So many of us dream to work in the fashion industry every day. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a fashion influencer who styles outfits and gets paid for it?
My dream started at 4 years old when I wanted to be a fashion designer. However, this dream ended once I got accepted to Ryerson School of Fashion, considered one of the best in Canada. Because a majority of high schools don’t teach sewing, I thought fashion school—especially this one—would start off at an introductory level with clear steps to learn. Nope, it is nothing like that.
You’re expected to be an “almost-expert” at everything.
Just the application alone asks to see items you’ve sewn. When I applied, I faked it till I made it by creating a skirt from a Youtube tutorial and broke a sewing machine. On the first day of school, lessons were taught with technical fashion industry terms such as, “notches,” “darts,” and “center front,” without defining them. Plus, they assign you projects where special programs and equipment are needed without teaching you how to use them such as Photoshop and DSLR cameras.
They try to break you.
Because fashion is a cut-throat industry, they need to make sure you’re not weak during your first year of school. They test you by giving an unreasonable amount of homework with impossible standards. I pulled 2 all-nighters per week and spent most of my time in sewing labs during my first year. Instead of being a victim of the “freshman fifteen,” I lost weight dramatically from skipping meals just so I could finish my assignments. I spent hours painting a color wheel because I was not allowed to show paint strokes. It’s no surprise many people drop out during the first year (Heck, I knew someone who dropped out during the first month!). But it does get better. You just have to cry at least once – it’s a right of passage! I cried. I saw my friend cry. There were rumors of other students experiencing panic attacks and getting diagnosed with anxiety. However, after you complete your first year, you realize you’re stronger than you think.
There are nice people!
Personalities from The Devil Wears Prada exist but they are avoidable. To identify friendly folks, ask around for help. The nice ones are open to lending a hand because they understand what you’re going through, and you become friends with them by bonding over the struggle. That being said, mean girls are only open to being friends with talented people. They’re just snobby like that.
Teachers are generally cool.
Since pop culture is strongly tied to fashion, teachers know what’s up. They know what Beyoncé is up to. They know our lingo, such as “woke.” There was even a lecture on the topic of being fierce. Some were creative directors and photographers for national magazines as their side jobs. They told us stories about working with celebrities behind the scenes and which ones were the real divas.
Forget tuition, school supplies get expensive.
In fashion, you have to learn how to use every creative medium out there and you have to purchase the supplies for it. I spent more than $700 on items like professional markers and charcoal. You have to get assignments professionally printed, so Walmart prices are not an option. When you style for photo shoots, you have to buy 6 outfits at a time and pray the stores accept your suspicious refunds. It’s also likely you have to rent photography studios, pay makeup artists and hairstylists for big projects. They don’t have the stereotype of a starving artist for nothing!
You don’t only learn about clothes.
Whenever I tell people what I’m in school for, they think it’s to design dresses and skirts. There is that option, but I specialize in other topics. Fashion school offers classes in graphic design, typography, photography, event planning, curating exhibitions at museums, and journalism. They teach you about women’s studies, racism, gender identity, and history because those are important topics in the industry and the art itself.
The students are stylish, creative, and smart.
Like many people, I entered fashion school thinking there will be many beautiful airheads. Instead, I met students who decided to follow their heart over studying subjects they found mundane. So please stop explaining scientific terms to us that we learned already from The Magic School Bus.
Now you know fashion school is not as glamorous, easy, and scary as it’s cracked up to be. Yet as long as you’re passionate about fashion, studying should be worth it. You might come up with a new dream and achieve that instead.
Featured image via Devil Wears Prada