Fashion Week events in cosmopolitan cities like Paris and New York often exude an aura of exclusivity, reserved seemingly for designers, celebrities, and influencers. But behind the glamour is essential work behind-the-scenes, where interns play a pivotal role in upholding the spectacle.

During the recent Autumn/Winter Paris Fashion Week, I interned for Huishan Zhang, a luxury clothing brand that connects Eastern heritage with Western influences. After the success of their London Fashion Week show, Huishan Zhang’s exclusive showroom resided within the elegant confines of a top-floor apartment discreetly nestled behind the iconic Champs-Élysées. The showroom showcased the latest collection that exuded the narrative of a scandalous love affair woven through feminine details and directional designs.

I received confirmation of my internship only 48 hours before its commencement, which left me with little time for preparation. However, through my role as a showroom intern I gained invaluable hands-on experience across diverse tasks, from curating the showroom’s ambience (whatever that means) to assisting buyers during appointments, and ensuring models were impeccably dressed. I was given the opportunity to develop my own skills, whether it was meticulously arranging garments to showcase their allure, coordinating with buyers to understand market demands, or perfecting the art of dressing models in a way that captured each collection. Moreover, the internship served as a gateway to unparalleled networking opportunities, facilitating connections with seasoned professionals and fellow fashion enthusiasts. These interactions not only initiated potential collaborations with clients such as Selfridges, Liberty’s, and Harrods but also enriched my understanding of industry dynamics and emerging trends.

As I imagine with any internship there were challenges – as despite all the benefits, navigating the fast-paced realm of fashion tested my resilience and adaptability. The internship was unpaid (!) and had a demanding schedule that often led to working overtime without warning. As an English Literature student at a non-fashion university, I initially grappled with feeling inadequate compared to the other interns who studied at the prestigious Instituto Marangoni (a fashion design school). I feared I lacked the knowledge and experience expected in the industry. Interns and models shared a feeling that our contributions and efforts weren’t valued or respected, which is a common struggle for interns navigating hierarchical structures. However, as the internship continued, I made sure to rely on my experienced colleagues and ask them for wisdom and insights. The experience allowed me to immerse myself in the industry and bridge gaps in my knowledge, increasing my confidence and most importantly I learned to advocate for myself and actively seek out opportunities to showcase my capabilities. 

To balance a demanding internship during term time as a third-year student was difficult. Flying to Paris resulted in me missing multiple classes, and I was unable to engage with my university work as my time with Huishan Zhang often had me occupied from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. This is one of the unavoidable downsides of a highly sought-after (and therefore high-expectation) internship. I found it difficult to compensate for the week of university work that accumulated during my absence. On reflection, the internship experience emphasised the paramount importance of time management and self-discipline when attempting to juggle commitments and passion. 

My internship experience has profoundly influenced my career aspirations, offering invaluable insights into the diverse pathways within the industry. I was immersed in the heart of fashion innovation in Paris, which has fuelled my ambition to pursue a career in fashion journalism. A career which intertwines creativity with strategic thinking. Armed with the skills and knowledge acquired during my internship, I am eager to list them in my CV and see what future endeavours they will lead to! With a newfound sense of direction and purpose, I am confident that my internship experience has laid a solid foundation for achieving my career goals in the dynamic world of fashion.

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