September comes around and you know it means the end of summer, back to school and the start of New York Fashion Week. I was lucky enough to be selected out of hundreds of applicants to help volunteer for the full week. Everyone in the industry knows New York Fashion Week, apart from Milan and Paris is the biggest one. This is the time where huge designers and newcomers share a week dedicated to them and their craft. There are many locations where New York Fashion week takes place, so if you happen to be attending many shows, good luck trying to find a cab. IMG a huge media marketing based business is in charge of putting together NYFW at Lincoln Center. Although there are many offsite shows, Lincoln Center is considered the “corporate” side, where there are many big sponsors that change every year, but the one that remains constant and the biggest is Mercedes Benz. My main responsibility was being stationed with Mercedes Benz in their private lounge and to make sure their guests were escorted into each show at the appropriate times, communicate with the front sponsor check in and ensure that all sponsor guests had a great time.
Walking behind the scenes of fashion week is not as glamorous as it may seem. It involves hundreds of people walking around talking on headsets, typing furiously away on their iPhone while answering a million emails on their blackberries. There are 4 venues in the whole building. The Studio, The Stage, The Box and The Theater. The Studio is a smaller venue capacity of 250 excluding media. The Box which is usually just for installations is the smallest venue and can hold 100 people at a time. The Stage second largest venue holds 400 including media, The Theater is the biggest venue which can hold up to 600 people.
Days can stretch to 12hrs with a couple hour breaks in between. At first the volunteers eager to be on site in case they see a celebrity, spend their breaks walking around, venturing to Starbucks down the street and checking out all the sponsor booths for freebies. But as the days go on and the days repeat themselves, most volunteers find themselves spread out along the courtyard by Julliard sitting under a tree napping or finding any dark corner away from crowds to rest, headset still attached. Days are long and unfortunately unpaid, but although you might find yourself questioning if all the work you are doing is worth it by the fourth day, you quickly snap out of it and realize that this is the opportunity you have been waiting for and you are lucky to get the chance to experience something that thousands of girls only dream of.
How to Apply
Anyone can apply to the volunteer program and help out, but the job you want is the one where you work directly under IMG with their sponsors and like all things to do with fashion and PR networking is your best bet to get the job. I was fortunate to have a connection through a friend who had been doing working with them for years and when he found out they were looking for experienced people to work directly with their biggest sponsor he suggested me for the job. Receiving the write contact info I e-mailed them right away and because his word was so reputable they told me I had the job. Now you never have the job until you actually see it in writing, so I made sure to follow up a week later. When I hadn’t heard back, I made sure to send another e-mail not long after. Soon enough I got a response with about the dates, Volunteer handbook and waiver. Best advice I can give is to make connections and maintain them well after. By making the connections I did with the head of marketing for Mercedes Benz, they remembered my name and requested I work with them whenever I was in town. I built some strong relationships and unfortunately at the time I wasn’t able to jump on job offers, but I know that by keeping up those relationships I made, this will benefit me in the future when I am looking for a job.
The amount of work that goes in behind all the glitz and glam is extreme and being a part of it is an amazing experience I wish anyone in fashion who is interested can experience. You meet so many different people from all over the world and build so many new relationships. Being in an environment like that just pushes yourself to be at your best whether it be work ethics, social skills and of course your own personal fashion sense. My advice to any girl who has the aspiration to work in fashion and wants to reach a bit further then just here in his or her own city should apply and see what happens. Worst case scenario you don’t get chosen that year, best case scenario you do. If chosen and you decided to attend, I promise it will be an experience you will never forget.