Getting Started in the Fashion Industry – Where Do I Start?

Katja Mueller - February 9th 2022

Hi, my name is Katja, and I am a second-year fashion and textile science student. This year I have had the chance to learn about the many career opportunities in the fashion industry. In the current market, there are hundreds of jobs, each with its own qualifications, education, and/or experience requirements. This can be quite daunting, especially to people who are just starting out. One of the good places to start is in retail. You will gain experience in fashion and will have a better chance of landing a job in retail or other fields.

So, what is retail? Retail is one of the four levels of the fashion industry, following production. Retailers sell fashion goods to customers. The sector consists of companies such as Shein, Zara, and H&M, which vary in prices, quality, format, etc. There are many opportunities to get started in the retail sector and therefore it is a great place to start.

The three jobs I will outline below are fairly common. The jobs you are qualified for depends on your previous work experience and possibly your education (some may require a high school diploma).

The first retail job is sales associate (it can also be called a retail associate). If you have ever job hunted online, you have likely encountered this term. The role of the sales associate is to interact with customers in the store. This includes working at the cash register, helping customers find items and dealing with complaints, and keeping the store clean. This is an entry level job in retail, and a great way to boost your skills and knowledge concerning fashion.

The second job is the key holder. This is essentially the same as a sales associate, but with the added responsibilities of opening/closing the store, inventory management, and setting employee schedules. This is a great option if you already have some retail experience but are hoping to have more workplace responsibilities. This can also give you the opportunity to fill in for the manager and see if that is a job you are interested in pursuing.

The third job is a stylist. This can include styling mannequins or styling clients. This position will require more skills, and possibly education, than the previous two (if this job interests you, you can receive stylist certificates from online schools, such as Parsons). Knowledge of fashion trends in clothing, shoes, makeup, and accessories is necessary for this job. Previous retail experience is recommended. These jobs are harder to come by, and you may not be advertised the same way that the previous two are.

All three of these jobs are a great way to get started in the fashion industry. If you are just starting out, a sales associate position will be a great way to gain experience and flex your customer service skills. If you have some retail experience already, then the key holder position will add some responsibilities and give your resume a boost. The final position as a stylist is for those who have experience and are knowledgeable in current fashion trends.

There is no right way to get started in the fashion industry. It could be in communication, social media, photography, graphic design, journalism, etc. There are countless ways to get your career started, so pick the one that works best for you. It's a good way to get your foot in the door, since retail jobs tend to be common and don't require much experience.

Happy job hunting!