My daughter and I have both done fashion work experience at the same age. My nearly 16-year-old daughter Charlie was asking around for work experience opportunities. She loves fashion and is stylish and very confident. The mother of a friend of hers suggested that she might be able to do her work experience (a week long school-aged internship) at Bianca Spender/Carla Zampatti. Carla Zampatti is Australian fashion royalty so a wonderful place to get some experience and put on the resume. She’s been doing it this week, catching the ferry in with me each day and coming home with me each night. I’ve loved having a little sidekick for the week on the ferry.
Fashion Work Experience 1984
I also did work experience in fashion, but in 1984 with an eccentric designer that was “all the rage”: Linda Jackson. At the time I wanted to be a fashion designer. I did costume design for my year 10 major work for the Great Gatsby, I made 80% of my own clothes by pulling apart clothes to copy the pattern or altering op shop garments. When my careers teacher got me the gig at Linda Jackson I was so excited and nervous.
My duties included cleaning the fitting room/studio/reception area, answering phones, beading dresses for the Logies (I’m pretty sure Olivia Newton-John was wearing one of the dresses I beaded). I got people’s lunches, made coffee. Everyone smoked, so I emptied ashtrays. I also got to help screen print the beautiful fabrics. I learned her technique for achieving her “black opal” (seen just below) and her black overprinted with bronze leaf motif inspired fabrics. Everything was handwritten or typed: thank you notes, fitting dates, invitations, press releases. It was hugely life changing, and despite the fact that I never went into fashion design, I was then able to go into Dotti and get a part time job.
Fashion Work Experience in 2017
My daughter’s experience is that of the 2017 intern. Lots of manual labour still, but yesterday she was involved in entering data into an Excel spreadsheet. This was the result of a showing and “voting” ballots for the seasonal pieces. Today she fetched food etc as an intern does, but she also got to write a draft blog of press pieces and coverage of the brands and will finish that blog tomorrow. I think that the sneak peek into the fashion world has opened Charlie’s eyes to the fact that she loves writing, doesn’t like manual labour and that she loves being at school. As much as she;s gained from her week, I think it reinforced how much easier being a student can be that a busy workplace. Getting used to an 8 hour day is tough.
I think the biggest difference between her and my experiences is the technology. We used the phone, hand-delivered invitations, faxes didn’t even exist. Stocktake and payments were all manual. My work experience was very hands-on in the creative process, whereas Charlie’s was very hands-on with the technology and dispatch side. Linda Jackson was also a Couture Designer so her dresses were all one-offs. Carla is in the upper end but not haute couture, more pret-a-porter.
I’m hoping that Charlie gets out of the week an understanding of what working hard is. I’d also hope it helps to get her first job in retail fashion, somewhere like Zara, which she loves. I loved my time in retail fashion, and it taught me customer sales skills and confidence. I’m a better design with regards to client liaison because of that sales experience.