This is the last 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: Marc by Marc Jacobs; past, Alexander Wang
Position: Design Intern
School: Iowa State University
Degree: B.S., Creative Apparel Design (with emphases on creative and technical design)
Abby Beuse was 19 when she flew into New York. She didn’t know anyone there but the internship coordinator who had asked her questions over Skype a few months before. Her parents had lived in Manhattan in the ‘80s, but Beuse was headed to Brooklyn—a place her parents had warned her against because of its pre-aughts crime rates. But she conquered New York that summer as Alexander Wang’s intern, and now, two years later, she came back. This time as a veteran with a college degree, no longer nervous about Brooklyn, or the subways (or the torpedo-sized rats). And now, she spends her days at Marc Jacobs.
Here’s how she was able to land both of her top-notch gigs.
How did you apply to Marc Jacobs?
Iowa State has alumni at Marc Jacobs. I reached out to one around the same time I started looking up internships two years ago, but they had already finished hiring for that year (hence Alexander Wang). So this year when I was deciding what to do, I thought I’d test the waters and do one more internship. It really can help you get a freelance or entry-level position. So I didn’t intern [at Marc Jacobs] then, but we kind of kept in contact and I emailed her this year, and turns out they were still looking for interns.
And what have you learned while testing the waters?
I wasn’t always sure that tech design was what I wanted to do. I always thought my dream would be in creative design, but now it’s a toss up—I can’t say which one I love more.
In general, it’s so amazing to have these awesome supervisors at these awesome companies and the caliber of work they do. It impacts your work ethic and level of taste.
So just to clarify, what’s the difference between tech and creative designers?
A lot of times people refer to tech designers as the creative engineers behind the garments. The creative design team would illustrate the garments or pick fabrics. Then the tech designers come in and do the fittings with the creative designers. They let the designers know if there are problem areas in the garment or if a fabric isn’t going to be suitable for a sillouhette. They get to be creative problem solvers.
How did you get your internship at Alexander Wang?
We have this internship class at Iowa State. You can take it whenever, but I took it as soon as I could. They teach you how to write a resume—that you should stand out. That you should have good objectives to talk to your potential employers about. How to write a cover letter. I applied to Alexander Wang in the late winter of Sophomore year. I found the girl I was applying to on LinkedIn. It’s really important, even if it’s a flood email account, to identify who you’re applying to. LinkedIn is amazing. I prepared a portfolio of all my work: tech drawings, garments, hand illustrations, and sent that to them with my resume and cover letter. They told me, "Hold on, we’re going to contact you in a month." I thought that was over. But they ended up reaching back out to me.
How did they interview you?
We had a Skype interview. You don’t have to be in New York to get a New York internship.
How did you prepare for the interview?
I was totally freaking out. We have a little conference room in Iowa State so I just sat in there holding notecards with things to say. The interview came and I didn’t look at my notecards once. I get nervous and I can’t read. But it wasn’t really that scary.
What is your advice for standing out during the application process?
Know where you’re applying. If you’re applying to a minimalist company you’re not going to want glitter and a cursive font. But on the other hand you want to make it look your own. Your interest in the company is probably an aesthetic thing, and you probably identify with it, so it’s important that they see you identify with it. Make sure your resume matches your cover letter. It’s a whole conglomeration—I think that’s the word I’m looking for. And my god, don’t have a spelling error.
Speaking of presenting yourself in a way that makes sense with the company, what did you wear on your first day?
It was kind of raining, so I wore a nice pair of black skinny jeans and a slubby tee or tank top and cool boots. Very laid back.
Keep corporate culture in mind—it changes worlds between what company you’re at. I’ve dressed similar to the brand’s aesthetic. So at Wang I was told business casual—wear black. And at Marc Jacobs it was just business casual. It’s hard to know on your first day. Business casual—that’s very open-ended, and I’ve discovered that means a lot of different things to different people.
It sounds like you’ve kept some important connections. What is your networking advice?
Never burn a bridge. That’s always your mom’s advice, but you never know who you’re going to meet and where they’re going to end up. Also, don’t be afraid to network. There are some awesome people out there and they’re actually not that scary. Ninety-nine percent of people are willing to help. It worked out really well.
What are the traits a design intern has to have?
I learned from my first supervisor to do everything and do it to the highest [level] you can possibly do it the first time—even if you’re just sending an email or packing boxes. Keep your desk clean. Be straightforward if you have questions—this is not an industry to be timid. It’s important to take constructive criticism well and that you can work under pressure. Keep a cool head: no temper and no attitude. Being able to say, "Yep, I got it."