Fashion internships and mentoring

Christina and I have been having a discussion about mentoring and internships.

…my reason for emailing you is to ask you if you know anyone who especially takes time to mentor people who want to start their own clothing business, and I mean critiquing, *one-on-one,* their business plans, budgets, forecasting, scheduling, you name it. I currently live in Orange County, Calif., but am returning to my hometown in Oregon in the spring, especially to pursue eco-fashion. I know there is a eco-fashion company and I intend to email them to possibly do an internship, but I would also like to talk to someone who is a veteran of clothing business in general who might be local who is willing to advise.

I’ve had several experiences working with interns, both positive and negative, when I worked for somebody else and when I had my own company. Working with an intern is different depending on whether you’re dealing with them as an employee or as an employer and I’d like to discuss both. My reply to Christina is a blanket response but I’ll explain my points in a moment. This is what I sent to Christina based on the perspective of an employer:

About mentoring/interning: I know all that is hot and has been but what about just getting a job? Honestly, after all the experiences I’ve had, I’d much prefer an employee to an intern. Both imply an investment of my time and money but with an intern, the implication is they’ll be moving on so I won’t get a return out of them for the investment of my time. The value of what an intern does in “exchange” for training them is *at best* negligible but it’s usually a net loss. At least with what I do, what I train for etc. Employee is better, same or better training. I don’t see what the advantage is to be an intern. Maybe I’m not up on things? What am I missing, tell me if I’m totally wet.


First the downsides of internships. Internship programs are usually set up by the college one is attending and that is where the problem lies. When I was an employee working with interns, I didn’t know that; as an employer, I do. Maybe the potential interns out there are thinking it doesn’t matter what another employee thinks of you but it does. Even if you go on to chair one of the most prestigious departments in the country, that former employee you worked with may end up writing the most highly rated book in the business and know more about your purported skills and professionalism than anyone should know. Heh. Besides, you’re just as likely to find a permanent job through contacts with employees as you are with the employer. Make nice, do good work and it pays off.

As an employee, I never had a good experience with an intern; there are three basic problems. The first is attitude; many have an inflated perception of their own value. Coming from “good” colleges, the first thing they’d do is survey the staff to see where we had gone to school -or if we had as the case may be- and as our college was never as good a school as they attended, they proceeded to treat the rest of us as ignorant unwashed heathens. Some are very quick to correct on matters of which they understood little, there’s a huge disconnect between what they teach you in school and the way it’s really done in real life. The second problem was lack of commitment and reliability. Since interning is basically a volunteer job, I found I couldn’t expect them to show up on time or according to schedule. It’s difficult to rely on someone who’s attendance is more casual than paid staffing. Accordingly, many of them got make-work which was either of limited utility or of low priority; work created to keep them busy while we got the real work done. The biggest problem though was mismatching the job to the intern. I realize that many design interns get shuffled into the pattern department, having neither the interest or skills to make it work but something has to be done about this. Working in patterns requires a longer term commitment with full eight hour days. If an intern is assigned pattern work, it must be done on time and they must stay the course to correct it as many times as needed. It’s no fun getting stuck cleaning up somebody’s work.

As an employer, I had an intern I enjoyed very much. I didn’t get anything out of it but it was a good experience. I did it mostly because I was curious about how colleges developed internship programs. The college this woman went to had ridiculous expectations. Of course interns were expected to do whatever needed to be done but also, they had assignments they had to comply with that conflicted with the needs of the job. Some of the assignments amounted to out and out spying; an intern could get fired for collecting and presenting that kind of information to an outside party. Of all the nerve! Some assignments were ridiculous and illustrated that the college advisers understood very little about the commercial environment. For example, this woman was learning pattern work in style development. One of her assignments was to grade a pattern. Well, it’s not done like that in the workforce, many companies outsource that. Besides, you never go from style development straight to grading if you haven’t gotten any sales on it. Her school assignments were ridiculous. We had to fudge her assignments so she could get credit for the internship.

