By: Julia Le
Photography: Sukrit Srisakulchawla
New York City is everything that you would expect. It’s noisy, it’s crowded and people walk from place to place in a purposeful blur. Love it or hate it, this is the place to go if you’re looking to land an internship or co-op in the fashion industry.
Last summer, I moved to Manhattan for my first co-op at Donna Morgan as an e-commerce, PR & social media intern. Until I had actually moved to New York, my thoughts on the city were still romanticized from movies and TV. I had been to the city before, but as I quickly learned, no matter how many times you visited New York, there are some things you will only learn from living there.
1. New York is not for everyone. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live in New York City. I was attracted to the speed and the ambition—all the culture that was packed into this one central metropolis. I dreamt about it for so long and when it finally became a reality, I was shocked to discover how difficult the adjustment actually was. I struggled with getting used to impatient crowds, dirty streets, grumbling anonymous faces and unpredictable outbursts. There are many interesting characters that you will come across on the street (as well as on co-op), and you will find a lot of things about the city that you will absolutely hate. Eventually though, you learn how to filter out the negative noise and focus on the positive.
2. Living in the city can be expensive—but doesn’t have to be. New York City houses both extremes of economic wealth; it’s very easy to spend a lot of money, but if you are careful, you can definitely get around it. If you are living in Manhattan, and working as an intern at a fashion company, you will probably make $10 an hour if you’re lucky, or nothing at all. If you are paying for your living expenses out of pocket, make your search for affordable housing your number one priority; this is where most of your money will be going. Sounds impossible? You’d be surprised. Do your grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s where prices are the same across the country—otherwise you’ll be facing ridiculous prices. Six dollars for a half-dozen carton of eggs? No thanks. Make the majority of your meals at home so you can “splurge” on the real Instagram-worthy food on the weekends. Finally, go to free events, art galleries and public spaces; there are always so many great events going on in the city, and they don’t always cost a fortune. You just have to find them.
3. Immerse yourself in the industry and make connections. While you’re in New York, network and leverage all the connections you can. You never know what opportunities may arise, and you may surprise yourself with how far you can get just by asking questions. Working in an intimate office environment—like a start-up or small company—also allows you to get so much more involved in different aspects of the company. Rather than mindlessly sifting through magazines or getting coffee, choose a co-op that gives actual responsibility. Through my experience in PR and e-commerce, I had the opportunity to learn about various aspects and fields in the fashion industry—from production to sales, digital marketing and much more. Both in and out of work, I was able to network with industry professionals at the different events that I attended and even got the chance to attend a couple of fashion shows during New York Fashion Week.
4. Work on yourself. Whether that be working on your personal brand, getting into shape, attending events or learning a new skill, co-op allows you so much more free time compared to when you’re in classes. You have your evenings and weekends completely free, so use that time to your advantage! New York is a city that has so much to offer; please don’t let all your time go to waste on Netflix. (Note: I highly recommend kickboxing.)
5. There will be that one New York City moment, and thousands to follow that will make you fall more deeply in love with the city. No matter how difficult the transition is or continues to be, there will be that moment when New York will feel exactly like you’ve seen in the movies. Your ears will perk up at hearing the most beautiful voices of street performers flowing through the subway tunnels, and you will savor the random acts of kindness that you observe at just the perfect time. You’ll find your favorite spots in the city and learn to enjoy the quiet moments, just taking in your surroundings. These are the moments that remind you how much you do love New York, and why chose to go there in the first place.
Everyone comes to New York City with a purpose: to follow a dream or ambition—to prove something about him or herself. While living there, I learned so much about myself and the fashion industry and how those two fit together—as well as how they don’t. The process is all very exhausting, yet exhilarating. The city definitely does not welcome you with open arms and a warm basket of muffins, but once you pass the initial phase of developing that love-hate relationship, you come to realize that New York City was everything you’ve ever wanted.