Kelly Cutrone is an American fashion publicist, she receives between 75 and 100 inquiries every day, mostly from young women and gay men around the globe. Their request is always the same: they are asking for an internship at her company.
With a PR agency that represents some of the biggest names in the fashion industry – in the UK alone, labels on her roster include Henry Holland and Agent Provocateur – Cutrone has become a lighthouse for aspiring fashion folk. Recurring stints on MTV reality shows The Hills and The City show her dishing out harsh realities about a business that is notoriously nepotistic, but always a popular career choice. Here, she offers some insider advice.
1. Interns: work hard and don’t complain
Work is the new four-letter word. People want to work in fashion and go to fashion shoots because it looks glamorous. What they don’t realise is that you have to walk around the city, picking up clothes in garment bags and filling out insurance forms. When you get to the photo shoot no one is going to care that you are there, even though you are really pretty and went to a really great school. They are going to say, “Hey, you” 700 times, “Go get me a coffee”, or “Can you make this 15-year-old model who is seven foot taller than you and getting paid $10,000, while you are working for free, feel good?” That’s the reality. If it hurts your feelings, then you’re in the wrong industry.
2. Consistency is key
It’s not enough to just know somebody or have somebody open the door; once the door is open you have to walk through and set up your shop. Consistency is such a simple thing: if you show up somewhere every day and get the job done right, over and over, then things grow. At People’s Revolution, when people are doing a good job, we always make a point to acknowledge it, remember their name and invite them for dinner. But you have to wait, that’s just how it works.
3. Use the internet wisely
Do not Facebook the owner of a fashion agency asking for a job. I’ve said this before and yet people still Facebook me. The messages often contain grammatical errors, they don’t make sense or they are littered with acronyms like LOL. Phrases such as “I have a passion for fashion” or “Fashion is what my life is about” are my pet hates. If you do Facebook the owner, have something interesting to say and use a spell check.
4. Offer up ideas, but know the right moment
Don’t stand next to my desk with an idea and a notepad when I am on a conference call trying to make $100,000. However, I do like it when interns offer up ideas – not every day, but when it’s honest, right and correct.
5. Never lose your excitement
You have to believe in the beauty of fashion, whether it’s the power of colour, structure or line. With fashion, you have to be enamoured by it, never fully understanding it and always wanting to know more.
6. Be the village girl
You don’t have to hail from the big city and be dripping in diamonds to work in fashion. The village girl might not have been the prettiest, the most economically privileged or the smartest girl, but she has a strong work ethic and is often the most frequently looked over. She’s tenacious, kind and intuitive. Through proper cultivation, mentoring or the right environment, it’s “Ding!” and she’s in her game. Don’t underestimate her.
7. Have a neurotic personality
When you work in this industry, you’ll always have the feeling that you are never really finished with a project. There’s always something more that could be done, but it’s also about knowing when to let go. Attention to detail and great organisation skills are useful attributes too.
8. Observe the rest of the world
Fashion takes itself way too seriously and has a sense of exclusivity. No other fields are like that. From rock’n’roll to chess, they don’t care where you’re from, they invite everybody in. They understand that most of the greatest artists, sports stars, musicians and fashion designers came from nothing.
9. Go it alone at the right time
Use your intuition here: if you really feel that you should do it now, then follow your instinct. For me, it was what I needed to do [Cutrone decided at 23 that she wanted to start her own company] but I put myself through a lot of needless trouble. If I could have sat still a little longer, I would have been better off. A lot of stuff can be learned while you’re still in a job and being paid, such as understanding your accounts, learning industry terminology and locating the best contacts.