Working in Los Angeles for three months (after 19 years in the Midwest) will, no exaggeration, change your life. If you’re me, you’ll learn to surf, rethink your style and become a bit of a hippie (the words “it will really connect you to the earth and mellow you” have come out of my mouth since moving here). Most importantly, however, it will bring you closer to your career goals and create learnable moments at every second of the day. I had the very great privilege to work with Karla Otto Los Angeles, a branch of the international public relations company and WhoWhatWear.com, a fashion forward, highly followed online magazine.
At Karla Otto Los Angeles, the entire focus is on VIP Services, which means providing prominent entertainment figures with samples from our clients (who are luxury brands) to wear and carry at events. My work includes creating send-outs for the VIPs stylists, clipping articles from online sites where our clients are photographed or written about, maintaining the showroom (a glorious, open room with floor to ceiling windows and racks upon racks of our clients’ creations—I could spend hours there) and generally assisting the office. While I do not think public relations is my future, the work is undoubtedly valuable—most people tend to forget that fashion is, in fact, a business and that in fashion, there must be a focus on visibility for the brand, the image of the brand and the success of a brand. From this work and from my talented bosses, I’ve learned to consider what it means when a specific brand is on one celebrity versus another (making the brand seem youthful or edgy, classic or avant-garde) and how to make decisions that will benefit the brand. This skill is essential—even on the creative side of fashion (styling, creating editorials), there must be a focus on the business side of things. Karla Otto has taught me that my best dreams are rooted in reality—and that is endlessly valuable.
At Who What Wear, working in the fashion department was an education in unexpected ways: my knowledge of brands expanded immensely, as fashion closets receive samples from brands all over the world. Interns, who are in charge of checking in and checking out these samples, quickly learn where to find the best premium denim, similar styles of high-end shoes, unique jewelry and so much more. While this may be detrimental to my bank account, this is endlessly beneficial to the knowledge of the industry. When I (hopefully) officially join the ranks of a fashion department after graduation, I will know a wide breadth of brands to request from in order to create the best editorials and product stories that are consistent with the publication’s aesthetic. Researching trends and brands has also increased not only my knowledge of many brands, but also the aesthetic and basic pulse of brands. I am much better at identifying brands just by looking at the piece and knowing that if a product story calls for a Navajo print piece (for example), that Ralph Lauren probably isn’t the first place to look.
There are three things that I have learned this summer, however, that trump all other lessons. The first: despite being educated at one of the finest universities in the nation, there is no job beneath me. Taking out the garbage, sweeping up after a long shoot, or even driving across Los Angeles when you have the stomach flu to check on a 1500 dollar missing jacket that wasn’t even missing (all with a smile on your face and your hat in your hands) will prove something more important to your supervisors than a great eye or a certain panache—it will demonstrate humility. Second: Let real life inspire your work. I have the bad habit of allowing my favorite editorials to inspire my own style and the pieces I choose to offer up for product stories or sendouts, but the best work (styling, sample choices for VIPs, etc.) comes from looking at the world around you. Case in point: the fashion director at Who What Wear, when creating looks for the ‘Look of the Day’ feature on the site, once used the outfit of a freelance market editor as inspiration for a look, and when choosing samples to send to a VIP, my boss at Karla Otto always asks about past looks of the VIP: “does she wear anything above the knee?” “Does he wear lighter colored suits?” Root your work in real life and you’ll create honest, inspired work. And third: Never, ever, ever expect that just because you are working in the industry (any industry at all!) that you can stop learning. Continue to dig, to ask questions, to look for learnable moments. Don’t rely on the job to educate you—read memoirs, keep up with magazines, read blogs, pay attention to the choices of the editors and directors around you. Learn something everyday.
Abigail Reisinger is a sophomore Communication Studies major who writes for multiple student publications and works with several public relations teams on campus. She enjoys surfing and almond milk lattes.
About Views from the Cube
Views from the Cube offers an inside look at what it means to be an intern from Northwestern students who are interning across the country and internationally for companies and organizations in all industries. Would you like to share your experience? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.