Fashion, in many ways, thrives on illusion, and nowhere is that more true than in the backend goings-on of the industry itself. While a career in fashion tends to read as glamorous, it’s often anything but, and a lot of hard work, to boot. To give the rest of the world a sense of just how crazy it can be at times, we asked 19 people of differing ages and career paths to share some of their wildest anecdotes. Scroll down to read the outlandish—and, yes, often hilarious—stories!
1. "When I interned in the editorial department at a very well known publication, I was asked to pick up the Editor-in-Chief’s dry cleaning—the caveat being that no one could remember which dry cleaners it had been taken to. I was simply told to look for it until I could find it, and my boss returned my quizzical look with only disdain and a hair flip. After about an hour or so roaming in the August heat, I lucked out and found it."
2. "Fashion shoots are not glamorous, at all. Way back when, I was assisting on a shoot featuring a leading male actor for a top fashion publication. When it came time to get the actor dressed for the first shot we realized none of the pants fit him due to some unexpected weight gain, so we had to cut open the back of all of his trousers so that they'd appear to fit him properly from the front in the photos. Over the course of that shoot, he wore pants that were completely spit open in the back and binder-clipped his boxers so they'd stay in place. It was quite a scene!"
3. "I was doing some writing for the website of a very famous blogger but instead of actually posting my material in full, with credit, she would take the bits and pieces she liked most and incorporate them into her own work, without a second thought. It was the crappiest feeling, and there was nothing I could really do about it, what with her giant fan base and my title as a 'nobody. I’ve since learned that it’s happened to other people, too."
4. "One time I worked 21 days in a row for fashion week and ended up in the emergency room with an anxiety attack once the show was over. I was running the in-house PR for a brand all by myself at the time, so I had to handle a lot. That day I had literally gone straight from the office to the emergency room—I can laugh about it now but it was really intense. I think I was just exhausted and had been running entirely on adrenaline up until the show."
5. "All I have to say is that being a lower level employee at a startup fashion company is like being a manual laborer. Be careful what you think you’re signing up for."
6. "I interned in the features department at a major fashion magazine, and the thing I remember most from that time were all the flower deliveries I did. From walking four windy avenues from the subway with a two-foot tall orchid to a studio in the depths of West Chelsea, to taking two buses to deliver a delicate arrangement to a high-profile actress and having her hunky then-fiancé answer the door, I left the office about once a week with weighty florals in hand to drop off to someone noteworthy 'on the way' home--though it was never actually on my way home. The day I went to Michael Kors’ office was unseasonably warm, and I vividly remember murky plant water dripping down the sleeve of my winter coat as I tried to balance the box of white flowers in one hand, wiping sweat off my temples with the other. With the thousands of dollars this publication was spending at the florist per month (I saw the invoices in the printer tray once), why couldn't they spring a few extra bucks to have that florist deliver?"
7. "I had just graduated and my boss was straight out of The Devil Wears Prada. She yelled at me because I didn’t know what a C2 was (Cover 2 = the most premium position in a magazine that an advertiser can own) and that I didn’t know what TOC stood for (Table of Contents). She told me this industry wasn’t for me and that I wasn’t going to make it, so I contemplated quitting. Luckily, the Associate Publisher saw my talent and had me report to new executives who were very nice. The new assistant to my old boss cried constantly. Within 6 months, my boss was fired for being rude to the entire staff and I was promoted to a role almost identical to hers."
8. "When I was a salesperson for a popular men’s fashion magazine, my publisher told me that if I didn’t make the newly-minted editor-in-chief understand how to cover fashion he would fire me and make sure I never worked in this town again. I resigned the next day and he got on his knees and begged me to stay, offering me anything I wanted. Needless to say, I didn’t stay."
9. "Some PR people will straight up bribe you with clothes, gift cards, or other incentives to include their clients editorially. This usually ends up feeling uncomfortable and awkward, because it's basically asking us to compromise our editorial integrity, and assumes that editorial placement can be 'bought' if the bribe is good enough. Gifting is commonplace, as well as gifting with "strings" attached, where you'll get pressured to include a client if they gave you a gift, but it's always surprising when we get up-front, I-will-give-you-this-if-you-give-me-that type of offers."
10. "As the assistant to a major editor, I often had to call and plead with brands to seat her in the front row during fashion week or else she’d refuse to show up. I was humiliated for both of us."
11. "As a professional hairstylist who often works behind-the-scenes at the shows, I’ve watched countless models drift in exhausted and groaning of hunger, only to pick at a piece of fruit or two, quickly telling the next people they see that they’re nearly too full to walk. It’s pretty uncomfortable, but what’s more uncomfortable is that everyone treats it as normal."
12. "When I worked at a small fashion showroom, I ended up having to pet sit my boss’ animals while she went on vacation. When I went to check in on the cat and fish, I found the fish frozen and dead in its tank because she had left it next to an open window in December. She then told me to replace the fish so that her son wouldn't be upset. It was a special experience!"
13. "I was doing PR for a very renowned jeweler at the time and my intern was a soon-to-be-very-famous blogger who came from a family with experience in the business. She was very well-off and thought so highly of herself that she refused to run any errands for the company, asking instead if she could—no joke—'run a meeting.'"
14. "When I was working as a PR consultant for a lingerie brand, I received an e-mail asking me for any samples that might work for a 'sexed-up nun shoot' with a pretty wholesome celebrity."
15. "It's a very social industry so everyone (ok, almost everyone) is hungover at least one day out of the week. You have to learn how to work and be productive with a major hangover."
16. "One time I had to lie and 'call in' an expensive bag for a shoot (there was no shoot) because my boss wanted to give it to her friend as a gift but didn't want to pay. I did it and the bag arrived, but some of the fringe detail felt 'out of place' for her so I had to somehow get a new version of the bag in—which I did. Needless to say, the brand hated me after that."
17. "While working with celebrities on photo shoots and editorials seems exciting, you'll often be exposed to the downside of working with big-name talent. Think: pushy publicists, mom-agers, tardiness, and insane food and beverage demands (anything from a particular wine to a specific kind of quinoa cake). Though it sounds crazy, you'll quickly learn that you have no choice but to put up with anything they say, do, or want for the sake of getting the shot!"
18. "While working in the advertising department of a major magazine, I had to go with the publisher to a meeting with the editor-in-chief at her home. She was in the bathtub with her breasts floating up while we sat on the edge of her tub and discussed strategy for Europe."
19. "As an intern in the communications department of a major luxury brand, I was ordered to pick up and deliver a cake that was almost as tall as me and made entirely of Ladurée macarons. By the way, this was summer in New York City, I was unpaid, and nobody offered to get me a car or pay for my cab. I ended up walking 40 blocks, whilst dripping in sweat, to deliver this sugary monstrosity to a 'friend of the brand.'"
Do you have any crazy fashion industry tales of your own? Sound off in the comments! And if you want even more fashion world "dirt," we highly recommend the memoirs below.
Diane von Furstenberg The Woman I Wanted to Be ($18)