These days I’m unlikely to take on an intern mostly because of the time commitment. Since I’d only be training a pattern maker or sample maker, they’d need a lot of one on one training for a period of time before I could realize a return on my investment. Most internships are too short for that. Now, I would consider taking on someone as an employee provided I felt they could commit to working for me for a period of time. Another thing is they’d have to be bringing something else to the table, preferably skills I don’t have. If someone were good at organizing and administrative functions with a good head on their shoulders, they’d be immensely valuable to me (hint: the apartment behind my shop is available for lease). Personally, I wouldn’t mind having someone around but I don’t plan on staying in this area so I’m treading water for now. As it is, in spite of mentoring and interning being a mixed bag for me, one of the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time is to set up a training facility. I envision a small contract sewing operation in which I’d bring in people to learn how to do sewing and patterns while providing contract sewing services too. For this sort of training, there would have to be fees levied to pay for it. Now, once someone had the skills, they could be paid for work rendered on site but I wouldn’t be willing to train a person if I knew at the outset that their goal was to set up their own operation because they won’t be around long enough for me to get my training investment back.

I got off tangent here, sorry. Continuing with the conversation with Christina, she responds:

And I shouldn’t have mentioned “mentor” and “internship” in the same paragraph, b/c with mentorship, what I meant is whether you know people who volunteer time or do paid consulting in helping people jump-start their business, and following them through the process as an adviser. So no internship in this sense, but having an older (assuming), wiser guide. Do you know actual people or organizations who make it a calling to do something like this? — I mean, *you* do, but I’m looking for someone in Portland, Oregon, proper.

Does anyone know of anyone in the area? I know that several regular visitors are up in that area, sing out if you know of anything that Christina is describing. For advising and consulting with you one on one, you’ll have to pay someone. I can’t see anyone doing that for nothing -outside of the SBA and SCORE and they may not have skills available to match your interests. Christina continues:

Also, as for intern vs. employee, ack, don’t tell me that! — I was hoping that the appeal of paying me less and treating me badly would work in my favor! I read that some businesses don’t mind having interns b/c even though, yes, they could leave, the internships can be advertised as an “intern-to-hire”, where they’re cost-effective and still have incentives to work as hard as an employee, b/c of the possibility of being hired (and wanting to work there, if that’s part of why they applied, vs. mere experience–although, the intern might change his/her mind if they liked the place enough). So, once hired, the newly hires wouldn’t need that much training, b/c it already happened during the internship, and there’s more leverage in molding the person in the internship with the company culture and work ethic vs. as an employee.

I think this is more of an option if applying to larger companies. While there’s a lot to learn there, there’s also a lot you shouldn’t learn there. Considering your goals, I think it’s more helpful to work with a smaller company where operations are more transparent and overlapping. Then again, many small companies have bad habits you shouldn’t be learning either. The problem is, smaller companies may not have the wherewithal to hire you or have you intern with them unless you’re bringing another needed skill they currently lack. Also, I don’t think it’s likely they’ll want to have you intern with them if your purpose is to go out and start your own enterprise, particularly if you plan to compete in their market. I know I’d be hiding my Rolodex from you :).

[snipped] As for myself, I *would* be an intern just for the experience, although it would be cool to be hired afterwards, b/c then I wouldn’t have to work a non-related job (most likely) *plus* added hours of internship. I intend to do the internship for the long haul though, at least six months, so to me I would take that as seriously as a higher-paying job.

As I said above, I’d be more inclined to take someone on if they planned to stay on, otherwise it’s not worth my while to train them. It sounds to me that you’re of two minds. It seems you’re looking for an opportunity as a way of getting your foot in the door to a long term position or that you want to run your own company. If you’re not sure of your own goals, you can’t be honest. Most of the people who approach me want experience and training so that they can then go out and start their own enterprises. If you want to intern because your goal is to get a full time position, then I’d definitely see about just getting a job rather than offering to intern. Still, what you’ve said above isn’t what you were saying when you first wrote. You said you were looking for a position so you could learn to run your own company. There’s no crime in wanting to learn that but know yourself well enough with respect to your goals that you can be honest. Don’t get hired someplace under the pretext of wanting a career there if you really plan to be self employed and are just using the job for your own devices unless you put in enough time with that company -a couple of years at least- and provide them with a solid return for having invested in you. Don’t forget that previous employers can also color the potential viability of your enterprise when you leave, particularly if you plan to enter the same end of the market. Christina continues:

Heck, I would volunteer if I could, if there was such a thing for businesses! I really wouldn’t mind working for free for the experience, it’s not like I need the designation “intern” for college credit, I really want to learn. Plus I feel like I don’t have enough experience to become an employee, based on casual searches for fashion jobs, so I concluded that I can only get my foot in the door by being an intern. I could go to fashion school and then apply, but I really think I would benefit a lot more from firsthand, real-world practical experience, b/c I’m an independent learner.

