Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion and beauty industries.
Five years ago, (yes, I've worked at this website a long time), I came up with a list of "fashion jobs that didn't exist five years ago." It's pretty funny to look at now, since most of those roles are no longer novel, but are in fact mainstays of the industry: social media manager, digital/short-lead PR, fashion-tech entrepreneur. Back in 2014, the industry was only just beginning to adapt to an increasingly digital world. Today, digital rules everything. The internet is where we consume content, get inspired, shop and even sell; thus, it's also where many of us work.
As brands have shifted their budgets from print advertising to influencers and shifted their retail strategies from brick-and-mortar and wholesale to direct e-commerce, and as new business models like online resale and digital personal styling have taken off, many new types of fashion jobs have emerged as a result.
Attempting to enter the fashion industry now, at a time when so many things about it are in flux, is not an enviable position to be in. But while certain roles once seen as dream jobs are becoming less and less available, there are jobs out there. You just might not have heard of them, and they may require a new skillset or some unconventional internship experience. In hopes of guiding those who feel understandably lost in this ever-changing, layoff- and store-closure-plagued industry, we've outlined a few of them below.
We compiled the list based on information provided by innovative, digitally savvy fashion companies, recruiters and job listing sites. Obviously, job titles and exact responsibilities vary from company to company. And yes, some of these existed on some level five years ago. But broadly, if you're looking for a viable career option that companies are looking for with increasing frequency, these may be areas to consider.
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Influencer Marketing Manager
Since influencers, from micro- to macro-, seem likely to remain A Thing for years to come, brands are investing in professionals to work with them, specifically. (Previously, this might have been just one part of the role of a publicist or marketing manager.) Such a role could be more big-picture and strategy-based, and thus involve developing or evolving an influencer strategy for a company and/or outlining influencer campaigns for the year. Or, it could involve more of the day-to-day operations of dealing with influencers, like establishing agreements with them/their representation, project managing and/or seeding product. "A partnership manager would come up with who to partner with, negotiate all contracts and follow the partnership through from start through completion," explains Audrey Okulick, founder of The Workshop LA, a fashion recruiting firm based in Los Angeles. She says she's seen a significant uptick in these types of jobs in recent years.
Online Personal Stylist
One of the biggest industry disrupters of the past few years has been Stitch Fix. Now a billion-dollar public company, Stitch Fix's backbone, aside from its finely tuned algorithms, is its stylists. The company employs more than 3,900 stylists who are algorithmically matched to each client for styling "fixes," i.e. the contents of the boxes customers receive. Per a rep for the company, "They are instrumental in creating the stylish, personalized experience Stitch Fix is known for by building personal relationships with clients, solving wardrobe challenges and surprising and delighting clients with each fix."
Stitch Fix is not the only company making personal styling — over the computer — a viable career option. The company has paved the way for a slew of similar startups. Plus, more traditional retailers are hiring stylists to improve and personalize their online shopping experiences. It's been one strategy for retailers that initially relied on brick-and-mortar sales, to develop stronger relationships with their online customers and get a leg up on digital-only competitors like Net-a-Porter. Per Okulick, Neiman Marcus, which is known for its in-store stylists, has begun employing online personal stylists to create curated looks for big spenders. Nordstrom has a similar strategy. It's an excellent role for someone with retail experience who wants to do more than work as a sales associate.
Online Customer Service/Community Management
"If you want a guaranteed job, go into e-commerce," says Okulick. From traditional retailers beefing up their e-commerce operations, to brands pulling out of wholesale and investing in their own direct e-commerce, to successful e-tailers aiming to maximize relationships with their many shoppers and users, jobs in this arena are everywhere. There are of course a number of logistical and operational roles, but what's especially interesting — and increasingly common — are the roles that involve customer relations.
"Large in-house teams are being assembled to handle the online and phone customer service," explains Okulick. "Zendesk is a program most of these companies use, so as a candidate, if a company is offering to train you in this important software, take the opportunity!" Another advantage: Sometimes, online customer service jobs can be done from home.
