Wednesday, February 25, 2009

behind the studio

I hope this post covers a bit of what I've been going through this term - work experience at a fashion company.

I opened myself to a slew of areas I could stick my hands and teeth into: research and design, manufacturing, sales/marketing/management and media positions. I believe I was well-equipped to tackle any of the above areas without much problems, and my CV probably has enough backing in its own right. I took two sessions and whittled down my CV from four pages to an unbelievable page count of two! Apparently the placement broker halve every page number figure we came up wth. Or maybe it happened only to me and another girl.

The hunt for internship started in September, and by early November I was frustrated since I clocked only two interviews with paltry reception and became quite desperate to secure one in order to pass this term's learning objective (10-week internship and a 3000-word report on the internship.) Early December came, over half of the class seemed to have secured an internship and I still belonged on the unsecured side of things. Should I take the Melbourne offer and miss a winter? Or should I go back to Indonesia for a decent internship? I was rapping my fingers on the desk and wham - three offers came in hours apart from each other! They were all studio jobs in design and development. I picked one and rejected the other two.
(I realised I've been making choices out of threes, so maybe it's time to learn to be patient and reasonably wait for 'that one offer' to come.)

I've got to admit that I'm quite lucky relative to what my classmates land themselves onto. The hours are 10-6 weekdays, with the unsavoury-yet-almost-ubiquitous weekend extensions a few weeks prior to a catwalk or a trade show. The extensions themselves can run either at quite reasonable hours or simply be nothing more than a desperate attempt to create show pieces (or even core collection for some time-challenged designers), although I doubt people would actually be sane enough to sew and embellish at 2AM - interns may be endearingly kind to do it for your, though. According to the sample machinist at work, this is usually the case for higher-end brands. No thank you, I love to droll along supermarket aisles and have my dinner at home before the short hand points to 9.
I'm glad this isn't my lot.

Other than that, I had minor trips to source trimmings - four trips so far out of 33 days.
Two trips to deliver garments.
Four factory visits.
I scourge over their purchase invoices and try to determine where they get their supplies from and who ordered what, and learnt that they tried to push people to purchase in GBP because it's financially more advantageous due to current exchange rates.
I learnt that there are 10,000 different classifications of garments and uniforms currently used for exporting purposes (with different tax implications) and that the company uses about... 50 of them, maybe?
I learnt that grading a dress into one size costs £90.
I learnt that saving fabric is not always the method that saves the most money (depending on how you value your time laying out the pattern pieces), that cabbage is a curse of the outsorcer and a right of the manufacturer.
I learnt that many who work in fashion design are either vegetarians, pescatarians or partial to marinated olives.
I learnt that 'factory' really meant CMT employing less than ten workers, that you'd need to converse in Polish to understand the gossips around the machines, that Angela McRobbie's book frighteningly represents the reality and is a more elaborate explanation of why my mum was opposed to a career path in this industry.

These factors lead me to three conclusions:
- let's look for a paid internship in a related but different area
- maybe I should look for a career in the academic field
- what about post-study work experience?

To be continued - I need to go to work.

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