I’d say to just go for a job, if you’re that much of a go-getter, you can’t lose. I knew this girl once. She was young (18!), no experience, no background, no design school who applied as a design assistant at this place I worked. You can imagine they laughed her out of the room. She had the nerve to come back a month later, they wouldn’t even see her. She came back again, weaseled her way into an interview, they didn’t hire her. She kept coming back, over and over again I don’t know how many times. Finally, they just got tired of saying no. Persistence is a large part of this job and they figured she at least had that. She ended up working out really well. Not to say we didn’t have issues with her from time to time but all in all, it was a good experience for all of us. I don’t regret it in the slightest, I learned a lot from her too and am glad to have known her. Maybe you’d be like her. There’s always room for somebody who is dog-determined, tenacious and willing to work hard.

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20 comments

  1. Amy D. says:

    I was an intern for six months with a designer in New York who has four lines, two of which involve using organic cotton/fair trade. My school didn’t set up this internship; I just emailed the company and asked if they were taking interns. While it required huge sacrifices for my personal life (moving to NYC six months from Texas for an unpaid internship and living apart from my husband for that time!), it was one of the best things that I have ever done. I can understand Kathleen’s comments, especially about looking for a job instead of an internship, but in this case, being an intern allowed for exposure to a broader range of experiences, from working in press/public relations to product development to sales to opening/managing a freestanding store. If it had a been a job, it would have been harder for someone to call my mentor and say they were going to a meeting they thought would be a great experience for me– could I accompany them? They were open about discussing their strengths and weaknesses with me, as well as teaching me how they fixed mistakes as they came up, and tried to make it the best learning experience they could. I have nothing but positive things to say about my internship! The combination of what I learned there, with what I have been learning in school, has been invaluable.

  2. carissa says:

    Some people are just born teachers, and that may be just the right person for this situation.

    I have a funny set up in this area. I have three girls that I teach to sew for free. Two come on Tues. one comes on Thurs. They are darling teenagers, and sometimes they get stuff done! I enjoy teaching. I can’t imagine ever not teaching something.

    It’s very rewarding to see them come in with their cute sloppy little purses they sewed after making a tote with me, etc. If you are organized, you can actually get some valuable work out of them from time to time. I look at this situation as one where I’m investing in the future of these girls, and at the same time maybe working toward having some future employees in them, (I’d love to hire some on and do my own sewing instead of contracting it out).

    I really don’t even mind if they would someday want to do their own thing- A true teacher kinda desires that anyways. You know, we want to see our kids go on and accomplish more than we have in life.

    Maybe there’s a retiree in the area that knows a lot and wants to be involved in someone’s future. He/ she may even do some work on the side. You never know, someone may want a helping hand and not mind that you’ll only be involved temporarily.

    I guess I’m not saying the same thing as Kathleen on this one- you may in some situations be able to be honest about your lack of solid direction for what you want to do in the shortterm. If you’re talking to the right person, they may be okay with your “temporary-ness”. But, I see what Kathleen means– in a truly professional setting, you might not really be a good fit. So I guess I’m saying maybe you don’t need a truly professional situation.

    I think, too the initial question implies that one person could be a one-stop-shop for Christina for free. I don’t think anyone could find someone like that. We all have strengths and weaknesses and I think it’s better to take advantage of a person’s strong areas and maybe not even ask them about something they don’t really do well. Also, if you glean from several different people, you stand less of a chance of wearing them out.

    It’s also really important to come to the table with something. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with a user. Christina doesn’t sound like that type, but the people she’s asking for help from may be burned out by takers and she’ll have to set herself apart from them.

  3. massa says:

    From my personal work experience, I hate to work with Interns from school.
    IMO, 50% isn’t their fault, but Professors or teachers. I hope they send students after teaching them general work ethic, business manners, and MATH(at least Pre-CAL).

    I’ve seen a girl who was usually late for work. Her excuse was her class. Then, don’t do internship. In the hall, I saw a girl said to the boss(she thought he was one of interns because he looked so young) “Hey, where is main office?”, and there were many interns couldn’t do math for patterns, spec, and etc, which pissed me off coz of time wasted for them.

