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So You Want to Work In Fashion?

Your insider guide to breaking into the international fashion scene

WORK IN FASHION

In the age of Anne Hathaway’s Devil Wears Prada, working in fashion has been made to seem like this uncrackable conquest. And while the movie’s take might have been exaggerated for dramatic effect, it certainly is not far from reality.

We spoke with four Egyptian women who have successfully broken into the international fashion scene about how they got their jobs, and what you can do to get them, too!

COFFEE RUNS IN HIGH-HEEL STILETTOS: CATHY’S COME-UP

Image courtesy of Cathy Dayoub

Cathy Dayoub, 24, is a creative producer at Jacquemus. But before she landed her job at one of the world’s most trending fashion houses, she was in internships climbing her way up.

Dayoub studied fashion at Performance Design & Practice at Central Saint Martins, one of the most esteemed art schools in the world. She started interning every summer during her four years in college, both to see what she liked and to learn the intricacies of the industry. She interned at Karla Otto in the PR team, helping out with showrooms and fashion shows. The next year, she interned with Another Team as a junior stylist, coordinating the styling pieces for the shoots. Dayoub went on to move to Paris, where she did a placement year to work in production. This was one of the many fields that she wanted to discover within the business of fashion.

Image coutesy of Cathy Dayoub

“By exploring all these different jobs within this industry, it really helped sort out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be straight after I graduated.” Dayoub told ELLE “I was lucky enough to meet and work with people who worked in so many different fields. It gave me the chance to experiment with a bit of everything and helped me have a clearer idea of what I wanted to do.”

Dayoub tells us the importance of her many experiences interning at different places, from fashion houses to magazines, and how she made sure to really get around the industry both to make a name for herself and to better understand where she wanted to fall in the circle.

Her biggest piece of advice is to start working as soon as you get a chance, even if you’re not quite sure what it is exactly that you want to be doing. She has found that being in the heart of the industry was the biggest thing that helped in finding her way, “It’s by discovering lots of things and meeting people with experience that you’ll really figure it out.”

FROM THE HEART OF IT: HEND CLIMBS THE LADDER

Image courtsey of Ambre Ruiz

Hend Sallam, 20, is a student at ESMOD, a top fashion school in Paris. Sallam is another example of starting your pursuit of a fashion career early. Besides studying Marketing & Communications Strategy in Fashion, she interned twice at the French luxury fashion house Balmain.

At 18, Sallam made her first official entrance into the fashion world as a sales advisor at the Balmain flagship in Paris, a role she acquired through networking. “Network. Network. Network.” She stresses the importance of building relationships within the industry, “That can involve updating your LinkedIn profile regularly or even walking up to strangers at an event.”

Last summer, she went back to Balmain as a digital marketing assistant. This time around, Sallam was able to sit in on a few meetings, pushing her a step up the knowledge ladder, and providing an opportunity to peer into the inner workings of the industry, “My apprenticeship taught me perseverance as I had to keep up with the label’s fast pace. It also showed me how to deliver efficient and adequate results in a prompt manner.”

But does an education in fashion make a difference, we asked Sallam. “Obviously, studying in a prominent fashion school in Paris has been a huge asset. My university provides us with various job offers thanks to their partnerships and connections. I’ve sent a plethora of cover letters and resumes to my professors and guest lecturers who are always happy to help.”

Image courtsey of Hend Sallam

Sallam finds finally being in the rooms she’s always dreamed of surreal and rewarding. “Since I was around 8 years old, I had fixated on my dream of working in the fashion industry. It consumed me. My hobbies, lifestyle, and activities all revolved around fashion. I already felt immersed in this universe which is what made me feel like I belonged.”

One of her biggest tips, she tells us, is digitally putting yourself out there. “Your social media platform can be one of the easiest, and swiftest ways to stand out in a continuously rapid and growing industry. After moving to Paris to study Fashion Business, I’ve noticed a specific shift in the way that I use social media and how I depict myself through it. I now use it as an open portfolio where I upload my latest photography and artistic direction projects. After a while, I noticed that a few magazines and artists began to follow me and like my content. A simple change and action can go a long way.”

