How does one break into a career in fashion? Countless individuals have chronicled their journey into the fast-paced, 3 trillion-dollar apparel industry and yet it still feels like a mystery. However, one common thread ties all of these varied stories together, and that is the importance of creating and maintaining a robust professional network. Internships are the groundwork for creating these connections, and almost every fashion student has it drilled into their skull the importance of stacking their resume with an arsenal of experiences.
Sure, there is interning in your town or making your way to the lights of a big city, but what if you were given the opportunity to intern in a foreign country? We sat down for an interview with two students who are doing just that. Meet Anastasiya Akhundova and Rachel Harper, two third-year students currently studying fashion at Kent State and interning during their time abroad in Florence, Italy.
A Mag: What do you study at Kent State University?
Rachel: Fashion Merchandising
Anastasiya: Fashion Design
A Mag: Where are you interning and what is your position?
R: AquaFlor Firenze and I am a marketing and communications intern. AquaFlor is a high-end perfume atelier. They do everything by hand in their studio from creating their perfume, down to the packaging. They use all natural oils and essences and really value the experience they are giving to their customers.
A: VIAJIYU and I am a design intern. VIAJIYU is a high end flat shoes company made by women for women. Nicole Still is the founder and CEO and all of the shoes are completely customized and made in Italy.
A Mag: When did you decide to study abroad?
R: Before college I knew it was something I wanted to take advantage of.
A: Same. Kent’s study abroad program was a big factor in my choosing the school.
A Mag: Did you know beforehand that you wanted to intern while abroad?
R: No, I hadn’t really thought about it.
A: No, I had no idea that it would be a possibility even.
A Mag: How did you hear about the company you are now interning at?
R: School. We visited the company on a visit with our Italian Fashion and Culture class.
A: For me, I have a really good friend, who is older, that used to study abroad in Florence and had the opportunity to work at the store, so I got recommended.
A Mag: How did you land your internship?
R: I emailed the communications director who was the one that acted as the liaison between the school and the students for the visit. I honestly didn’t even go through an interview process, he just sat me down and said ‘These are the projects we want to do’ and I said ‘Okay.’
A: Basically, it was about figuring out how to contact them in a different country which meant using different social apps like WhatsApp, and then actually coming in for the interviews in Florence and talking about what the company is and who you are.
A Mag: What do your responsibilities include?
R: At this point I am doing market research for millennials, specifically millennials studying abroad and tourists in general. This way we can market the workshops that AquaFlor offers. I’m also working on a couple of video projects to bring AquaFlor to the forefront and make sure that people are aware that AquaFlor is a part of Florence.
A: I help create shoes based off of their existing pairs, and then personally design them for people in the world that are CEOs or what we consider to be “trailblazers,” which are people in the world doing their thing and being strong women. The company offers these to special women as gifts. I made a shoe for Melissa Biggs Bradley who is the CEO for a travel agency.
A Mag: What has the work/life balance been like for you since arriving in Florence?
R: I personally haven’t felt overwhelmed. Being abroad, all of the professors understand that this is an experience we’re trying to enjoy, so they don’t really lay on a heavy workload. Also, because we only have school to deal with, adding an internship wasn’t that big of a deal because we don’t have as many extracurriculars going on at the same time.
A: Mine is catered to a personal study program, so I choose my hours. The recommended work time is eight hours a week and four of those can be at home when I’m designing. So, it really has been something that I can be flexible with.
A Mag: Would you advise interning to other students studying abroad?
R: I think that if you find the right company, the right people to work with and the right opportunity for you then yes. It’s one of those chances where you’ll be able to contribute a lot to a company and not be overwhelmed with school and other extra activities like clubs or Greek life. Being able to say that you interned abroad is one of the experiences and opportunities that you literally can’t get anywhere else. Being able to understand the work environment abroad is a really interesting feature that not many other students get to have.
A: If you can find something that is flexible and that doesn’t take away from your personal time and experience, then all the more power to you.