A few months ago, the New York Times published an article, "Plan B: Skip College" asking the question, "Is college really necessary?" For most of the fastest growing careers (nurses aids, customer service representatives and store clerks), the answer is no, but what about for the fastest shrinking: fashion media?
With both the school year and New York Fashion Week about to kick back into schedule, anyone looking to get into this business should take stock of where the industry is headed.
Media jobs and entry-level positions in fashion are as rare these days as hand-beaded couture. The only openings at Vogue and ELLE involve the messengered packages containing dress samples, and the only people leaving are going out feet first in those same garment bags.
Meanwhile, blogging sensations such as fourteen-year-old Tavi and flamboyant Filipino Bryanboy are writing magazine columns for the likes of Harper's Bazaar or foreign editions of ELLE on little more than notoriety and passion.
It all calls into question the relevance of a college degree for aspiring fashion critics. Why go to school and rack up a debt it would take almost a lifetime as a fashion writer to pay off? What if starting a blog was the new journalism degree?
Back ten or fifteen years ago, before the internet came along to slay the imperial hierarchy of the fashion industry, if you wanted to break into magazines, the process was straightforward: go to college, intern for a couple years and usually find a paid editorial job upon graduation. Once there, you'd still have to slave away for about a decade until you got a pretty comfy spot with your own assistant.
Nowadays you can get further, faster, by skipping that entire system and staking out on your own. All you have to do to get a byline is start a blog, gain a following, and you've printed your own resume and credentials. Since access to fashion has exploded with the internet (the most visible example can be experienced trying to wade through the blogger pool at New York Fashion Week), anyone can have valid opinion. If those opinions happen to be funny, unique, or just contain lots of pretty pictures, you might just be further ahead than someone slaving away in the fashion closet at Seventeen.
Of course, it's not really as easy as that. Just publishing a blog is not by itself the master key into Conde Nast or Hearst, but it can be an entrée. If you write consistently about relevant topics and land yourself on the fashion PR radar, you start the process of making industry contacts, which is really the goal of any internship.
My own story followed a similar path. I created a fashion blog back in 2007 during my freshman year of college as a creative outlet to talk about something I loved. That ended up leading to editing a larger online magazine, which brought me to my first fashion week. Flash forward three years and I'd dropped out of NYU and had a masthead title at a major magazine without ever fetching anyone coffee. There are some details I'm leaving out, obviously, but that's the abridged version.
Anna Wintour once said, "You either know fashion or you don't." Clearly Anna knew what she was talking about, as the Vogue Editor-in-Chief never attended college but helms the most powerful magazine title in the industry.