Of over 400 fashion-related courses around the UK, only 15 of those in London-based. Yet somehow, almost all jobs in the fashion industry are based in the capital, severely disadvantaging those who can’t afford to live in London. Faith Richardson, a GFW contributor based in Newcastle, finds 5 ways young creatives outside London can gain valuable industry experience.

London is considered to be the hub of the British fashion industry, so it can be a little disheartening for those of us who aren’t based in the South to imagine ever being able to afford life in London. The capital has the highest percentage of opportunities across major employment sites, with adverts requesting the ability to stay there for anything from 2-weeks to 6-months.

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With the prices of renting and accommodation in London sky high, the cost of an internship in London puts off thousands of students from the rest of the country. According to Homes and Property, the average cost of renting a room in London is around £743 a month, a figure that doesn’t take into account the price of travel or food.

Jenny O’Neil, Careers Adviser at Northumbria University, believes that paid internships are the only way for young people to overcome the prevalent issue. Payment, she believes, is crucial to interning, particularly in the fashion industry, and it is a huge contributing factor to whether students can afford to intern or not. ”We are lobbying for students to be recognised for the value they add to the companies in the form of paid internships,” says O’Neil. “As a University, it is our policy to not promote unpaid internships to our students — we feel they should be treated as the young professionals they are.”

Of over 400 fashion-related courses around the UK, only 15 of those in London-based. With hundreds of thousands of students across the UK, it can be fiercely competitive to try and secure a placement in smaller cities, particularly in the North, where opportunities are fewer despite having some of the best fashion degrees in the country. "It is really disheartening to see the limited number of options for students in the North,” says O’Neil. “We see small to medium sized fashion companies who tend to not have the capacity or work to take on the large number of fashion students in the North."

But fear not: there are ways around this seemingly limited opportunity pool. Getting as much experience as possible is so important in creative industries, as it teaches real-world skills that you just can’t pick up in a lecture hall, no matter how good your teachers are. This is why we’ve put together a comprehensive list of where you can find experience, without a train to London in sight.

Work Remotely

One of the best things about freelancing means that it’s often possible to work remotely. Keep an eye out on job sites for any advert that specifies a “non-location based role” as these give you the flexibility to work from anywhere in the country, regardless of whether the company itself is based in London, or even abroad.

O’Neil points out that it’s always worth asking companies if it’s possible to work remotely. It is an excellent way of getting experience with a company you may not have otherwise been able to work for in person. Working remotely also allows flexibility to fit around your university schedule and even give you more time for part time jobs. 

Make the Most of University Networks

Utilise all those university resources that you have at your fingertips whilst studying, as it’s rare in the future that you’ll have such easy access to a database of contacts. Careers and guidance councillors are often a goldmine of contacts in the industry, and can help you tailor your CV to give you the best chance of success.

Speak with lecturers about people in the industry that they may know, and ask them to keep you in mind if they ever hear of any opportunities. They’ll appreciate your initiative and you may get the chance to apply for a role before anyone else is even aware of it.

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Don’t Discount Non-Fashion Experience

Don’t focus too heavily on only fashion-related jobs. Taking on work in writing, photography or PR in other sectors can still provide invaluable experience. They might not be necessarily fashion-centric but the experience will help open doors and gain transferable skills that will give you a leg up into those roles in the fashion industry.

Set Up Alerts

Sign up for e-mail alerts from fashion job websites to let you know the second an opportunity arises near you, so you can be the first to get an application in. This is super helpful when it comes to beating the competition and getting your applications in as soon as possible, something which is imperative in competitive local industry roles.

Create Your Own Experience

Look into enterprise schemes that enable collaborations between creative students and competitions that are aimed at students on creative courses. Starting your own blog, creating your own publications, or organising photoshoots will demonstrate and grow your skills and show gumption and willingness to create and work off your own back. Demonstrating your drive and providing a portfolio of work to back up your skills gives potential employers the reassurance that you are worth taking a chance on.

 Words by Faith Richardson