Guide to Fashion Internships, Placements & Work Experience

Find university work experience with the best student employers in the fashion industry

fashion internships

Move over Louis Vuitton; there's a new generation of fashionistas in the neighbourhood.

If you're looking for a career in the fashion industry, whether that's discovering the latest trends or rubbing shoulders with the industry's heavy-hitters, we've got all you need to know about what opportunities are available to you and how to get them.

Why choose a career in the fashion industry?

Fashion is big business. In 2021, eCommerce in the fashion industry was worth over £559 billion globally.

Currently, over 555,000 people in the UK work in the fashion industry. That figure is growing daily and could include you too.

The fashion industry is also incredibly diverse. There are six main areas that you can get involved in...

  • Textile design and production... Fashion begins with the design and creation of fabric. Individuals within this sector work hard to create textiles by sourcing raw materials that'll later turn into fabrics for designers to use in clothing and accessories.
  • Fashion design and production... Haute Couture or the high street, the world of the designer is one of the most riveting aspects of the industry. Whether you want to design for the runway or assist in an atelier, this sector will become your home.
  • Retail... From shop floor to head office, retail is fashion's biggest asset. It's also the first step aboard the fashion career train. Many of those who started on the shop floor are now big names in visual merchandising, buying, or heavily involved in eCommerce.
  • Public Relations (PR)... Making sure businesses look good, one stitch at a time. Those who work within PR help build a brand's reputation through various channels - mainly through media.
  • Marketing... The minds behind the latest must-haves. Fashion marketing links the brand to its customers through promotional assets. Here you'll get to create global campaigns that include everything from social media to advertising.
  • Media... Working with designers, marketing officers and PR agents to create the stunning content you see in glossy magazines like Vogue and Elle.

How can you get your dream job in fashion?

People employed by the fashion industry come from various backgrounds, with all sorts of degree areas and qualifications. However, if you want to go into product design, a design-related degree will be necessary.

Degrees include:

  • Fashion design
  • Fashion textiles
  • Fashion marketing
  • Fashion styling
  • Fashion management

It's also possible to have degrees in other subjects that still hold relevance to the fashion industry, as long as you have a keen interest in fashion and some proven experience to show.

Students with degrees in the following areas often move into fashion...

  • Humanities
  • Marketing
  • Graphic design
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Languages

The best way to get into the fashion industry is by gaining work experience through an internship or a placement. It's fashion gold, as the industry thrives on internships.

Fashion Internships and Placements

Internships and placements are just like a Birkin bag. Highly sought after and catnip for employers.

The more work experience you can sensibly cram in before you graduate, the better it'll look to potential employers.

They boost your employability by a gazillion per cent. We know this because 46% of students hired by our Best Student Employers have previously completed a placement or internship.

What are fashion internships?

A fashion internship is an opportunity to work for a company and take on real tasks that a permanent employee would be expected to do.

It's also a chance to get real work experience and develop your professional skills.

Internships take place over the summer and can last between 1-4 months, allowing you to work between academic years. They're generally open to second-year university students, but first and third years are also welcome to apply.

It's the number one way to begin a career in the fashion industry and forge lasting contacts. Several of fashion's hottest names started as interns:

  • Fashion's very own “Kaiser” Karl Lagerfeld interned at Balmain before becoming the creative director of Chanel.
  • Designer Alexander McQueen interned at prestigious Savile Row tailors Anderson & Shepard before starting his iconic brand.
  • Stella McCartney interned at Christian Lacroix at the age of 16.

Apply for Fashion Internships

How much does an internship pay?

According to reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, the average salary for interns is £22,291 on a pro-rata basis.

Never be afraid to discuss your salary. Internships are there to help prepare you for your future. So you have every right to find out how much you're going to be paid.

Where can I find them, and what about unpaid internships?

Unfortunately, unpaid internships still lurk within the fashion industry. However, recent years have seen the industry improve at creating paid opportunities for students. So don't accept anything less than a paid internship.

Fashion Workie is a great place to look. Like us here at RateMyPlacement.co.uk, they believe in paid internships and placements and only advertise paid roles.

Business of Fashion is fantastic for international internships. Perfect if you want to get paid work experience in the fashion capitals of Paris, Milan or New York.

Us! RateMyPlacement.co.uk often advertise paid fashion internship opportunities.

Check your university/course intranets and speak to lecturers or career advisors. Intranets will often advertise internships or direct you to places where you can find them.

What are fashion placements?

Placements are programmes where students spend an academic year working for a company as full-time employees before finishing their degree.

Although optional for many students, there are courses that require a placement year. They are sometimes referred to as ‘sandwich courses' or a ‘year in industry'.

Ultimately placements are another way of gaining valuable experience before graduation.

Placement students also receive a salary. According to the thousands of super insightful reviews on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, the average salary for a placement student is £19,158.

Apply for Fashion Placement Jobs

What internships and placements are available to me?

There are hundreds of roles within the industry, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to find the internship or placement that suits you.

Remember, you'll get stuck in right from day one. Below you'll find some examples of what's available and all the tasks you'll potentially be doing.