    IMO, not knowing Manufacturing/professional standard is 70% student’s fault. If he/she wants to make a living by what you love and to be a Pro, I wonder why not he/she studies more than given materials? Now, “High Fashion” & “High Quality” are commodity to me. A lot of crappy brands say so about their products. These terms make me sick. Easier said than done&seen!! How can you make yours unique? I’ve also been thinking about it for a long time. There are tons of books to study at libraries. Knwoledge-base standard is ok, but the attitude of self-learning is more important because there wouldn’t always be someone to help.

    Employers, please don’t offer internship just to get free workforce and make them do crappy paper jobs. Students, don’t think internship as easy-coming “experience I can put on my resume even though I don’t work hard” or similar. Use the oppotunity for its full potential.

    My conclusion is that Internship should be offred to senior-year students those who can be instant help within 1 ~ 2 weeks of training. Or I would hire non-fashion-educated person who wants to be a designer. It’s easier to draw on blank page as I want than alredy-drawn-page.

    I don’t care about spy or copying issue a lot because I also refer to other resources like TOYOTA method and integrate them into my way. Once my way became a successful proven-method and known to the public, it would spread and become commodity very fast thanks to the Internet. So, who cares? I just need to work solid, do what I have to do, and do better.

  4. Mike C says:

    Amy and I have talked about using interns in the past. However, there’s almost no chance we’d use an unpaid intern. The issues Kathleen raises about some not seeing it as a “real” job.

    For us, an internship would be low paid with real work expectations. We run a factory – there’s plenty of low and semi-skilled work around to fill up a bushelful of hours each week. In return for taking low pay to do that work, we’d train the intern in some of the areas they were interested in learning.

    Its not something on our immediate horizon, but may be something for down the road a bit.

    …and MATH(at least Pre-CAL).

    A quick and easy way to find out whether college students have any mathematics ability is to ask what they scored on their SAT or ACT tests.

    The higher the mathematics score, the better. My experience in a number of professions has shown that SAT/ACT scores are a better predictor of “work smarts” than pretty much anything else readily available.

    If you expect them to write coherently, you’ll need to look at the verbal scores.

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’d hesitate to use the results of standardized tests to determine the suitability of a candidate, much less pre-calc. I don’t think I ever passed algebra (in high school) much less took pre-calc and since I dropped out in the 11th grade, I never took the SAT/ACT either. I fake it real nice for you guys but my learning disabilities are significant. A lot of people with learning disabilities are very good at factory work and with these standards, you’d be eliminating a lot of talented people like me. I’m just glad other people use different standards or I never would have gotten a job. Personally (and in the book) I recommend a work try-out every time. That way, fancy talkers with advanced degrees can’t get jobs based on a lot of pretty talk.

  6. Sarah in Oregon says:

    I have been lucky enough to learn from some very talented people, thanks to volunteering. In my experience (and in this area, I have a lot of experience) if one shows up, looking professional and eager to help out, people will usually let you hang out and learn.

    Lucky for me, I started out in the world of tailoring, where apprenticeship is the norm. Because the tailors who taught me started out as apprentices back in Italy, Greece and Hong Kong when they were children, they thought it was perfectly acceptable to have me around. The big difference was that I was 15 when I started, and they were about 5 or 7 when they started!

    In fact, they knew exactly where to start me out and for the first few weeks (months? I can’t remember–it’s been a long time), they tied my finger into the traditional position for sewing by hand and I did nothing but practice stitches on scraps for hours. You should have seen people looking at me sewing on the subway on the way to work!

    I spent several years as an apprentice before I applied to University to study fashion, and to be honest, the skills that I learned as an apprentice help me today just as much as what I learned at school. One of the most important thing I learned was integrity. The tailors I worked with had so much respect and dignity in their work. They made exquisite suits, and they were immensely proud of their craftsmanship, and each small innovation that they created.

    Another important thing I learned was the right way to behave in a working environment, and believe me, they never taught those things in school. Here’s the lowdown to those of you who aren’t familiar:

    -always say hi to everyone, and goodnight when you leave.
    -give sincere compliments on people’s good work
    -the guy in the corner who never made it past the 5th grade is actually making more money than you because he’s a genius. Show respect to everyone.
    -having a shiny diploma and no common sense is one way to make people hate you
    -narcissism is evident and annoying. Cultivate caring for others, even if you do work in the fashion world.
    -if you don’t know what you are doing, everyone else will know. If you ask others for suggestions on how to do your job better, they will have more respect for you.

