The Survival Guide To The NYC Fashion Internship

Congratulations! You’ve joined the prestigious underpaid few who are lucky enough to get yelled at by trailblazers in the fashion industry. Whether it be a PR, editorial, or designer internship, you’ll be spending the next few months entranced in the fast paced and fabulous world that is Manhattan Fashion. Unlike most of your other not-so-lucky friends, you will call the NYC fashion scene your home for this hot sweltering summer. Floods of industry hopefuls surge into the city daily with rose-colored glasses without knowing all the areas you can fuck up. If you think for a second that the fashion industry is far different from that portrayed in The Devil Wears Prada, you’re wrong. It’s just as (if not more) cutthroat—and even more fabulous. Take these tips and take these to heart. Most of us weren’t so lucky to be as well prepped as you now will be.

1. Prepare for it

You won’t find your mentor in the first week. Your only friends will be other interns – but you’ll still be competing for the role of trustworthy, go to intern. Yes, the rumors are true and the people can b ruthless. So curb your girdles and get ready for an intense, rewarding, and fabulous internship.

2. Never refer to yourself as a slave — especially not in front of your boss

There are girls all over the country who would murder their siblings to work in NYC fashion. You are luck to even be in the presence of these great fashion houses. Bite your tongue and remember everyone starts somewhere.

3. Coffee

If you haven’t already, invest in a reusable coffee mug and coffee maker. Your internship is your first impression to the fashion world. If you’re always yawning, you will not make a good impression — if any.

4. Pick a simple makeup routine and stick to it

Leave the heavy stuff for the photo shoots. Mornings are hectic and you need every minute of your beauty rest to handle the 9-6.

5. If you’re commuting into the city, always leave 20 min early

Traffic and delays are bitches nobody can control. NYC employers are always nervous about the reliability of commuters. If you don’t plan for traffic and delays you’re a rookie. And when you’re consistently early… Well enjoy that post grad offer.

6. Errands are unavoidable

Fashion moguls are busy, pushing clients, designs, samples, press and 1 million other things you have no idea about it. Running to Home Depot is the job of someone who doesn’t play an essential role – well besides the bitch work. Get used to it. Once you’re out of the intern pool you’ll only run the fabulous errands – if any.

7. Get every NYC navigation map / app possible

Embark NY, NYC Subway Map, Transit App, NJ Transit MyTix to name a few. Besides getting to and from work in one piece on time, when you’re told to run errands you never want to ask “where is it”. They may say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but in a world as severe as fashion: there is – especially when there are so many ways to avoid asking it.

8. Reevaluate what you wear

On the first day, you’ll want to dress professional, and simple. You can fit in with a casual or strict office flow. After that, tuck in your bra straps, cover midriffs, and for god’s sake wear something under your chiffon blouse. Professionalism and sexy are only delicately synonymous, and when its not: its sloppy. Look up some good thrift stores. You’ll be expected to be well dressed; Forever 21 is rarely acceptable in the grown-up world — let alone grown-up fashion. Now being sensible: you’re broke. At a department store, $70 barely buys half a blouse. At a thrift store you can get at least three pieces, and your coworkers will be impressed with your savvy shopping.

9. Learn what fashion sneakers are

Comfortable, cute, and reliable for all those crosstown errands. Everyone wants to look fabulous in heels, but after 3 hours, you want nothing more than to put pillows on your feet. Be sensible. When you’re a VP and sit all day you can wear 4 inch red bottoms everyday. For now, grab a funky pair of Nikes.

10. Similarly, have good rain shoes on retainer

Rubber flats or booties are far easier to walk in than full rain boots, and if you think you won’t be walking in the rain in NYC—just quit your job now.

11. A workbag is mandatory

You may not want to carry around a big bulky bag — but trust me, its necessary. Pack some beauty and life essentials:

Red Lipstick, mascara, perfume, hairbrush, hair spray (and don’t forget a hair tie).

Photo provided by Melissa Vitale
Photo provided by Melissa Vitale

You never know that the day involves, but chances are you’ll sweat and your makeup will wear. Red lipstick is an instant outfit pick-me-up. All the others you’ll be thankful you have when that cute boy you met on tinder (NYC tinder boys are far better than all other tinder boys) asks you to grab a drink after work.

12. Snacks, chargers, sandals

You never know what the day could bring, but you definitely don’t want uncomfortable foot wear, an empty stomach, or a dead phone battery.

13. Notebook

Never leave without it. Take notes, and take notes again. When someone has to repeat something for you, they’ll do it with attitude, and they’ll make a scoff about already telling you. You do not want to be in that position.

Yes double bags are bulky, but when you don’t look like a mess and you don’t have to shove all those free samples in your handbag you’ll thank me. (You can always leave it overnight at the office!)

14. Pack your lunch as often as you can

While everyone loves to eat out in the city, unpaid or minimum wage internships will not support the $15-20 cost of meals daily or twice daily…unless your parents pay for everything in which case: we hate you.

15. Seamless

Learn it, live it, love it. If you didn’t bring your lunch, you don’t want to waste your precious lunch break running around midtown for a bowl of pad Thai—especially when Seamless does it for you.

16. Ask as many questions as possible without being annoying

While interns are often expected to speak only when spoken to, asking questions shows initiative and desire to learn. You’ll know more than the other interns, which is never a bad thing.

17. Ask (and remember) everyone’s name

Addressing someone with their first name makes shows them you are attentive to everything around you. Add them on linked in—when applying for jobs post-grad it pays to have multiple 2nd degree connections in the fashion world.

18. Take pictures and save everything you do

Build a portfolio of everything you’ve done and learned… And make all your followers and friends insanely jealous.

19. Enjoy it.

We all have to bide our time as interns. Sometimes it sucks: but an NYC fashion internship is your foot into the door of this elite industry. Now go fourth and make your grand entrance. TC mark

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