4 Tips to Find a Career in Fashion That Actually Pays Well


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If you're reading this, you probably already know that fashion isn't usually a get-rich-quick kind of field. While there are plenty of ways to make money in the industry—heading up a successful clothing brand, say, or running an über-popular Instagram—it's not an easy path to the top, and getting there takes time, luck, and hard work (and/or the genes of a Hadid).

Of course, some of the most lucrative positions are going to be the flashiest—Jenna Lyons, for instance, had a base salary of $1 million per year, plus bonus, in her final year at J.Crew—but there are other behind-the-scenes ways to make a solid living in the field. We asked two experts from the Fashion Institute of Technology's Career and Internship Center, Amy Mato and Jennifer Miller Peters, to share their tips for fashion industry-hopefuls who might not want to be living on ramen for years before getting their big break (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Read on for their advice on scoring a job that pays.

#1: Venture Beyond the Coasts

Think every major fashion brand is headquartered in NYC or L.A.? Not quite. Nike is in Beaverton, Oregon; Urban Outfitters is in Philadelphia; Target is in Minneapolis; and L Brands, which owns brands like Victoria's Secret and Express, is in Columbus, Ohio. While students often want to stay in the big city, it means some financial sacrifice. "Sometimes there are more opportunities outside of New York if you want better pay or your money to go further because the cost of living in New York tends to be higher than in other places," says Miller Peters.

#2: Think E-Comm

While department-store training programs like Macy's executive development program have historically been some of the more lucrative jobs you can get straight out of school, forward-thinking students should master skills needed for e-commerce, too, in 2017. "E-commerce is similar work to what the graduates would do in a brick-and-mortar environment but now bringing it to the web," says Miller Peters. "So they're more interested in computer analytics, more photo shoots, and styling work because you need to have those images online and the descriptions of the products."

#3: Get Technical

For every Marc Jacobs or Tory Burch, there are designers working behind the scenes to bring their garments to life—and while you may not be able to earn a Forbes-worthy salary, the sheer number of available positions means you should have a much easier time finding work. "There are good opportunities on the technical side of things," says Mato. But there is a caveat: "There really isn't creativity in tech design. It is really all the details to get the product made: the measurements, every detail of the sewing, the manufacture, and the fit, but there's no creativity as far as selecting colors or silhouette or trends or fabric."

#4: Come at the Industry From a Different Angle

Having a background in a traditionally high-paying field like finance or law can, needless to say, give you a serious leg up when it comes to earning a more sizable salary—and there are more ways to apply those skills to fashion than you might think. Fashion law is an emerging field in intellectual property law, for instance, and the world of Wall Street has launched the careers of many of fashion's most successful entrepreneurs. Jewelry designer Monique Péan, for instance, told The Wall Street Journal that her years as a fixed-income analyst at Goldman Sachs were instrumental in helping her position her brand in the market.