How to Get into Fashion Industry Without A Degree?

Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

CEO and Founder,
440 Industries

Introduction

What comes into your mind when you think of “fashion”? rich colors and glittering cameras? But little did you should know there is much more to it. 

Fashion is creativity. It’s an art that is meant to be expressed. The more innovative you are, the more are the chances of your success.

But is that all? What about people associating the success with a four- or five-year extensive studying of thick, boring books and getting a fashion degree?

I would like to make an announcement here: You can be creative and get into the fashion industry without an expensive education in a famous college. Sounds surprising?

Because the concept of school and job is so fixed in our minds, that it’s hard to think of other ways. And in case you are wondering, the world is no more a place of subcontinents separated by long distances.

The fashion industry is evolving fast thanks to the immense momentum built by technology. And no matter where you are, what you do, you need not a fashion degree to be a part of it.

Just keep reading to understand how you can master the art of fashion and make a living out of it without graduating in the respective field. I have also covered tips and tricks to build solid connections in your fashion circles, create your opportunities, and what dos and don’ts to consider when entering fashion without a degree!

Is It Really Possible to Go into Fashion Industry with No Degree?

Okay, this needs a long debate. But before we jump into the pros and cons of having or not having a degree, let me clear one thing.

If you are here to learn about how to get into the fashion industry without going to college, you need to first understand what fashion really is. You can look for hundreds and thousands of definitions, but at the core of everything, you’ll find the same meaning: fashion is a way to express one’s creativity and originality.

So, what is the need for school or college then? No question studying and graduating is the most suitable way to get what you want. But by no means it is the “only” path to success. And when we say “fashion”, we mean playing with the art and showcasing creativity.

There can be many reasons why you didn’t go for a fashion degree. Let it be anything. You cannot enter any scientific field without graduating. But fashion is different. All it takes is to be a contributor and knowing the art of self-expression. So, let the myth be blasted!

Now, let’s discuss the main thing: the map to your destination. Since you didn’t go to college and couldn’t get the chance to learn everything, the road to your career may not be as smooth as others. You’ll need to do everything on your own from the scratch and it will take time.

There will be milestones and rough times, and that’s exactly what you should ask yourself: Are you ready to endure what it takes to get into the fashion industry?

If your answer is yes, wonderful! Now let’s decide what you want to become.

Your Dream Fashion Job

Of course, you cannot be everyone. Fashion is a huge industry with an immense amount of jobs in it. So, what appeals to you the most? Here are the top 8 fashion careers that you can jump into without a degree!

Designer

Do you love to play with colors? Be a fashion designer. Who knows you’ll be surrounded by lots of fabrics, colors, and patterns after five years?  As a clothing designer, you’ll seek to create dresses that are both functional and appealing to the eyes. Who will wear your designed dresses, and in what circumstances, what audience to address – all this can kickstart your designing career!

Stylist

You can be a stylist and rock in the fashion industry. If you seek to be a simple stylist, your primary duties will be giving fashion tips, selecting and planning costumes for celebrities in glamour shots, or actors in music and movies. You’ll also select, and pack different accessories for shooting projects. However, you can also go for:

  • Makeup artist: As self-explanatory it is, a makeup artist has a huge knowledge about brands of cosmetics, what products are in, what techniques to apply, and what trends are people following.

  • Hairstylist: This includes styling hair not just for movie scenes and shows, but for photoshoots and interviews. Your skills will be arranging, shaping, curling, trimming, cutting, drying, and treating hair.

  • Wardrobe stylist: A wardrobe stylist is different from a fashion designer since their job is mostly related to editing procedures. You won’t be “making” clothes, but picking and choosing proper outfits for tv shows, interviews, promotional campaigns, concerts, and press conferences.

  • Personal stylist: This may sound new to you but being a personal stylist has benefits of its own. A personal stylist is an advisor who from keeping an eye on trends to designing dresses and picking accessories does all the jobs. But you get the liberation to choose your clients and work personally for them.