Of course, she’s not blind to the competition. “It is a highly competitive field that never rests. It can be awfully overwhelming and can make you feel like a grain of sand on an open-wide beach. I’ve applied to hundreds of positions, the majority of which never replied. It can be extremely frustrating and even discouraging at times due to the high amount and level of competition. Thankfully, this struggle has mended my dedication and helped me pursue my career with excitement and determination.”

LAURA LOVES THE GLITZ AND GLAMOUR

Image courtsey of Laura Dayoub

Laura Dayoub, 24, is completing her first design internship at Elie Saab, which, she says, is a world of its own. Dayoub first completed a bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication at Loughborough University in England. She then followed it with a degree in fashion design at the Institute Marangoni in Milan.

Breaking into the industry isn’t an easy feat. The key, Dayoub tells us, is to be a great storyteller “You have to know your craft, you have to understand that design isn’t simply about drawing something you think people will like. It’s about execution as well, the fit, the silhouette, finding the right fabric, and knowing how to cut it.”

Image courtsey of Laura Dayoub

“Obviously, finding your place is quite difficult as the industry is so intertwined, that everything merges to create a final image and product. From the design point of view, the most challenging is the technical side, creating a garment is a form of engineering, and there’s a lot of precision that goes into it. You have to find the right balance between construction and creativity.”

FROM THE BOTTOM UP: AMINA KHALIL BUILDS HER BRAND

Image courtsey of Amina Khalil

From coffee runs to building her own brand, Amina Khalil is an inspiring example of success for women looking to make a name for themselves in the industry.

Khalil started as an editorial intern at Pashion Magazine in her senior year in high school. From fashion shoots to editorial work, she helped with whatever she could get her hands on. Later, she studied Design & Marketing at The America Intercontinental School in London and then did extensive design, pattern-making, and fashion business courses at Central Saint Martins, London.

The designer’s education gave her a strong technical background and allowed her to develop her research skills. It allowed for great exposure to other talented students and teachers, as well as room to play and experiment to find her own style. “Once you have your foot in the door you can prove yourself.”

She later interned at British fashion designer Matthew Williamson in London, where she worked in the production department, putting together packets that would then be sent to India. Here was her first experience witnessing pattern-making and sampling. She then moved into the PR department, helping with celebrity placements. Finally moving to the distribution department in charge of shipping their collections to their stores and points of sale.

Khalil also interned at the Diane von Fürstenberg (DVF) sales office in London and assisted several times at the London Fashion Week tent. It was her extensive and diversified experience in the fashion business that made way for her to launch her design house Amina K back in Cairo when she graduated from university.

Having come the whole way from starting out as an intern to having her own fashion brand, Khalil has a clear idea on how to stand out as a designer and entrepreneur, “You need to have a purpose behind your brand, an edge. Really think about why you are doing what you are doing, and if you are providing something different, new, and in demand. Today people have access to everything, the brands that stand out are the ones that have depth and a strong identity. Never compromise quality, you want to make something that will last. If your quality is good, people will keep coming back.”

She finds that building a good team is a crucial part of the process, and that can pose a challenge to many people “As a designer you are only as strong as your team is.”

At the end of the day, Khalil finds the most fulfilling part of her career is watching her ideas come to life and seeing people feeling good about themselves in the garments she designed and produced. “I know the power of a good outfit; it can really change how you feel about yourself.”

To wrap up, it is important to highlight that landing and successfully maintaining such internship or job opportunities come with a lot of commitment, hard work and dedication. You might find yourself working long hours and weekends, especially in high-demand seasons such as fashion week and sales campaigns. If you are not up to it, there are hundreds of other girls and guys waiting to take your place.

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