I’m not sure about you, but throughout my final year of university, I applied for 50 or more jobs, most of the ones I was completely unqualified for and almost all of them at the wrong time. (Fashion jobs, unlike other industries such as finance or other graduate programmes, almost always look for immediate starts—who knew?).
After being ghosted by literally all of them, I was finally offered an internship at a small fashion start-up where, one year on, I now work as Creative Communications Manager.
The brand I work for is only just coming up to two years old and consists of seven full-time employees in London and three in China. So we’re tiny. When I joined, I was convinced I was the luckiest newbie in the fashion industry. My bosses were so kind, they listened to my ideas, and I could see the impact of my contributions to the company. But working for a tiny start-up does come with its obvious difficulties. Here are the pros and cons to consider when thinking about joining a small start-up company in fashion.
You have loads of agency
You’re joining a tiny team where everyone contributes to building something beautiful. You may be the intern or in an entry level role, but your voice will always be heard.
You can grow quickly
After 2 months of interning and 6 months of working full-time, I was promoted to a
managerial position. Many of my friends gawked that I had the word ‘manager’ in my title
at only the age of 23, but to be honest with you, at a small company, this isn’t a huge shocker. Everyone in the office more or less consists of their own department. If you work hard and show competency for leadership, a managerial position is usually the next natural step when you work for a fashion start-up.
There is a great sense of accomplishment in your work
There is no greater feeling than seeing your ideas manifested in physical form before your eyes. I’m sure you can feel proud of your work in a giant corporation as well. But when you are the one to conceive an idea and see it through to completion, you really get to own that success.
There is room to experiment
Unlike many established brands and business that are loyal to their heritage, working for a young company means that you have loads of room to try something new. And if it isn’t successful, probably not that many people noticed, so we just re-strategise and try a different approach! Through it’s not good to always change direction (it confuses your brand identity), it’s a good way to see what works, what doesn’t, and also to have some fun and go a bit crazy with your ideas!
There are greater monetary restrictions
No surprise—working for a small company means you’re working with a small budget. Sometimes your ideas just aren’t possible because they require investment. You have to find another solution to achieve your goals or DIY, which can sometimes lead to work of a poorer quality.
Consequently, the pay isn’t always great
Entry-level fashion salaries are notoriously low everywhere, and a small fashion start-up is no exception.
Resources and manpower are scarce
Having a start-up mentality is good to save money on unnecessary costs and fosters creative thinking. Yet, sometimes the money just has to be spent! It’s often hard for management to decide what the top priority is, thus determining what the limited budget should be spent on.
Just as money might be tight, resources and manpower can also be tight. You’re in a small company with probably only a handful of employees. That means staff members often wear multiple hats. But as much as we may try, sometimes we really can’t manage everything. Outsourcing to people who can do the job better than you often creates a much better final result – and that’s where the money usually goes.
I’ve been told that it’s good to work for both large and small companies throughout your fashion career. The business mentalities will be of a vastly different nature, and the skills you learn in one company will invariably be applicable and beneficial to the other.
In general, I would highly recommend working for a small fashion company after graduation, simply because the amount you learn and grow professionally is incomparable. I know that when it’s time for me to leave my current role, I’ll be leaving with a wide breadth of knowledge about the workings of a small fashion start-up, the ability to manage a team, and a hell of a lot more confidence in my professional abilities. Not bad, I’d say.
Words by Vienna Kim