Editor

Of course, fashion is not just about designing and styling. Most of the brands have their magazines or social media pages where they post their catalogues. As an editor, you are expected to have an understating of journalism along with hands-on experience in editing software and applications to work in a magazine, journal, or even a newspaper.

Photographer

What’s a shoot without a photographer? It wouldn’t be wrong to let the photographers take all the credit for successful brands. But what needs to remember is that a fashion photographer isn’t just for taking pictures of celebrities, but of their outfits, makeover, hairstyles, and much more. You will also be responsible for managing the arrangement of shoots in catalogs, advertisements, and magazines.

You can be either a studio photographer or a runaway photographer:

  • Studio photographer: As a studio photographer, your job will include working in a studio shooting celebrities for advertisements, catalogues, or even journals. You can also create your gallery or be a part of a brand. In either case, you should be innovative in setting up stages with proper props and backgrounds that fit the theme.

  • Runaway photographer: There is fun in being a runaway photographer going places and shooting. You are not confined to a studio but at the same time, constantly moving can be exhausting. However, you should love being a runaway photographer if you are a travel seeker.

Social media manager

Social media marketing may look like an easy task, but you should only choose it if you know how to monitor, manage, conduct, filter, and evaluate a brand, product, or even a business. Celebrities also have social media managers to take care of posting pictures online, managing likes and comments, posting stories and important information about their life and career.

Content writers

Wow, who knew content writers are also welcome in the fashion industry? While a social media manager takes care of posting and managing accounts, a content writer provides content for captions, stories, and even emails. If you work with a brand, you can write for their magazine or catalogue. There are so many opportunities. But again, content writing for a brand requires unique and innovative content which needs experience and knowledge.

How to get into the fashion industry without a degree? Step by Step!

Now is the time to dive deep into the process of getting into the fashion industry without a degree. Here is the five-step formula for your success:

1. Dream Vs Vision

Why do you want to go into fashion? Is it just because you “feel” like wanting it, or is there a clear aim and goal you want to achieve? If the former is true, please abstain from entering the fashion industry. While in case of the latter, you are welcome to move ahead and plan out your career.

What do you aspire to be? Who are your inspirations? Are you ready to tackle hardships and struggle to reach your destination? There is so much work to do since you are completely new. And for that, your vision should be clear and straightforward if you want to become successful in the fashion industry.

2. Understand the Requirements

It doesn’t matter why you couldn’t go to fashion school or college. What matters is how you are going to polish your skills. Whatever you want to choose, let it be a designer, editor, stylist, photographer, manager, or writer, you need the knowledge to get started.

You don’t have to invest heavily; you can learn all that for free:

Web search

The internet is full of information ready to be explored. Just search one thing and Google will show you hundreds of results. If you don’t like reading extensive books, you can also read their summaries and get a hold of the subject. While eBooks are also available, or you can just go through blogs and read more.

Online courses

While online courses are usually paid, many websites offer them for free. Sometimes, platforms have the option of financial assistance which you can avail of to have a discount or free access to all the course. Online courses are great because they are short, concise, and include assignments and quizzes to enhance your skills.

Read fashion magazines

A great way to get started in the fashion industry without a degree is to read magazines. Almost every brand has a journal, catalogue, or magazine which you can either purchase or read online. Get to know about new trends and understand what is required in the modern-day. Also, if you want to be associated with a specific brand or fashion company, you can know more about them by reading their magazine.

Join FB groups

Believe me, Facebook groups are underrated. If you cannot find any mentor online to teach you, Facebook has lots of groups that can join and learn from experienced people. You can also ask questions and read others’ posts to see how they are doing what they are doing in fashion.

Follow editors/brand managers/stylists

Everyone uses social media these days. And I bet your favourite stylist, designer, photographer, editor, journalist, and even social media manager must have a presence on these platforms. Follow them and keep a close eye on what they post, their stories, and grab as much knowledge as you can. You can ask questions too but be concise and respectful.

