Fix up, look sharp: how to stitch together a successful career in fashion

Your dream fashion career might be launching a collection with Victoria Beckham, styling the stars or blogging your way to fame (and maybe infamy) amongst the fashionistas of the world. But whatever the dream, we all have to start somewhere. 

How can you start walking down the fashion career runway? We teamed up with staff and students at Heriot-Watt University to find out. 

Pick the right course

Getting some cutting edge training under your belt is a great way to begin your career edit. There are fashion courses available all over the UK, with many institutions offering more than one course, so there's bound to be something to suit you. 

At Heriot-Watt, for example, undergrads can choose from eight fashion-related degree programmes at the School of Textiles and Design. Schools like this offer academic learning, of course, but also have a good international reputation and links with the global fashion industry. You'll get professional insight alongside practical instruction that goes way beyond how to execute the perfect air-kiss. 

Kirsty Hunt

Pursue your passion

Your career won't come to you. If you know what you want, it's time to go and get it, both as a student and once you graduate. 

“Have a complete love and passion for what you do. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing then change it,” advises Heriot-Watt grad Kirsty Hunt. “Work hard, don’t settle for the easy answer and be prepared to move around for work.” 

It's an attitude that worked for Kirsty (or should we say Khaleesi?): she now works as a trainee costume seamstress on Game of Thrones in Belfast. “See everything as an opportunity,” she says. “Oh, and take a holiday and see some of the world!” We hear Westeros is lovely this time of year...
 

Say something Pinteresting

You'll need to stay ahead of the curve. Faux-frog skin bikinis and driving goggles going to be big this summer? Make sure you know first, and be prepared to spread the word to show that you're in touch.

“Keep an eye on trends - check out magazines, Sunday supplements, what people are wearing,” says Ruth Morris, who runs online fashion business Roobedo. “Pinterest is a great resource to research fashion. Start a page and fill some boards - and start following pages that inspire you.”

fashion show

Explore your talents

It's perfectly possible that you haven't uncovered some of the things you're great at yet. Uni is the time to get digging: places like Heriot-Watt's School of Textiles and Design have world-beating facilities that will let you try out new things. 

Heather Cheung, Print Assistant at H&M discovered a love of intricate hand drawn designs while studying at Heriot-Watt. “It was great being able to learn new techniques in an amazing print studio space and create designs that I enjoyed,” she says. Heather isn't alone: honorary Heriot-Watt grads like Dame Vivienne Westwood say the uni has the best facilities for textiles and fashion in the UK.

Mingle

Getting to know new people is one of the most fun things about being a student. This can mean making friends and being sociable, or it can mean networking and building up professional contacts – and there's nothing to say that the two can't complement one another. 

Heriot-Watt's Sissi Song works for Chrisanne, a London-based dancewear retailer. She approached the company directly after seeing them at the Blackpool Dance Festival. “Grab all the opportunities that come your way and make the most of your experience, especially when it comes to networking,” she urges. “I have a job I love because I approached a company directly.”

rack display

Create a portfolio that strikes a pose

Wherever you study, if you want to make an impression you're going to need an impressive portfolio – graduating students from Heriot-Watt were inspired by everything from Buddhists to banana fibres at their 2015 degree show, for example. 

But you don't need to wait until the end of your time as a student. “Continually build a digital portfolio of work containing excellent images and pieces,” says Bruce M Roberts, Director of Studies, Fashion Technology at Heriot-Watt. “This can be garments, textile samples, technical presentation boards, images from industry projects and more. Those who have built their portfolios over their degree will have an advantage.”

And if you’re thinking of applying for a fashion course and want to get a head start over the competition, Heriot Watt are running a Portfolio Development summer school this July so you can start working on breezing through your interview. 

Put all these tips together and you'll be on the way to a model fashion career. Ready, set, strut...