Ayr employs client specialists dedicated specifically to interacting with customers over Instagram DM. "This is a hybrid customer service/brand marketing role," explains Maggie Winter, the brand's CEO and Co-Founder. "DM'ing is one of the best ways to get fast, easy responses to our audience in real time. On our team, this person also takes FaceTime appointments."
Bigger companies might also hire people specifically to do research on their customers and their habits, while more niche companies might have more specific needs. For instance, The RealReal employs "luxury managers" whose sole job it is to work with consignors. Depop employs a head of seller experience who works to make sure the social commerce site's sellers are using all available tools and help them meet their goals with tips that could range from more sustainable packaging techniques to photography best practices. "Providing our sellers with a best-in-class experience is critical," says a rep for the company.
Sustainability and Social Responsibility Operations
Sustainability heads may have existed five years ago, but not many of them. Very few brands felt it necessary to invest in sustainability, but they're starting to come around. As fashion's waste problem finally begins to click with consumers, brands are beginning to realize they need to get on board, at least in some way. On the more comprehensive end of the spectrum, a brand might hire someone, or a few people, to completely overhaul its supply chain and establish a more environmentally friendly production system. On the less comprehensive end, the role might entail coming up with smaller initiatives aimed at conscious consumers, like recycling programs. Companies that may not feel ready to allocate an entire salary solely to sustainability might loop it in with a larger social responsibility role that could also involve charity partnerships and cause marketing. Or, it may be a contracted short-term role.
Despite not being a typical career path for someone interested in fashion, data scientists are in high demand among fashion companies right now, from Stitch Fix to Farfetch to J.Crew. They can help brands and retailers perfect everything from inventory to price to fit. Stitch Fix employs over 100 data scientists, who are crucial to the company's business model of predicting the styles its users will like through algorithms (with a little help from the human stylists mentioned above). There's also been a rise in startups that make custom-fit clothing — something that would be impossible to scale without data science.
At Laws of Motion, a new direct-to-consumer womenswear brand that offers 99 size variations with the aim of giving women the perfect fit on the first try, the first two hires were data scientists who worked with nearly one million data points from 10,000 women to evaluate and understand the size and shape variation of women's bodies.
Fashion Experts (for Resale)
Yes, "fashion expert" does sound vague, like a fake job title a producer might give a "Bachelor" contestant or E! red-carpet correspondent. But what we're talking about is someone with extensive knowledge about a specific area of fashion goods, whether that's a luxury handbag expert, a vintage fashion expert, a sneaker expert, a pricing expert or a gemologist. They're in high demand among rapidly growing resale companies like The Real Real.
"We also have separate pricing experts in fashion that are focused on understanding trends and how these relate to resale value," says a rep for the luxury consignment retailer. "It's completely unique in that they have their finger on the pulse of current and past season trends, what's happening in the industry as well as following our own data to understand daily, weekly and monthly shifts in resale value by designer and style."
Jack of All Trades
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you have a wide range of skills and interests), fashion companies are increasingly looking for people who can be nimble and take on multiple types of roles.
"Today, the landscape looks very different: instead of a few large brands making lots of products, we're seeing lots of brands focusing on a few products," says Winter. "As a result, the infrastructure does not need to be as robust. We look for generalists who can flex into multiple roles and channels. Ideally, it's someone who has both traditional and digital retail experience, so we can serve our customers as intuitively as possible."
"We've all evolved in our roles — as part of a start up environment it is crucial to be nimble, and to be hungry," adds Ayr Co-founder and COO Max Bonbrest. "In our old worlds, merchants did not handle brand voice and imagery — literally: our merchant-turned-CEO writes our email copy and takes our lifestyle photography — publicists did not handle HR or retail operations, and designers were very siloed in the creative lane. Our founding team has taken on roles and responsibilities beyond our pay grade out of necessity but also out of love for growing and learning outside our typical lanes."
"While it's hard to find a single person who can do it all, companies want this and if you can wear multiple hats within the e-commerce space, you will most certainly always have a job within fashion," says Okulick.