Watch YouTube videos

You have no idea how YouTube videos can boost your knowledge. Watching something gives you a more in-depth understanding which you may not get while reading. Nevertheless, it is a great way to step up your game!

3. Build a Portfolio

Mark my words: Your portfolio is your fashion career. Put efforts into it to take it to the level of perfection. Look online for examples, listen to what professional say, watch YT videos – in other words, do everything you can to make an excellent portfolio!

Here is how you can make a portfolio from scratch:

  • Start working early: Don’t wait for anyone to come and give you a project. If you are taking online courses or watching YT videos, see how they have demonstrated the topic and then create your masterpiece. The sooner you start working on your portfolio, the polished your skills are.

  • Choose the best in the portfolio: No, you don’t add “everything” in your portfolio. Since it a gateway to new opportunities, you wouldn’t want rough drafts and imperfect attempts to be a part of it. Pick the most appealing ones, organize them in sections, and then make your portfolio.

Handbook or Digital portfolio?

A handbook portfolio has a shape of a booklet, while a digital portfolio is made on some platform. While handbook portfolios are good to present, I would suggest you go for a digital portfolio because it is easy to edit, update, with easy access. You can always update it without the issue of weight or storage.

You can make your digital portfolio on a variety of platforms, but the most effective are:

  • Website: Either make your website or choose a website that allows you to publish your work. Just make sure the website is as per your expertise in the latter case. Also, if you are a journalist or writer, this will be your best option.

  • Instagram: Instagram is the world of pictures, and you can create a wonderful portfolio free of cost whether you are a stylist, editor, designer, or photographer. You can also take inspiration from the social media of your mentors and mix and match to create yours.

4. Internships

Internships, whether paid or unpaid, are the best way to have hands-on experience in the expertise. While getting a paid internship is hard, you can also go unpaid since it is just a start-up. Also, internships are short and range from one or three to six months, or even a year. They are often volunteered, so you should closely monitor the brands you like to work with and the area of your expertise they offer. 

It is recommended to make your portfolio ready while applying for internships. Also, always apply for more than one internship and fill out the applications wisely. Even before that, you should read the instructions and understand the requirements. Focus on making connections and learning new things. Don’t apply to any internship if it doesn’t suit your expertise since it would be nothing but a time waste.

5. Start Your Career

Once you are done with your portfolio and have gained a little experience through internships, it is time to kickstart your career. You can choose any of the following options:

  • Freelancing: You can work for different people and start a home-based business. Freelancing is a complete business on its own and shouldn’t be chosen just because it “seems” easy.

  • Personal business: You can start a brand of your own, let it be any expertise. You can take short projects in the beginning and take your business up a notch!

  • Employment: The basic step, in this case, will be to start as an “assistant” and learn and grow with time. You can also start volunteer working at the start and get started as time goes by.

Not to forget the importance of marketing your services and brands, you cannot make yourself recognizable without it. Make use of your connections and focus on smart work, but patience is the key!

6. Conclusions

Hopefully, you have learnt every aspect of getting into the fashion industry without graduation. While you should remember not to stress yourself and stay patient. No one gets success overnight. Just love your work and focus on making contacts right from the start because they will help you land your first internship or even a job.

In case you wanted to know, you can visit museums or fashion galleries to interact with enthusiasts like you. You can participate in fashion competitions as well and use social media to interact with brands. Becoming a volunteer ambassador is great to have a start-up, while FB groups are also perfect for building connections. Best of luck with your career!

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Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

I am an Anglo-Italian business lecturer and consultant based in Florence, Italy. In 2017 I started 440 Industries, an education and training company focused on fashion, music, and technology. Our mission is to help students, entrepreneurs and managers in overcoming the challenges of starting, developing and scaling their business in the creative industries. When there's a will, there's a way!

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