    Thanks so much to Teresa and all of the Tailors out there who taught me so much about sewing, life, and what it’s all about!

    Enough about my experience. Christina, welcome back to Oregon! Lucky for you there are lots of fashion companies in Portland that do take on Interns (think Nike, Adidas, Columbia, Lucy etc etc.) Check out their websites. There are also tons of smaller start-ups that may be able to use you.

    Furthermore, Oregon State University has an Apparel program as does Portland Community College from what I’ve heard. You may want to take a few courses to learn new skills, or go for your degree. Working as an intern is pretty standard for any such program.

    Lastly, consider that if you want to start your own business, you can outsource your product development. In my own business, I’ve done development for start-up manufacturers who didn’t have a lot of background in designing, patternmaking or sewing, but they did a good business because they know how to market, take care of money, and they know what sells.

    Best of luck to you!
    Sarah in Oregon

  7. massa says:

    I don’t like to evaluate people on SAT score or any other tests. To me, education doesn’t matter, as I said I would rather hire non-fashion-educated people. What I meant by pre-CAL or some measurement for evaluation is, if he/she is a COLLEGE student, I want them to have minimum general knowledge. My background as Japanese has some influence on this; CALCULUS as requirement for everyone is taught in my high school freshman year. Pre-CAL is a junior-high subject. So, I usually think I don’t ask much for a COLLEGE student. This only applies to Internships though.

  8. J C Sprowls says:

    How appropriate this thread! Carol and I were chatting about this very subject a few days ago.

    Wow, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your process and letting us know you’re out there. If you ever get to Denver, please send me an email! I am considering a similar venture (i.e. sample shop w/ custom make) and would appreciate your insight/suggestions. I am interested in how you bridged from custom making into industrial setup.

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I also apprenticed, so I am a proponent of on-the-job training under skilled supervision. I agree with Kathleen, however, there is a business proposition that needs to be considered as the trainer must be able to recoup their investment of time/money.

    My apprenticeship, which I am assured is “typical”, started with shirtmaking and underwear, progressed to trousers and vests, alterations, then, finally, jackets and overcoats. I am told, however, that “traditional” apprenticeships in the tailoring trade follow this sequence for total of 8 years (5 years for sewing; and, 3 years for cutting). Mine, however, lasted for a little more than a year until my mentor passed away. Fortunately, I had already demonstrated a modicum of patterncutting and sewing skill having learned at my grandmother’s knee. Everything since Mr Yun passed away has been baptism by fire and by talking with folks here and in the custom clothing end.

    I love Kathleen’s suggestion about establishing a contract sewing shop and staffing it with apprentices. But, I’d also settle for 3-day weekend seminars, too. Please give it some thought as I would certainly be there as often as I can spare.

  9. John & Christina says:

    I have both been an intern (for free) and had interns (paid, of course). I think it is very important that during the internship there must be accountability. For me this was in the form of weekly status meetings with my professor (via fax as I was in a different state) that was also reviewed and signed off on by the person I reported to. These can be very basic or fairly detailed but it is very necessary for all parties as to what the criteria/expectations are and if these criteria have been met. I would only do an internship this way. Without it you are jeopardizing your grade (if a student) or your future if you are trying to find out what this whole apparel industry is all about.

    I found out the hard way many years ago as an intern that things are not always as they seem when working in the apparel industry. My internship was a semester long and set up so that I could work a week or two in all areas; design, pattern making, sourcing, shipping, contracting, etc.(it was an incredible overview/experience) . I had to report weekly to my professor and to the president of the company. Half way through the internship I was required to fill out a very detailed lengthy report on how I thought things were going. The company also filled out a report on how THEY thought things were going. This was input from all of the people I had been working with. What a shock I had. The same people who I had lunch with every day, went out with at night, etc. had quite a different view of how things were going (part of the problem was being young and not being paid for my work, living in an expensive city like San Francisco..mostly the problem was being young). Anyhow because there was such a good accountability system in place I was able to check my attitude and turn things around. (I ended up with my first semester of a 4.0 kind of shocking for me..).

