Internships: we all want them. When we get them, we’re pumped as hell. After our first day, we wonder when it will all be over.
This past Friday, I finished my two-week internship with the fashion designer Lyn Devon. It was an incredible ten days of non-stop motion, utter exhaustion, and a whole lot of learning. The above three-sentence description accurately depicts my emotions towards this experience. The collective “we” I used was really a more inclusive way of saying “I.” This being my first internship, I had no idea what to expect. All of my prior knowledge was gathered from The Devil Wears Prada and my friend Carter who works with a major New York brand. Both situations are polar opposites— Andy almost died every day while Carter loves his job— so I walked into Lyn Devon’s Park Avenue studio with a lot of apprehension and a little bit of perspiration.
Over the intense ten-day exploit, I did everything from taking out the trash and sweeping the studio to delivering clothing to some of the wealthiest people in New York City and making friends with the couple that own an antique sewing store in the Garment District. I picked up swatches (and even cut some out myself, which was a long and laborious process that I do not recommend) and patterns, got to meet the company’s model, did coffee runs, and called FedEx one too many times. All of this in two short but oh-so-long weeks. When I told my friend’s parents about it after my first week, they were like, “Wait, I’m sorry, you have all those stories from one week? I thought you’d been there at least a month.” I wasn’t kidding when I said non-stop motion.
But here I am to tell the tale. I lived through it! As a survivor, I feel it to be necessary to prep any future interns for what to expect, what to do, and what not to do.
1. Be punctual. No one likes to wait around for people, especially not their unpaid teenage/young adult helper. If they say, “Be at the office at 9:30 tomorrow morning,” you should be at the office at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Even if you get there and there’s nothing for you to do, bring a book, your iPod, a journal, a magazine, a piece of string (cat’s cradle, duh), or something to do. Just don’t be late.
2. Do what they ask you to without being annoying about it. I was asked to perform many an undignified, difficult, or just downright ridiculous task. No matter what it was, I said, “Okay,” or, “No problem,” and did it to best of my ability. If you respond to your employer by being bitchy about what you’ve been asked to do, they have a lot of power over you. I’m not saying everyone is evil and will lock you in the dungeons (because all fashion corporations have dungeons, everyone knows that) and make you sort garbage if you’re complaining, but they at the very least will not like you, and that can lead to a whole bunch of other negative things.
3. Ask questions if you’re über confused. I learned this one the hard way. Even though everyone always says, “It’s okay to ask questions,” when you’re face-to-face with an intimidating and extremely stressed out fashion executive, you feel quite stupid saying, “So what exactly is CDC?” (I figured out on my second to last day that it stands for crêpe de chine). Even if they laugh at you or seem annoyed by your ignorance, that’s nothing compared to how frustrated they will be when you bring back PVC instead. I’m not saying this happened to me, because it didn’t, but hypothetically I can see that being a potential issue.
4. Know where you’re going and how to get there. One day I had to deliver garments to various addresses on Park Avenue. All of the apartment numbers were within a 500-number radius of the address of the studio, so I figured, hey, why don’t I just walk? I like walking. Walking is fun! Imagine my dismay when I’m trudging up Park Avenue carrying three heavy garment bags of fall coats and wool clothing in the sweltering New York City heat and realize that my final destination was thirty blocks away from where I started. That’s nearly two miles. And because I wasn’t as familiar with the subways on the East Side of Manhattan, I walked back. Things that were a terrible idea: not planning out where I was going beforehand. Look up addresses on Google Maps before you go and find out where the nearest train or bus is. Or else you will probably die. Or need to amputate one or both feet.
5. Always pay attention. That’s the way you’re going to learn the most. Even if you’re just sitting there putting labels on envelopes, listen to what’s going on around you. I overheard people talking about the upcoming spring collection, discussing fabrics and silhouettes, and speaking with their colleagues about how such-and-such company offered them this much to do something (those weren’t exact words, but you get the point). Since you’re their little gofer, they tend to pretend you’re not there. Use this to your advantage. You’ll pick up a lot of new lingo, important factoids, and a bunch of other useful things that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise.
As painful as internships may be, they are some of the most educational experiences you’ll have in the fashion world (or any other industry, for that matter). You’ll get to see places you’ve never been to before, interact with people you never thought you would meet, and learn things you can only pick up from being right in the thick of everything. Being an intern lets you see what the environment is like on the inside, instead of the glorified and stereotyped version we see in movies, television shows, and magazines. An internship may help you decide whether this is a field in which you would like to pursue a career, or that you want nothing to do with that crowd. For me, it was the former.
Do you have any freakin’ incredible/terrifying/supermegafoxyawesomehot internship stories? I wanna know! Tellmetellmetellme! You know how to do it: the comments section is below, Twitter is open 24/7 (@everybodyisugly), and you tech-savvy chicks (Chictopia pun) can probably figure out another way as well.