As New York Fashion Week Begins, 21 Things About Working in The Fashion Industry I Wish I'd Known

When people ask me what I miss most about working in the fashion industry, the answer is easy: New York Fashion Week. When I took a job as an office manager at a fashion designer agency, I got to be part of Fashion Week each year, and even had the chance to — gasp! — sit in the front row at a couple of shows. I felt like I had arrived in some way, even if I was only the lowly assistant taking lunch orders and going on coffee runs.

I had spent my adolescence and teenage years pouring over my stacks of Vogue, wanting so badly to be part of that world. Yes, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, but I also wanted to do all that writing in a Balenciaga gown and have Christian Lacroix design my dress for my book release party. (I may have watched a bit too much Sex and the City .)

It was a beautiful place to be, and every time I walked home with my pile of free designer goodies, I considered myself lucky. I also considered myself superior: I got Vivienne Westwood’s lunch today as she prepped for tonight’s show; what did you do?

But for all the glamor, I found there was even more dram and cattiness. And when you have a boss who just might have read The Devil Wears Prada one too many times, you sort of look at your life and wonder, “Do I really want this?” So, after being insulted by my boss for what I decided was the last time, I gathered my things, said I was going out to get some air, and never went back. I was free.

These days, I say that I used to work in the fashion world haughtily, as if I know better now. Which, I guess, in some ways, is true. Sure, it's different for everyone, but here's what I wish I had known about working in the fashion industry.

IT’S A 24-HOUR JOB . . .

I don’t care what position you have, you’re always on-call.

. . . FOR VIRTUALLY NO MONEY

I made $28,000 a year. (And that was in 2005, not 1985.)

Yes, you will GET LOTS OF FREE STUFF

And not just mascara or nail polish samples, but shoes! I got lots of shoes! (That I couldn’t walk in and had to sell!)

but THERE’S A CHANCE YOUR BOSS WILL THINK THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA IS SOME SORT OF HOW-TO BOOK

At least mine did, and from what I gathered from my other “lowly” assistants in the business, he wasn’t alone.

BODY ACCEPTANCE JUST DOESN’T EXIST

The fashion world may be coming around with the whole body acceptance thing externally, but internally, I found, not so much. I was the “fat chick” in the office, whom they also thought was hard of hearing, apparently. At the time, I was a size 6.

and YOUR LUNCH CHOICES WILL BE JUDGED HARSHLY

Sometimes, I felt I should be eating my tuna melt with extra provolone in the bathroom. So I did, on a few occasions.

YOU PROBABLY WON’T BE GOING TO FASHION WEEK . . .

Unless you’re a media person, a close friend of the designer, or someone high up on the fashion totem pole, you will probably not be going to any major shows. Marc Jacobs? Forget it. Maybe Lululemon, if they even do I show, which I doubt.

. . . and IF YOU DO GET TO GO, YOU’LL BE STANDING WAY IN THE BACK

It goes like this: Most of the shows have assigned seats for the “important” people, and the plebes have to stand along the back wall. If those important people are no-shows, then those against the back wall race to get those seats before the show starts. I’ve sat in the front row a couple times, but only because I pushed people out of my to do so.

THE SWAG BAG YOU GET AT THE SHOW WILL actually BE DISAPPOINTING

I mean, it looks fancy when you’re walking around with a bag of goodies from a show, but it’s likely to be stuff you’ll pawn off on your friends under the guise that it’s some limited-edition greatness.

MODELS ARE JUST LIKE US (BUT BLESSED WITH HEIGHT)

Of the models I met who’d come to the loft for lookbook shoots, they were all actually these lovely geeky girls who just wanted to talk about music and food. (Yes, they eat sandwiches and pizza, just like “normal” people.)

THE LANGUAGE USED DURING PHOTO SHOOTS WILL MAKE YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE

Honestly, if you're not looking, it would sound like the type of dirty talk you usually only hear during sex. "Come on. Come on. Give me that look I love so much."

YOU WILL CONSTANTLY BE TOLD HOW ‘LUCKY’ YOU ARE

Not just by your friends, but by your boss, in between insults about how you got his coffee order wrong yet again. “Do you know how many girls would kill for this job?” Wait. Isn’t that line from The Devil Wears Prada?

YOU WILL HAVE A RIVAL

I don’t know why, but there will always be that one person with whom you just can’t get along, no matter how hard you try. They will be your nemesis and the one person on whom you’ll always have to keep your eye.

YOU WILL BECOME A MASTER IN THE ART OF ASS-KISSING

Backstabbing and cattiness are, of course, just part of the game. But then there’s the ass-kissing, too… and it’s exhausting.

EVERY PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE WILL BE COMPLICATED

You’ll love your boss, then hate him 30 seconds later. You’ll even have moments where you think your rival and you can be best friends, then it will pass. There’s a lot of love-hate going on in this industry.

YOU WILL NEED THERAPY TO DEAL...

And your therapist will tell you to find a new job.

... BUT AT LEAST YOU'LL GO TO THERAPY IN DESIGNER DUDS!

That's something to smile about. Kinda.

YOU'LL CONSIDER QUITTING ON A DAILY BASIS

It may seem hard to conceive of the idea that one might want to quit working in such an illustrious business, but you will, I promise you, seriously consider quitting every time that alarm goes off every single morning.

BUT YOU’LL HANG ON far too long FOR THE BRAGGING RIGHTS

Well, it’s better than working in finance or publishing, or whatever else your friends do, right?

WHEN IT’S ALL OVER, YOU'LL FONDLY REMEMBER YOUR DAYS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY

Unless you’re looking to be a designer, an agent, or someone’s assistant forever, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually realize enough is enough and walk away from it all.

because at least now you can start sentences with, "When I worked in fashion..."

And the people around you will be thoroughly impressed.

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