How to Break into the Fashion Industry with an MBA
For many people studying for an MBA, breaking into the world of fashion at an executive level is a main goal. While many have entered the industry through entrepreneurship and consultancy venues, jobs at executive levels are highly sought after and very competitive. Here’s how to refine your skill set so you stand the best chance of success.
Don’t be afraid to start from scratch
Although being the executive of a top fashion label might be the ultimate goal, don’t be afraid to start from the ground up. You may need to start your own entrepreneurial venture to break the mold, using spades of determination. While studying for an MBA at an institution like Hult International Business School, why not take advantage of the internship and work experience programs on offer and work for a smaller fashion company to gain some experience? If you happen to intern at a start-up fashion label, you’ll be able to offer sound advice and skills in professional management and business planning, while your colleagues in the fashion industry will be able to offer valuable insight into the industry and potentially give you a platform upon which to showcase your ideas. If you intern at a major fashion house, there is a great risk that you may only see a particular part of the brand’s inner workings. If you intern for a smaller brand, you will be able to see how the various stages of fashion production fit together, and could potentially end up with a job offer after your MBA has finished.
Do your homework
Be as informed as possible about the industry, demonstrating a perspective on it that is far more than just a consumer angle. Carefully study the various roles in the fashion industry and be aware of how they knit together. Note the difference between the ‘fast fashion’ spheres and luxury high end brands. What are their supply chains like? How do they differ? Where do they produce their goods? How do they market their brands? Have a strong idea of where your skills can fit into the industry with an MBA. Think about what you could offer from a business perspective. Fashion is a very fast-moving industry, and you need to keep up with the ever-changing trends and demands. Keep on top of everything and show a genuine interest for new developments.
Nurture your contacts book
A career in the fashion industry will only progress if you have good connections, as it is a tight-knit community. Take every chance you can to network and build up relationships with people working within fashion. Ask plenty of questions and be prepared to listen. Ask to be introduced to other people, and share your ideas. Take every opportunity you can to meet fashion executives and learn about their roles. Learn as much as you can about the various jobs people do, and establish a contacts book that will assist you in that all-important job search when you have completed your MBA.
Embrace your creative side
Although you may be coming in to the fashion industry from a business perspective, it is important to remember that the majority of roles in the fashion world are creative. While fashion business executives have a good understanding of marketing and how to sell products, it is the designers’ creativity and vision that creates the garments being sold. Understand how business and creativity overlap in the world of fashion, and apply this knowledge to your favorite fashion brands. On your journey breaking in to the fashion world, you are bound to be asked who your favorite designers are, so be prepared with a strong answer. You should be able to demonstrate how you have a genuine interest in the creative side of fashion, but also an in-depth understanding of the development and business strategy behind the clothing.
Know the market and current trends
The fashion industry has greatly changed in the last decade thanks to the growth of internet retailers, especially those offering ‘fast fashion’ clothing. New fashion markets have broken through in various countries including Africa, China, India and Brazil. Consumer demand is also changing, with renewed opinions on ethical clothing production and sustainable fashion. With an MBA, you should be able to spot a good opportunity in this ever-changing industry. Learn where your skill set will be valued. If you speak a foreign language, could there be a position for you overseas? Think about how you would change the industry and what you can offer.