10 ways to break into the fashion industry in Toronto
Breaking into the fashion industry in Toronto is a lot tougher than it sounds. We may not be New York or Milan, but ask any fashion student, blogger, designer, or photographer, and they'll all tell you the same thing: that it's nearly impossible to make it as an unknown talent.
Luckily, multiple international (and local) fashion groups have settled in to Toronto, laying the foundation for T.O. to become a fashion hotbed, and they're all looking to find, reward, and nurture fresh talent. These resources are available for the budding fashionistas, the design hopefuls, the aspiring stylists, the business-minded clothing aficionados, and all those dreaming of runways and showrooms.
Here are 10 ways to break into the fashion industry in Toronto.
Volunteer at World MasterCard Fashion Week
Assisting at Toronto's fashion week is a unique experience that provides wannabe fashionistas with an invaluable glimpse into the inner workings of the city's largest fashion event. Volunteers are heavily relied on during fashion week; they do the heavy lifting required during setup, they keep lines orderly, take tickets, usher, hold seats for high-profile front row fashionistas, help out backstage, hand out magazines and goody bags, and so on; in return, you get to network and rub shoulders with the city's fashion elite.
Get involved with the Toronto Fashion Incubator
Are you obsessed with fashion and design but less than apt when it comes to business planning, marketing, economics, and sales? The TFI is a highly regarded non-profit organization committed to supporting fashion hopefuls, catalyzing small businesses, and providing education and mentorship by industry professionals for the young-and-starting-out. Visit fashionincubator.on.ca to learn more about their available programs, classes, and seminars.
Sign up for Passion for Fashion workshops
Youth Employment Services has teamed up with TFI to create a free workshop series geared specifically towards 16-29 year olds. The series includes classes on marketing, branding, public relations, business operations, and more. In addition, participants will have access to mentors, all fashion industry professionals, with whom they can meet in-person and one-on-one. Those enrolled in the program will also be eligible for the Fashionista's Den Competition, giving them the chance to receive a cash prize, a free year of membership to Toronto Fashion Incubator, and additional business and fashion mentorship.
Discover U of T's fashion networking club
As the University of Toronto's first fashion club, the Fashion Networking Organization offers seminars that focus on what it's like to work in the business side of fashion. Their keynote speakers have owned and worked for high-end retail stores, big-name brands, boutiques, designers, subscription box services, and so on. Memorable guests include boutique owner Angela Phung of The Store On Queen, ELLE associate editor Alannah O'Neill, and Charmain Emerson of FCUK. Check out their Facebook page and blog to keep apprised of their upcoming events.
Apply to show your collection at Mercedes-Benz Start Up
This acclaimed competition searches for new Canadian talent across the country, and selects the best designers to show their collections on a national platform, in front of fashion insiders and potential mentors. Winners get to show their collection at World MasterCard Fashion Week. Keep your eyes on the MBSU site for the 2015 application.
Attend Art of Fashion events
Toronto-based Art of Fashion holds events specifically tailored to showcase new designers and help launch them into a career in the industry. They provide education and resources to help designers turn their passion into a viable business, and create competitions and exhibitions to help new talent step into the spotlight. Some of their competitions offer awards, cash prizes, and loans designed to help not just designers, but entrepreneurs as well.
Become a member of The Fashion Group
The Toronto chapter of The Fashion Group International holds seminars and panel discussions featuring guest speakers who are leaders in the fashion industry. They also invite members to attend more intimate parties, which can be excellent networking opportunities. As a bonus, the FGI offers marketing with significant reach, which is an invaluable resource, especially for budding fashion designers.
Mingling with Toronto's fashion bloggers, writers, designers, buyers, and other fashion professionals is an invaluable way to expand your network and make connections, which can ultimately lead to job opportunities in the industry. Meetup allows you to search for fashion meet-ups within your preferred distance from the city.
Study up at a a post-secondary institution
Of course, hitting the books is the most comprehensive way to get started. Enroll in a fashion design, merchandising, business management, or styling program at Ryerson, Humber, George Brown, Seneca, or the RCC Institute of Technology. You'l learn anything and everything; textiles, fabric and colour theory, fashion history, study of production methods, trend forecasting, the business of retail, and marketing for clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics. Those studying fashion are also eligible for coveted internships at most major fashion magazines that are otherwise unavailable to the general public.
Network like your ilfe depends on it
Sneak into shows, get invited to parties, collaborate with bloggers, and always act (and dress) like you're supposed to be there. Basically, go to as many fashion-related events as you possibly can and build your network of industry connections. Eventbrite.ca is a good source to find networking events, parties, and expos (you can even look for free events). Toronto Fashion Calendar and Toronto Is Fashion are both good events sources - as is our events section.
Hunt for a fashion job
How can you go about finding available jobs and internships in Toronto? Visit Style Nine to Five, where you can select part time, full time, or internship, and search for postings in Toronto. Job search websites like Indeed and Simply Hired are also great tools for those just starting out.
Writing by Sarah Rose Eaman. Photo by Mauricio Calero.