As I have already mentioned, I have recently managed to land myself a coveted position working for a fashion imports company in the city, trying to fund my not too shabby (but not as glamorous as I’d like) lifestyle and so, thought you would like to know a bit more about what it is that I actually do. This post will hopefully give you an insight into my daily responsibilities as a design assistant where I work with another two fashion-obsessed girls and what goes on behind the scenes in the notoriously fierce fashion industry.
Many people have the pre-misconception that a job in fashion will somewhat resemble that of Andy’s job in The Devil wears Prada; an opulent office setting, access to an array of beautiful clothes and freebies and a chance to hobnob with the fashion elite. Although for some fortunate individuals out there this may be true (god damn you!), a job in fashion is often a lot less glamorous that you imagine, especially starting out from the bottom.
‘Design Assistant’ is an illustrious term which has different meanings within different companies. I wish I could say that my job description allows me to spend my days carelessly wandering around local shops and boutiques looking for hidden gems and people watching from behind a cafe window, whilst blogging away ‘til my heart is content, but sadly, it would be a lie. In my current role it means tackling the less than desirable tasks that no one else wants to do and although it does have its perks, in reality I am less the lady of leisure and more the skivvy on speed dial – and so, I intend to share with you the up and downsides to being a fashion design assistant.
A brief outline of my duties and responsibilities include; organising, photographing and cataloguing samples, assisting design and buying teams, general administrative duties and merchandising showrooms and new product.
Personally, I think that we design assistants are akin to Fashion Ninja’s; we float around the building helping out wherever required. Unlike anyone else, we work with several different departments on a daily basis from the buying and sourcing teams to the warehouse guys and carry out a range of duties and so, we get to speak to a variety of different people and often get to know about the latest scandal, even the most classified information. Every now and then we will get sent on an adventure which is always last minute and often touch and go, right down to the last minute; whether it is to chase the courier with an important parcel which has missed collection and needs to be sent urgently to a well-known celebrity or to locate a missing suitcase which has been left ‘somewhere’ in a hotel in New York. Just when you think you have seen it all, something crazy will come along and remind you why design assistants need to be prepared for anything and everything.
Some of my personal highlights of the job; working with truly creative and passionate individuals who are hungry to succeed in their own discipline, gaining a better understanding of how processes work within a fashion business and seeing first-hand just how each decision can impact upon the whole company, being involved in creating names and coming up with ideas for new collections and brands, witnessing a new brand come to life from conception right through to seeing the physical samples being exhibited in a showroom, being able to see the latest development in clothing from all over the world, assisting with photo shoots and exhibitions and of course getting freebies, although so far this has only included pens and sweets… Where are all the free clothes?!
Some of the not so exciting aspects of the job; being indispensable also means being contactable at all times – by phone, email, radio – there is nowhere to hide and you are often on your feet the whole day, getting tedious tasks that feel near impossible – like finding a particular fabric swatch in amongst the thousands of swatches which occupy the swatch library and finally, being at the bottom of the food chain so to speak makes you an easy target – often the design assistants get the blame when things go wrong – I have definitely grown a thicker skin through working in this job and have found that sometimes it is easier to accept responsibility for something and move on, even if you know you were not to blame rather than completely denying all knowledge as things tend to come back around to being the fault of the design assistants (sob! It’s a hard knock life).
For anyone planning to start a career in fashion and considering becoming a design assistant, the following attributes are crucial and will see you far; being energetic and highly motivated as you tend to be on your feet all day running around, although on the bright side, it is like being paid to keep fit … AND you get to work off those extra calories from all the sweets and treats left around the office which you can’t resist, having an excellent photographic memory is advantageous so that when your boss parades a photograph in front of your face and asks you to go find the sample which hasn’t been seen for the last year, you know exactly where to locate it and finally, and arguable most importantly – you need to be able to take everything in jest, at the end of the day, part of your job role (although you may not know it) is accepting the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong, hey… welcome to being a design assistant!!