What It’s like to Work in a Fashion Start-Up for One Year and How I Survived It

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I wish I could tell you that working for a fashion start-up is similar to what you’ve seen in The Intern (featuring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro). Truth is, it’s not as glamorous as it looks.

Working for a fashion start-up is challenging and fast-paced. Drop everything you know about The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City. To survive the start-up scene, you need to hustle, juggle and work your way up.

I’ve spent more than a year as a content writer for a fashion start-up. Here’s my tale of survival.

You need to learn fast and work faster

The fashion industry is dominating the digital space. To survive the pressure, you need to pick things up fast. You don’t want to be buried by an avalanche of clothes during sales week.

Every morning, our team received hundreds of clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories. Each of them needed their product descriptions before we could sell them on the website.

The quantity doubled during festive season or sales week. If I slowed down my pace, it would affect other departments who depended on my content before going live on the website.

Not only did I have to write well, I had to write well and fast. Here’s how I sped up my writing process: I studied heels measurements and timepiece anatomy; memorised clothing fabrics and style terms; and researched local and international brands.

I also compiled a style guide of neckline, skirts, sleeves, dresses and jeans as references. By having these notes on the side, it amped up my efficiency to get the product descriptions written and completed on time.

It’s okay to dress like Andy Sachs

Movie: The Devil Wears Prada

You know, the pre-makeover Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada? The part where she wore a cerulean sweater and tartan skirt? In reality, it’s absolutely fine to dress that way if you want to. There’s no Emily Charlton snickering away over your choice of wearing your ‘grandma’s skirt’.

It’s lovely to see stylists and fashion buyers glam up for work. It’s also lovely to see people owning their style in their most comfortable way. My weekday uniform is basically my favourite blouse paired with navy jeans. Everyone’s chill about it. So yes, own that pair of Converse if River Island heels aren’t your style.

Learn to juggle well

Everyone is built with a set of multitasking skills. If you can drive a car while listening to music, or reply someone’s text while walking against the crowd, you can definitely do two things at once.

Working in a fashion start-up is pretty much like that. You need to multitask to get your work done.

As a writer, I had to complete a huge batch of product descriptions while emailing the fashion buyers, hunting down misplaced products, and communicating with stylists at the same time. It was an exhausting fast-paced life, but exhilarating too.  

Move on quickly, even though it hurts

What I learned from working in a fashion start-up is to move on quickly. You can pour out your best effort on a project today, but it might be trash tomorrow. That’s just how things go in a fashion start-up.

Once, I was assigned to prepare product descriptions for Ivy Park’s launch. I’m always pumped up when there’s an opportunity to write for international brands. This one was particularly special because it was Beyonce’s Ivy Park.

When the content was ready and submitted, the department leader informed me they didn’t need it. The client had sent an official content to use.

Mine ended up in the trash.

I was infuriated. Not only was my work rejected, but I could’ve used the time and energy to work on other things. But shit happens. I allowed myself to dwell on it for awhile and then let it go.

You have to move on quickly, even though it hurts.

Starting a career in a fashion start-up is far from glamorous. Truth be told, it comes with various challenges and setbacks that test your will to succeed.

What I learnt from my one-year experience turned into lessons that I carry with me till today. Working in the digital space, especially in the fashion industry, has taught me a few things:

I learned that being a fast learner with a knack for multitasking is important. It’s a fast-paced industry, and you have to be efficient and versatile.

At the same time, the fashion industry taught me how to deal with changes and criticism. I learnt to let go of uncontrollable situations, which allowed me to move on quickly to other priorities to keep the momentum going.

If you’re ready to explore a career in a fashion start-up, remember – it’s quite a ride. It certainly has its downsides, but it’s worth it for the thrill and excitement of the industry.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at chengsim.com
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