the essentials among the holy trinity: clothing, accessories, and beauty. I’m no different than anyone else who underestimates the terminator power needed to haul two oversized suitcases, a weekend bag, and a handbag. It’s not graceful, I thought to myself, but this is it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.
My destiny will come through fire and through hail. I can be dramatic. So I saw an opportunity and I took it.
As Whitney Port once said to Mama Wolf (Kelly Cutrone), “I don’t wanna be an average person.” So I left for New York without any backup plan. I knew I didn’t need one. Conviction can be your best friend when the road is uncertain.
Renting in Manhattan is basically like paying a mortgage in any other city, except maybe Los Angeles and D.C. And until I was settled, I wasn’t about to put down heavy coin for a place that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure of.
Though just like everything else in the city, my plans to stay with a girlfriend changed quickly and I was back to square one, boarding a flight to JFK alone. I told myself that it’d be alright: I’m basically like Emma Stone in The Help, running toward my future with an insanely cute hairdo and a work ethic that’s laced with Red Bull and gravitas.
Slight admission: I did have one friend in the city that I could call up, and that was a girlfriend I had grown up with and that had just moved in with her family near Manhattan. After a bunch of circles and yearning looks toward the taxis trailing each other down the arrivals lanes, my girlfriend picked me up and I stayed my first night in Jamaica, Queens (that’s a whole other borough to the north of Manhattan: about a 10 minute train ride into uptown).
Let me tell you: the residential houses look just like they do in the movies: the facades are faded, there are single patches of tulips decorating the severed sidewalks, and everyone basically looks like they belong in a Clint Eastwood movie.
The next morning was a hustle: I stayed in a youth hostel located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—“cozy” is the term offered by the hostel’s website. East Williamsburg is a rough part of town. On showing me nearby train stations, my driver asked me if I was scared. It was at that moment that I realized that I was in a bit of a pickle. I remembered that one of my mother’s childhood friends has a son who lives and works in Manhattan. I quickly messaged her on Facebook and begged to get in touch with him. My new friend from the Financial District called me up and graciously let me crash on his sofa for what was theoretically supposed to be two days.
It’s been nine days, three new friendships, and a handful of inside jokes and new experiences. I’ve basically been adopted by three insane older brothers who dress in suits and ties. Chaos, but the good kind of chaos.
Starting My New Job
Now, a few words on my footwear design internship: I’ve completed my first week at a design house in the Garment District.
Your appearance does matter. Most will make an effort, I’ve observed, and interns are no exception, especially if you want your opinion to be asked.
Figuring out what time your boss usually arrives in the morning is a must: there will always be delayed trains and you must pick up the pace before you’re late—meaning boss lady has already arrived and you look ungrateful to be there. It happens, but it shouldn’t happen that often.
You’ll mistake your uptown trains for your downtown ones and you’ll throw your hand in the air, hoping a taxi will evaporate your negligent geography skills. Oh, and the weekends are for having fun.
Just make sure that you’ve got protective friends and Uber on speed dial.