My name is Michala and I am a second-year Fashion Design Master student. and I just got back to KADK after a three-month work placement with Marc Jacobs womenswear design in SoHo, New York City.
I began every day at 8:45 where the fitting room was made ready for the day. There was a very specific structure to how the room was to be organized. Everything had a set place to avoid any unnecessary confusion during a busy fitting with a famous, expensive model.
The next line of business was taking up where I left off on the embroidery which was often a project that ran over a number of days. As an intern with Marc Jacobs, you have a ton of different roles. Anyone can ask you for help at any time and when things get busy it sort of feels like you are at the epicenter of the chaos. Anything from communication with the sample room on the eight floor to picking up old patterns in the basement, were tasks that came my way. The days could be very unpredictable but you might also spend all day dying swatches for trimmings or doing textile experiments.
New York City lived up to its reputation in terms of hierarchy. So once in a while, I would pick up coffee but people were always very friendly and had me buy coffee for myself as well. But kitchen work was not part of the package. I once opened the dishwasher to empty it but then the senior designer stopped me and said: “We have people for that!”
The most fun I had were the late nights before a deadline when the senior designer, assistant designer, and me with another intern would complete the final styles. It was fun to be part of making it all come together at the end and have the opportunity to make my creative mark on the products. All nine floors were closed, the seamstresses had left and there was no Marc Jacobs. There is something magical about moments like these, when you as a team slip into a kind of creative work trance.
My advice to others going into work placement is to be clear about what you want out of it. Ask yourself whether the work placement is to develop your craft skills, to experience the business, for networking, for a cultural experience or something else? I have been in other work placements that gave me more in terms of developing my fashion skills, for instance when I was with Bernhard Willhelm perhaps because it was a smaller company. At the same time, New York City is a difficult place to be because of the stories that interns just get coffee all day. It is an expensive place and sometimes not worth it because you work such long hours. However, I would recommend interning with Marc Jacobs as long as you are aware of the fact that it is more about learning about the organization, production, communication and contacts more than practicing the fashion craft itself. On the negative side, there are too many people controlling your day at Marc Jacobs taking time away from design tasks. I know the designers there agree and that it is a general problem in New York City. Designers want interns that develop samples and use their creativity but often they just become an extra hand around the work room. I feel that the larger fashion companies should reconsider how they use their interns so they don’t end up wasting their time.