The Fashion Intern: From Trainee to Title First Time

What to do if, midway through your bachelors in Fashion Merchandising, you get offered the PR job of your dreams? Do you seize the offer and never look back, or finish what you’ve started and gain those all-important qualifications, hoping that other such golden opportunities materialize when you graduate? 21-year-old Mason Howell, Public Relations Coordinator for Christian Siriano, wasn’t taking any chances. He did both.

Explain the current status of your bachelor’s degree since you left Kent State?

To be clear, I never actually left Kent State. I am still a student but now taking my classes full time online. I only have one semester left and I will be graduating in May 2016. The last thing I wanted to do was delay my graduation but thanks to the outstanding support from Kent State I am due to graduate on time as if I was back in Kent, Ohio. However I decided to physically leave the main campus, first continuing my studies in Kent’s NYC studio, and then through online portals, because I felt Kent, Ohio, had offered me all it could.

The Fashion Intern: From Trainee to Title First Time

Describe how, as a student, you received your job offer?

I was offered a position at Christian Siriano as a result of my student internship. But I actually declined it originally because of a relationship back home. Then that relationship abruptly ended and I felt like it was a sign or something, telling me to stay here in NYC. I went back and asked if the offer was still on the table and they welcomed me into the company with open arms. It was the best decision I ever made.

Do you feel your time at school adequately prepared you for your current position?

I have a lot to thank Kent State for. The program I was in prepared me for real life but also allowed me to mature in myself and taught me how to act in a professional situation. If I had been in NYC during my freshman year at Kent I wouldn't have stood a chance, but my time at Kent moulded me into the professional I am today. Without the guidance of faculty, friends and the structure of the program, I know I would not be where I am today, in the industry at such a young age.

What are the differences between the work you did at school and what you do on the job?

The work I do at my job is EXTREMELY easier! Of course, I thought the amount of homework we received was beyond excessive. Now, looking back, it taught me my time management skills and how to prioritize projects within the day to day activities of my job. My job can be stressful at times but if I can make it through this period of being a full time student with a full time job I think I will be all right.

The Fashion Intern: From Trainee to Title First Time

Do you feel a degree in Fashion Merchandising is necessary to enter the industry?

I'm learning that a lot of people in the fashion industry do not have fashion-related degrees. It wasn't until I went to intern and started the same day as a girl from Texas whose major was in Communications that I first realized this. They gave us tasks to do, mainly Excel-based, and asked me to input numbers into the buying sheet and compare them with the sell-through report. These are all words and phrases I had heard a million times, and had created so many "make-shift reports" in class I could do them in my sleep at this point. However the other intern had no idea what they were talking about and barely knew how to work Excel. She got taken off doing reports and instead had to run errands all day, and I got to learn how these reports really work in the industry. I know tons of people who are very successful without a Fashion Merchandising degree in the fashion industry, but in my experience, it certainly did help.

Describe a typical day at work?

What I love about work is that every single day is different. I was originally the Executive Assistant which had me, one day, running around Manhattan to find bed sheets and the next I could be at a photo shoot or some fabulous event. I pride myself in doing whatever it takes to get the job done. I am not embarrassed if I have to go get coffee or run to a store to get hairspray while also answering thirty e-mails that I have received in the span of 8 minutes. In May 2015, Christian promoted me to Public Relations Coordinator. Now I get to attend photo shoots, celebrity fittings, and help decide where to send samples for editorial and celebrity pulls. Of course I am still out and about some days doing errands but that got me to where I am and just because I have arrived at certain destination doesn't mean I am going to stop. I couldn't imagine sitting at a desk all day so I love that some days I am not. The only things that are constant in my day at work is coffee in the morning and lunch at 1:00 PM no matter what!

Describe the experience of working for a young designer, someone close to your age?

Working for Christian has truly been inspiring and has showed me exactly what hard work is. I am only 21 years old and I am the PR Coordinator for his company. He took a chance on me so the stakes are higher and I do not want to disappoint him. I know the reason he has given me a chance is because he understands people took a chance on him at a young age as well. Christian works harder than anyone I know. He is involved in every aspect of his company. Sure he could give all the responsibility over and just design all day but that is not who he is. Along with being an extraordinarily talented designer, he is also a very savvy business man. I learn something new from him every single day.

The Fashion Intern: From Trainee to Title First Time

Had you done other internships prior to Christian Siriano?

Christian Siriano was actually my first internship besides working all through high school and college in different retail jobs. I am a little sad that I didn't get to experience the more corporate side of fashion within an internship, but I have plenty of time in my career to explore that.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I know this sounds so cliché but it’s Fashion Week. I never thought I would get to see an actual show, and here I am today helping a major fashion designer put one on. It has been absolutely exhilarating and I look forward to it twice a year.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I have a passion for handbags and I don't know how yet but I want to be in the handbag world somehow. I currently own a blog called PursePrince.com dedicated to luxury handbags and the lifestyle that surrounds them. I could literally sit for hours and just talk about handbags, it gives me such a rush. Hopefully in ten years, my blog will really have taken off, or I could be writing and commentating for somebody like PurseBlog.com, Refinery29, or a magazine such as W.

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.


 

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