Fashion career guide

Gaining experience


Competition for jobs in fashion is fierce and completing internships/work experience could be the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills; this will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to your chosen area of work, as well as help build your own network of contacts which could be useful for future graduate positions.

Read on below for more information about the types of opportunities that might be available, as well as advice on how to approach your search for work experience. 

Types of opportunities

Most fashion internships are short-term (usually a fixed period between three months to a year) and generally unpaid, but will give you a more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat internships in the same way as full-time employment, so when a job role asks for 'at least one year’s experience' you can include this type of experience in your calculation.

Check out your favourite designers to see if they are offering fashion internships. It is also worth looking into the less obvious areas of fashion design for placement opportunities such as the costume departments of film, television and theatre companies.

Search for fashion internships at:


Find out more about internships

Placements will give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience. On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a one year work placement or self-employment placement; should you choose to undertake either, your first point of contact is your placement office in your faculty.

Search for placements at:


Learn more about taking a placement


Many students from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Arts choose to take a Self-Employed Placement. This allows you to work for yourself during your placement year and receive support from the University's Student Startup Team. You will have access to funding opportunities, networking events and workshops.

Learn more about Self-Employed Placements 


It is worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience - this could be a valuable way to build up your skills and knowledge in this field. Our Volunteering Bank provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies, listing roles such as:

  • Wardrobe Assistant Volunteer at the Kings Theatre
  • Environmental Borrow Bag Creator with Final Straw Foundation

Learn more about our Volunteering Team

You might also like to check out the Students' Union and see what relevant volunteering opportunities they have; for instance if you are interested in developing your fashion journalist skills check to see if they are recruiting staff to update/maintain their social media accounts, or seeking written articles for inclusion in the union newspaper; would they be interested in fashion focused articles? Are they interested in your design ideas for marketing materials? There could be a multitude of opportunities here for you to gain excellent experience!

Work shadowing is an introduction to many areas of the fashion industry, here you spend time with an experienced professional, learning about what they do.

Work experience weeks are a good way to get a short but intense feel for how a particular role works and are a helpful way to find out more about a job you think you’d like.



Speculative applications

You might find it tricky to find advertised opportunities within the fashion industry, so a speculative approach could be crucial for you to secure some work experience, which is where you approach employers yourself to enquire of any suitable opportunities. 

They involve sending a CV and cover letter to an employer to ask if they can offer any work experience, even if the company is not currently advertising placements or internships.

Submitting a speculative application shows your interest in a specific company and your willingness to go above and beyond to develop your skills and understanding of the industry. 

In the fashion industry, you could consider approaching designers, fashion magazines and retailers. Alongside the major fashion houses, you should also consider approaching small companies as they often have a need to recruit flexible and enthusiastic assistants to work on short term projects.

Directories that will help you locate companies to target as part of a speculative approach in the fashion industry include:

For opportunities within fashion journalism, contact specific fashion magazine publishing houses such as Hearst magazines UK; Condé NastEMAP; Haymarket Publishing Ltd; Time Inc. UK to enquiry about work experience. Also consider contacting local magazines and lifestyle publications, either independently owned or overseen by larger companies such as Archant as well as the free, consumer sector of magazines that are available.



Tips for finding fashion work experience

  • Get involved in relevant university or external groups, volunteer with your Students' Union, consider organising a charity fashion show and designing the clothes, or securing a position on a society committee; all of these are great ways to demonstrate your motivation and interest in this area of work.
  • Enter competitions and attend external workshops to help build a network of contacts.
  • Speak to your tutor, or other members of faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on specific projects over the summer.
  • Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
17/05/2021.B-Roll - day 3 ..All Rights Reserved - Helen Yates- T: +44 (0)7790805960.Local copyright law applies to all print & online usage. Fees charged will comply with standard space rates and usage for that country, region or state.



Explore the Fashion Career Guide


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17/05/2021.B-Roll - day 3 ..All Rights Reserved - Helen Yates- T: +44 (0)7790805960.Local copyright law applies to all print & online usage. Fees charged will comply with standard space rates and usage for that country, region or state.
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