Getting into the fashion industry around the world

Recruitment into the fashion sector varies country by country. According to Fashion United, more than half a million people work in fashion-related industries in the UK — but which routes of recruitment did they take to get there?

So, how can you get into fashion in the UK and what are the differences across the world?

Global fashion recruitment

The UK has long been a powerful and respected player in the global fashion game. 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?

Fashion United research shows that, apparently, workers within fashion constitute just a fraction of labour forces in many nations. 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%.

Across the board, fashion attracts a lot of cash and investment. 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.

But what about recruiting staff in fashion specifically? Are there significant changes, country by country? 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.

French fashion is an integral part of the country’s economy. 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.

Due to the popularity and money-making opportunities in fashion, French higher education establishments often provide a broad scope of relevant courses, from merchandising to design. Plus, there tends to be a strong focus on teaching students the practical aspects of fashion — such as textiles and construction techniques — as well as how to transfer these skills to the professional environment. 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 all over the globe head to France to learn fashion. ESMOD (a private fashion school in Paris) has strived for several years to become a leader in fashion education for international students. Consequently, French fashion companies and houses recruit many international, as well as French, employees.

In Japan, the clothing industry turns over around $96 billion USD a year, which makes it an important feature of the national economy. Here, 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.

Japan has an ageing population, which is making it critical for the fashion sector to persuade employees from other nations to head to Japan to work. 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? 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 there for longer periods. It’s fair to argue that, as soon as international employees start infiltrating the Japanese fashion industry, the nation will see a change in how people are recruited.

However, the German fashion industry is potentially not enjoying the same levels of prosperity and progress as other nations. 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.

Global fashion industries are clearly diverse with regard to breaking into them — but how can you get your foot in the door in the UK?

Recruitment in the UK fashion industry

The UK fashion sector is thriving. Whether you’re dream is to design stunning, sequin dresses or oversee the running of the world’s most famous fashion shows, the opportunity is there. 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.

We mentioned the Global Fashion School Rankings by Business of Fashion earlier in this article — did you know that this research showed that four of the top ten undergraduate fashion schools and three of the top ten graduate fashion schools are located in the UK? 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.

Attending university and fashion schools that offer credible course in the industry is a great route to take. But of course, this is not the only way 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.

Popular in the US, internships are another option. 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.

Showing initiative and applying for work experience at relevant venues will also enhance your CV for a rewarding career in fashion. 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.

Competition, in any country, is a big obstacle to overcome. 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.”

When carving out a career in fashion, you need to consider your competition and think how you can stand out. 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.

Overall, it’s clear that the world is your oyster if you want a job 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.