I know the return of the school year is close, and some of you may be going to fashion school or planning to. As an old fashion student (I graduated in February 2021) I thought I could write an article about the reality behind fashion schools in order to help some of you. The goal is not to make you run away from school on your first day or abandon your projects but rather give you necessary informations before going there. Because unfortunately, this world is still full of illusions, and it hurts when you realize the reality hidden behind the Stockman.
By telling you what i’m about to, I know I might appear as a dream crusher. But if I’m being honest, if I really wanted to crush your dreams, I wouldn’t say anything. Because the fact that you will know what will happen gives you an advantage and allows you to get ready and handle it better later. But if you don’t know what will happen, just like me when I first arrived at my fashion school, head full of expectations, you’ll be hit HARD by reality. Some of old fashion students leave fashion school disappointed they give up on their dreams, and to me, that is dream crushing. So before getting blinded by the runway’s lights, here are a few things to know.
THE SHALLOW ALWAYS OVERTAKES THE CREATIVE
I think this is the biggest scam of the fashion industry, and nobody talks about it. After 3 years in fashion school, I notices there were 3 types of students : the bourgeois, the shallows and the creatives. The 2 first categories will always be privileged compared to the last one. Let me explain, people who get themselves noticed are generally the same that give themselves airs through their fashion sense and the way they speak. Their only creativity lays on their appearance and shallowness. And yet, they’re the ones getting the jobs. They’re like marketing people, but they follow a Design degree because it’s cooler on their resume than a marketing degree.
When it comes down to the degree, know that teachers will always prefer these students than those who are discreet but have an incredible creative universe. For that matter, you should know that teachers aren’t objective when they judge your work. If they don’t like your work, no matter how good it is, you won’t get a good grade. They also play favorites, and you already know which ones they like. It can be stressful but you should know that it has nothing to do with your talent and that you should keep defending your work, because no one will do it for you.
MENTAL HEALTH DOESN’T EXIST THERE
Not only it is stressful to be judged by people who always question the legitimacy of fashion jobs, but the Fashion Designer degree puts its students under a unique stress, as much as emotional than financial and creative. Indeed, the anxiety around fashion schools is quite unique since the work is endless, there’s always so much more to do. We feel like we spend hours on a project that can always be improved, and easily destroyed by critics. We’re weighed down under work constantly, without any recognition of our work. We do all-nighters after all-nighters, we have mental breakdown once a week, projects that are far from being finished… I can’t remember how many students I have seen crying in class because it was all too muche for them.
Your mental health will be put to the test. If I can give you some advices, please avoid all-nighters as much as you can, take a 2h nap instead if you have to and then go back to work. You may don’t know this, but your body needs 6 months to recouvre from an all-nighter. BUT, if you have to do it, I recommande you do it with your friends, so that you can help each other to finish your work and you won’t fall asleep – to be honest, I sometimes fell asleep on my work in the middle of the night. Otherwise, listen to a punchy playlist, drink coffee or an energizing drink so that you’ll stay awake… All-nighters aside, you need to toughen your mental up, especially facing your teachers’ remarks. Your ego will be step on it, you won’t break. And to finish it up, the hardest part, you have to believe in yourself and in your work. You are here for a good reason, you’ll only get better and you’ll find your creative universe, so don’t put an unnecessary pressure on your shoulders, and DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER.
WHAT COMES NEXT ?
Even though a lot of people are now more and more attracted to the fashion industry thanks to its evolution on social medias and TV (I can’t count how many TV shows or movies depict this glamorous industry) fashion jobs don’t multiply. It means that the market is saturated and that all young graduates face the wall, since not only the jobs are nonexistent, but the rare ones are booked for people who know people. And Covid didn’t help, many businesses had to close down or have lost too much money so they can’t hire new people. We’ll have to wait before the fashion industry revives completely, so get ready to not get your dream job the second you graduate, no matter your level (except if you know someone). It’s a sad reality but only 30% round graduates find a job the first year after their diploma, while 70% find a job after 3 years.
Beyond the saturated market, don’t count on your school to help you get an internship or a job. It’s quite funny, at first I thought it was only my school that didm’t help its students, but then I listened and read several testimonies of people who said the exact same thing about their school. I-D wrote an interesting article about the stress fashion students felt because of it, I’ll leave you the link here here. The moment I graduated, I no longer heard from my school, even though they said during the open doors day that they accompanied students for their job’s search, that they had a network of old students, etc… The same school that had the audacity to ask me to take my futur interns there, while they never helped me get a contact for an internship or job. I know how frustration that is, after investing a lot of money, time, all-nighters and more, to only get a handshake and a diploma. We have this bitter feeling that we did all of it for nothing. But I believe in us, I know we can bring something new to this ruthless industry and we’ll be great.
Written by Elena Gaudé.