This is the first of an ongoing series offering tips from young professionals on how to land a fashion internship. These 20-somethings are interning at renowned fashion houses from Marc Jacobs to Oscar de la Renta. They’re bravely walking up to industry leaders and giving elevator speeches and handing out resumes and business cards. They’re sticking their foot in the door of one of the most competitive industries. And they’re getting hired.
Company: Ivanka Trump
Position: Licensing and Design Intern
School: University of Northern Iowa
Majors: Textiles and Apparel; Marketing
A young blond woman is settled in Ivanka Trump’s chair. She looks comfy in this corner office, as if she might prop the heels of her thrifted shoes on the edge of Trump’s desk. While they share golden locks and an impeccable fashion sense, she isn’t Ivanka, or her right—or even second— hand man. She is an intern-to-be on a New York class trip. And this is how, two months later, she made the jump from small-town-Iowa college girl to Ivanka Trump’s intern.
Tell me a little bit about how you got your internship at Ivanka Trump.
A girl at my school who interned at Oscar de la Renta last summer set up a class trip for our major to visit Ivanka Trump, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, and a few other well-known names. I went and got to meet everyone in the companies. At Ivanka Trump I straight up asked the VP of Creative, Marissa Kraxberger, about internship opportunities. She told me they hadn’t done them before, but were open to it. So I gave her my business card. The next week I emailed her, and she forwarded me to their main design team. It all snowballed from there.
What about your follow-up email stood out?
I started by thanking Marissa for letting our class from the Midwest visit Ivanka’s office. After that I told her I was interested in merchandising and buying, why I’m interested in it, and what my strong points are. Then I asked if there was anything open relating to that or if they’d be open to creating something relating to that.
What did they see in you that pushed them to create that opportunity?
I was one of the first ones from the group to go up to Marissa and start a conversation. And I’m double majoring, so I think that looks good.
Speaking of double majoring, when you grow up what’s the ideal merging of Textiles and Apparel as well as Marketing?
My ultimate dream is to be a buyer for a department store—so like Saks Fifth Avenue.
What are you learning from the team at Ivanka Trump that lends itself to your dream job?
Since it’s a small company—there’s only 10 people involved right now—you get a feel for all the different jobs. You can’t do your job the right way until you grasp what everyone else is doing and how that makes up the big picture. I like how I get to see all that.
What are you learning from the process?
For Ivanka Trump specifically, they try to find an icon for the season and then build a lifestyle around that icon. All the trends stem from that. Then the merchandisers and licensees work around that concept and we mold it. I believe you can create something beautiful out of any kind of inspiration. But it’s more of a challenge when you have to pinpoint who you’re selling to. That’s what I like about it.
Has watching this process helped you understand your future role as a buyer better?
It’s been kind of informal, but I’ve been doing brief price-point competitor analysis. For example, Ivanka has a line of girls’ shoes that collide with women’s shoes because it fits the lifestyle of a 35-year-old mom with a daughter who’s kind of a mini me. With that, they had me find brands that are doing something similar and compare their average prices and number of styles and color palettes to our brand to see where we line up.
These seem like pretty impressive tasks for an intern. How did you prove yourself or show them you’re really dedicated?
Since I started, they’ve told me, "We want help from you but we also want you to gain from this, so if you want to do something, ask." Just today we were on point to go visit our apparel licensee, and their chief merchandiser and I were on our own for a little bit. Willa, who usually oversees me, had mentioned something about a possibility of going to market, but she didn’t know because she isn’t in charge of that. So I asked Abigail, who is. You just have to take it upon yourself.
A lot of college students can’t afford designer brands. What did you wear on your first day?
It’s actually what I wore today: a high-waisted flowy skirt. It’s black—I love my black—with a cool pebbly texture with a printed crop top. They’re both H&M. And I wore thrifted shoes—3-inch heels with athletic molding. I got a lot of compliments from everyone at Ivanka, but my feet were bleeding by the end of the day. So don’t do that.
What is the one piece of advice you’d give to students looking to intern in the upcoming semesters?
Never lower your standards. When I was searching for internships for what felt like years, people kept telling me, "Maybe you could find something in the Midwest. Network there." I looked at it a little bit but I didn’t have an interest in those cities. I know that might not be everybody, but I wanted to be in L.A. or preferably New York. So that’s where most of my applications went. And when the opportunity for the New York trip came, I took it, even though I didn’t necessarily have the money. But I knew I’d get something out of it. And sure enough, I did. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.