    Anyhow I would not enter into an internship agreement on either side unless there is some form of status meetings, plans, whatever. If the company you are planning on working for or your company does not have one set up, I would strongly suggest it. It doesn’t take that much time to set up some forms and will save so much time, worry, etc. Obviously we do our best work when we know what is expected of us.

  10. Miracle says:

    Amy and I have talked about using interns in the past. However, there’s almost no chance we’d use an unpaid intern. … For us, an internship would be low paid with real work expectations. … In return for taking low pay to do that work, we’d train the intern in some of the areas they were interested in learning.

    I agree with Mike. Having been an intern (paid) I’ve experienced the reality that it’s hard to attract quality, talented students when you aren’t paying and you aren’t running a company whose name carries weight in the industry. Not only can quality students find paid internships, but they also have the option of paid part time work. Good paying work for quality students is not as hard to find as independent entrepreneurs tend to assume.

    Having been an intern, it bothers me the way some people feel like interns are a way to get free labor (not that anyone here has specifically said that, but I have heard it). And in those instances, you get what you pay for. As students, we had it pretty good. We had very good paying internships, many interns get tons of fringe benefits like paid transportation, housing, etc… Sometimes people forget that the big guys (manufacturers and retailers) are looking for interns too because they are looking to develop career loyalty pretty early.

    As a result, my experience was that the good, resourceful students didn’t have to work for free. Now keep in mind there are certain industries where free internships are a rite of passage, but this industry is not quite there yet because many fashion students looking for work can simply work in a clothing store. There are some companies that really get a good find and find a fantastic free intern, but in nearly every instance I know of, they could not keep that intern for more than a few months.

    While interns are looking for experience for their resumes, some are really looking for a foot in the door to a post-collegiate job.

    Having said all of that, I do find that paying something goes a long way towards providing you access to a better talent pool. And while there are many great, reliable, responsible and wonderful people here who did work for free, they are hard to find.

  11. Stylebites says:

    Just a quick note about eco-fashion.

    I’m currently working on a project with an NGO in Washington D.C. to bring a marketwide sustainability label to the apparel industry. If all goes well we’ll be announcing it at Fashion Week in September 2007.

    Hopefully in the future interns won’t have to seek out specialized companies just to learn about sustainable materials, production and distribution!

    Glad to hear that you’re pursuing this fabulous goal. Good luck!

  12. As Is says:

    I can completely relate to what Christina is contemplating. I never did do an internship, but rather worked with an apparel company in a position that I WAS qualified for. I also helped people with the their fashion-related brand or business, whether it was product development, trade shows, or marketing – areas that my experience/skills could be useful.

    Kathleen, I’m located in Portland,OR and am familiar with, and know various people here that may be of help. I myself am currently working on a handbag line, with hopes of taking it in the Eco- friendly direction – but understand the difficulties one may face in finding resources, etc.
    Portland has seen a tremendous growth in general, but there has been a lot of fashion-related growth as well (fashion shows, boutiques, new brands, etc). There are many businesses that are making an effort to develop sustainable products.

    Please feel free to forward my email address to Christina. Maybe I could provide her with some input?

  13. I have been unable to log onto the site for a while, and am very behind in the postings, however, once I logged on today, I felt I needed to post some comments with regard to Christina’s original posting.

    I am a fashion designer/fashion instructor/internship coordnator at the school I work at here in Las Vegas. I also have over seen some eco/cruelty-free related projects for the students, and at this time, and am the only instructor to be doing so (re: eco and cruelty-free lesson plans) at this time, but more of the instructors and students are coming around.

    Christina, feel free to contact me at your convenience as I am more than happy to help out a fellow designer in need of suggestions and resource when it comes to this topic. Also, in case you were not aware, during MAGIC week, there will also be Las Vegas’ first Eco Trade Show at the Venetian Hotel & Resort, from February 12-15, 2007. The website is http://www.GlobalEcoShow.com It will be a small trade show, but I am working with the organizer in making it an even bigger event when it comes to town again in August. This time around I am assisting them with putting on a fashion show for the evening of February 12th.

    The other topic of internships is one that I have had personally deal with for the past year. As the only internship coordinator for our school, it has been a challenge to a) find available internships, b) to find any relating to fashion in Las Vegas and c) in assisting some students in finding an internship, let alone employment after graduation (not my area, however, I do work with our career counselor hand in hand, as she assists me with internship leads as well.)