Fashion PR Internships and Placements

The world of fashion PR (public relations) is fast. The hours are long, and the workload is immense, but the benefits are a-plenty.

Fashion PR is the promotion of clothing and accessory brands through paid media. This includes print, online media, TV, music or film.

PR agents work with magazines, TV producers, stylists and designers to boost a brand's reputation among the people and help determine its exclusivity. Fancy.

Celebrities are a huge part of fashion PR. Ever watched a red carpet? Clothes worn by your faves are quite literally chosen by a stylist who's contacted the PR of a particular designer.

During an internship or placement, you'll get to grips with showroom management, helping to organise events and fashion shows, VIP related duties and general queries.

PR agents also work closely with marketing teams to create magical campaigns.

Fashion Marketing Internships and Placements

Fashion marketing agents are the industry's answer to Kris Jenner. It's arguably the most essential part of the fashion world.

Marketing is the promotion of brands that ultimately lead to sales. This is done by creating campaigns that'll be seen through advertising, social media posts, email newsletters and SMS messaging.

A fasion marketeer could also work on...

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Analytics
  • Graphics and design

As a fashion marketing agent, you'd need to be on top of the latest trends, have a creative eye and get along with people - you're going to be collaborating with individuals across the industry.

Fashion Design Internships and Placements

If you fancy yourself the next Gucci, an internship or placement in fashion design is precisely what the fashion gods ordered.

It's a chance to work alongside a designer. Whether in a private atelier or a design studio, you'll see clothing production from paper to mannequin.

It's not likely that a design intern or placement student will design any pieces. However, you will be heavily involved in the processes surrounding design, such as...

  • Researching current trends
  • Buying fabrics and placing orders with suppliers
  • Pattern cutting & sewing
  • Getting showrooms ready for clients
  • Studio management
  • Administrative tasks such as sending emails, taking phone calls, and dealing with enquiries

You'll also understand the business side of fashion design.

Interns and placement students go on to work as studio assistants or as part of an atelier. Some even go on to design and sell their own collections.

Fashion Journalism and Editorial Internships

Also known as editorial, these are for those who love to comment on and write about fashion.

A fashion journalist will write about everything fashion. This could be anything from the latest fashion news to interviews with notable people within the industry, to editing and fact-checking.

You'll also be expected to develop relationships with PR agents, designers and other important figures within the industry. So be prepared to network.

Employers are also looking for candidates with some experience in Adobe programmes like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. If you're not too familiar with them, loads of free online tutorials are available.

Photography is also a great skill to learn as many publications prefer to use original photos rather than use a site like Getty.

Fashion Retail Internships

This bustling section of the industry is fast-paced and fashion's biggest export.

An internship in retail doesn't necessarily mean working on a shop floor. It's also very diverse, with dozens of roles that range from customer-facing to head office to creative.

Some internships and placements in retail include...

  • Retail management
  • Ecommerce administration
  • Product development
  • Buying
  • Merchandising
  • CRM administration

FUN FACT: Before Anna Wintour became the poster woman for a bob and sunglasses and Vogue's editor-in-chief, she started her career as a retail assistant at the then-popular Biba and then did a training program at Harrods.

International Fashion Internships and Placements

Do you love fashion and want to explore the world at the same time? An international internship could be right up your runway.

International internships and placements are a marvellous way to gain work experience, learn key skills and discover new cultures. They're also fantastic networking opportunities.

There are plenty of internships and placements available in various cities worldwide, including New York, Milan, Paris or Seoul.

Schemes last four weeks to a year, and you'll need to apply well before the start date. This is because it takes a lot of planning and paperwork.

It's important to know that you have to pay for international internships and placements. Schemes start at around £1,000 and can cost as much as £2,500.

The fee will largely cover visas, flights and accommodation.

It's also a fantastic opportunity to make some international buddies and contacts along the way, as you'll probably live with or join a group of interns in the same city.

How to apply for work experience

The application process for internships or placements is like applying for a graduate role.

You'll need to get your work experience CV in order and write a dazzling cover letter. Most jobs will require you to fill in an online application form.

Do check the application requirements as some employers might want you to supply extra assets or a portfolio of work. The great thing is that your portfolio can also include coursework and work you might have done outside of university.

If your CV, cover letter and portfolio impress, the next stage will involve a quick telephone interview. This is an employer's chance to learn more about you. They'll also ask you to complete a task.

The task can be anything from writing 300 words on the importance of a cashmere sweater to designing a capsule collection for rich three-year-olds - it all depends on what you've applied for. You'll also be given a deadline by which to complete your task.

It's a way for employers to see your creativity, how you can follow a brief and stick to deadlines.

After, you'll be formally invited to either a video or face-to-face interview. Some internship and placement application processes also involve assessment centres where you'll have a face-to-face interview and take part in group tasks.

Fashion work experience reviews

Here at RateMyPlacement, we're committed to helping young people make well-informed decisions about their careers. That's why we publish thousands of reviews of placements, internships and insights, all submitted by real students like you.

Get the real tea on what it's like to work in the fashion industry. There are currently over 100 reviews in fashion spanning various sectors, including ecommerce, marketing, buying and fashion design.

Read Fashion Work Experience Reviews