What It’s Really Like to Leave Your Career for the Fashion Industry

Allyson Payer

One year and two months ago, I left my job in the entertainment industry. It was a stable job at a great company, but I’d yearned to work in fashion for as long as I could remember. Feeling that the time was finally right to step out of my comfort zone and try something I’d put on the backburner for so many years, I applied for a job opening at my favourite website (you’re looking at it!) as the assistant to Katherine Power, our CEO and co-founder. In preparation, I did as much research as I could, but as I’d never interviewed for a job in fashion before, I didn’t really know what I would be asked. I made it through the application process by pushing myself to articulate my thoughts about fashion and what I could contribute to the company—and I landed the job. It was all happening.

Changing jobs is a daunting enough task on its own—but changing jobs and careers eight years after donning my collegiate cap and gown? When you add a whole new industry to the mix with a new commute, new co-workers, new lunch places, and a new dress code, it’s bound to be a challenging adjustment. But change is good, and I told myself that it would soon become the new normal.

Thanks to what we’ve seen in the media, there are a lot of misconceptions out there clouding our judgment of what it’s really like to work in fashion. No one eats! There’s free stuff everywhere! You’ll be sent home if you’re not immaculately dressed! You can’t sit with us! The stereotypes abound, most of them false. While I certainly knew enough about the fashion industry to not buy into all the hype, I was still a bit apprehensive, especially coming from such a corporate environment.

As my first day of my cool new job finally approached, a big source of anxiety was (understandably) my outfit. Something that once felt trivial was now a huge priority; you’ll never forget what you wore on your first day of a job in the fashion industry. (And for the record, when you start working in fashion, you’ll no longer be the best dressed at the office!) My first day at Clique happened to be the day of Who What Wear’s weekly editorial meeting. It launched with talk of an impending swim week, and much discussion proceeded on swimwear. I looked around the room to see if anyone else was as amused as I felt. They were not. The meeting continued with talk of celebrities, bloggers, story ideas, and the like. So this is what meetings are like in fashion, I realised. Duly noted!

My desk was near all the Who What Wear editors, who held rapid-fire discussions of the Met Gala, fashion week, street style stars, models, and so on. I stayed silent for the most part; while this was all within my wheelhouse, I couldn’t bring myself to join in their conversations. I wasn’t used to verbalizing my self-taught fashion knowledge. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a fraud when it came to speaking up about fashion. But what I lacked in conversational fashion confidence, I did my best to make up for in my story execution.

Other unexpected occurrences abound when you’re a newbie to the illustrious fashion industry. For one, I look at shopping very differently now. It’s not something that I do for fun during my free time anymore. Don’t get me wrong—I love to shop. But when you’re surrounded by that culture day in and day out, it’s no longer something that you’re prone to spend time doing on a Saturday. I’m also much more particular about what I purchase these days. When you’re exposed to everything that’s out there, you don’t like to settle. I don’t make a lot of purchases in stores on a whim anymore—I’d rather wait for that perfect item that I’ve had my eye on all season to go on sale.

Another fun result of my new career—I instantly became the “style guru” to all of my friends and family; I was supposedly an expert now! I also no longer look at fashion blogs and magazines for fun—I look at them because it is part of my job. Perhaps one of the most encouraging things that I’ve learned since my arrival in the fashion industry is that most people are quite kind and welcoming, even to a then novice such as myself. There’s a strong sense of teamwork that has been refreshing to experience.

At the end of the day, I’m glad I made the jump to a career I’m passionate about and that I believe I can grow in. I’m not going to say that it was easy to transition from a field as multifaceted as entertainment to one as specific as fashion. While the entertainment industry in Los Angeles is extremely fast-paced and high-volume, I was surprised to learn that fashion is equally so, especially in the deadline-filled digital editorial world. But I love being a part of something that is so creative and has an impact on culture the way that fashion does. I still feel like an outsider sometimes, but I’m getting there. After a year and two months, I’m happy to report that I don’t feel like an impostor when I express my thoughts about something fashion-related! And this year, I didn’t bat an eye when the subject of swim week came up in our weekly meeting.

Scroll down to shop a few pieces that I’ve added to my wardrobe since entering the fashion industry!

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