    The way our college is set up, internships are mandatory. A student must complete a certain number of hours within the course of the quarter and have it completed by by the end of that quarter for which the internship was signed up for. They can not graduate without one.

    Unfortunately, I have had to deal with some students who did not do their research ahead of time, even before enrolling in our program, about where fashion jobs are and the types of internships available in this town. Just the other day, I had a lecture of industry jobs and many in my class were “shocked” to learn that they may have to go out of state to land that first job in fashion. I had one student say to me that she thought that because we had a college here, that the industry jobs are here! She thought there were fashion manufacturing plants in every city!

    The other challenges are those students who have a record of being late to class, being late in finishing and turning in assignments and barely passing their classes, yet they need to do an internship somewhere here in town. Even if they have no recommendation letters from teachers, these people must be placed somewhere. These particular students, who are late to class, turn out to be late to their internships and/or stop going all together because they felt the employer/intern host was “asking too much of them” (one student complained that she was asked to fax some papers on her intern hosts’ behalf, and she refused! Her reason was that she wasn’t there to fax or file things and no way would she do so! Needless to say that employer/intern host rated her very low at the end of the internship, and these ratings go into their permanent file. Not only did it hurt that student, but that employer also told me to never suggest any of our students to her again. Now this has hurt the chances of truly qualified people, but the “slackers” ruin it for everyone else.)

    There have been some good students, and I shouldn’t dwell on the few bad apples. I had some who did take the plunge, secured an internship in Los Angeles, and that internship lead to an entry level job. If no job was available after the internship, the intern host (if impressed with the student’s ability and passion for the field) took it upon himself to help find an entry level job for the student because of his many contacts and his referral.

    It’s true, many employers have been burned themselves with interns, and vice versa. The one thing I can suggest is to do research EARLY on – contact companies whom you like and study all that you can about them. Then put together a cover letter, explaining why you would like to either intern and/or work for a company like theirs. It is all about networking and keeping up-to-date about the industry itself. The more effort you put into to what you want, you will see a lot of things come about than to do absolutely nothing.

  14. jinjer says:

    This internship questions is a great one.

    I would actually LOVE to find an internship or anintern-to-hire position*, but there doesn’t seem to be many well-established fashion companies in the Bay Area who take interns. From what I’ve seen, many of the companies around here who take interns are fairly inexperienced themselves, and just can’t afford to hire professionals. As an intern, I want to be learning from a company with enough experience to know what they’re doing–If I’m going to give my time & energy for free, I want to get the most I can out of it…

    *And I have great math skills. Especially geometry and Calculus II.:)

  15. Troy says:

    I worked as in intern during the summer. i went to on of the local designers that i really liked and asked for a job there.i used the word ‘intern’ because i wanted the exp and didn’t ask for money. i got there early and on time. stayed longer than another intern would have. i’ll be honest and admit that there were days when i went back earlier than i should hae because of a prior commitment, but i made sure i finished my work and that i make an effort. there’s no point in doing something if you’re not going to do it well.

  16. yelena chayka says:

    I love to design high fashion close, I have lots of great sketching with my designs, I want to find internship for fashion designer, i’m not sure if thats the right place to ask, but do you have any information on what I need to do, I’m really talanted in designing fashion.

  17. Taylor Trent says:

    Hello,i was interested in this internship. I recently go to the Art Institute of Charlotte,NC. I would be pleased to take the offer to come for the weekend and show you my best.Thank you.

  18. Soleil says:

    Since I was a littlegirl I have wanted to be involved in fashion. I am currently a senior in high school and plan on going on to college to pursue my career in fashion. I am already taking classes at RRCC in business so hopefully one day I can get my Assosiates of Arts Degree. I want to eventually have my own fashion and accesories line along with managing my own store. I would love to be a part of your internship. I need to get my foot in the door in order to pursue this dream, and I’m hoping you can help me get on my way!
    Thank you!

  19. Gene says:

    I’m a current high school senior. I am planning to study fashion and soon have my own line and own store in several cities. I want to know if there’s any internships/mentorships in Las Vegas?
    Any info would be helpful

  20. joscelyn says:

    i’m have been interested in fashion for a long time and i’m soon to going to be a graduate and i would love to get involved in the fashion industry and start a career but i don’t know how to start and internships sound like a good start.. do you have any internships or websites were i could get involved and gain experience..
    please and thank you ..

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