Monday, September 08, 2008

Meet Bernice, The Fashion Intern!

For all of you dear readers who have been harboring a secret desire to quit your 9-5 job to delve into the glamorous and gritty world of fashion, or if you're still in school and have dreams of being an industry insider, I would like to introduce you to Bernice Lim!

Bernice was doing marketing for a snack food company in China before she decided to quit her stable job to pursue a degree in Fashion Merchandising Management at FIT. According to Bernice, "It has always been my dream to study something more creative in NYC (and nowhere else) and I chose fashion because it has been the one thing that I grew up with. My interest in fashion must have grown through time since I was exposed to it early on in my life, my mom having experience in gown and RTW businesses".

In a way, studying and working in fashion proved to be the realization of a childhood dream. Bernice explains, "When i was about 8 or 9, i would always go to my uncle's garment factory and get a spare nipper and a stool and start cutting excess thread from finished garments. Feeling factory worker din!"

I've asked Bernice to share her experience with all of us, and hopefully, get you enlightened and inspired! ;)

1. What made you decide to go to FIT?
I decided to enrol at FIT because when I was shopping around for the best school in NYC, I found FIT to be the best fit with regard to fashion merchandising. I went through the school's website to do some research before I decided to come to NYC to visit and attend information sessions. For me, I just find FIT to be more established, structured and reputable with a line up of professors with significant industry experience, successful alumni and substantial connections. It is no doubt that FIT is a trusted name in the fashion industry. It is similar to buying a special pass that most recognize.

2. Where are you interning now? Which department or group?
I am currently interning with Elizabeth and James, the better contemporary fashion line by the Olsen twins. I report to the tech
design/production department where I help with completing line sheets, trim sheets, fabric sheets, and more other sheets plus some sourcing and sewing on the side. Where help is needed, I just say yes.

I also intern in a showroom that carries Missoni and Versace accessories. This internship is different from E&J since it is more
sales oriented. With them, tasks are more about meeting the demands of customers in terms of styles, orders and delivery. It is on the other end of the fashion business, where products are already available and ready for sale.

3. What's a day in your life like? What do you like doing best? What are the cons in working as an intern?
My internships start at 10am, which is not bad, and they don't have a dress code, which is great. Usually when I get to work, there are already tasks that have been set for me to accomplish. With E&J, it involves a lot of Excel, swatches, and completing books according to season collections. It is tedious and very detail oriented. You can't go wrong because these are all you need for production. The correct swatches, colors, codes should go with the right sheets, seasons and books.

With the showroom, styles, colors and quantity are the most important in completing orders according to the demands of the client. Strict retailers may charge big chargebacks with a minute mistake. It is so easy for them to slap fines especially if they have the bargaining power. And you don't want to be reason for your company to lose money.

What I like best in being an intern? Learning. I learn how business is done in different setups. You get to be in the thick of things that one does not get to see if you are just a customer. It is interesting how fashion is not just an art, it has a science to it and it's not as easy as picking up pieces to complete an outfit. It involves a lot of work, that we, being shoppers, do not realize. Before I started studying and working in the industry, I thought it was just about getting materials and putting things together however you please it to be. But boy, was I wrong.

The cons? Hmm. It's unpaid and you follow orders. Hahaha. Well, you gotta pay your dues. If you want to be in the industry, you have to take things like this and gain as much experience as you can get. The fashion industry, especially here in NYC, is not all about your resume. They look for experience, and solid experience at that. Tough? Yes. Because everybody wants to be in it. And especially now with the economy not doing well, who doesn't want free help?

4. What's so great about working in fashion in NYC?
You are in the right place. NYC is the city to be in terms of fashion. This is where fashion breathes, lives and happens. With the
Garment Center right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, it houses the factories, stores and sources where you can get everything you need in fashion. Most fashion brands and retailers operate here too. And of course, the people in NYC love fashion therefore just walking around the city becomes interesting and a great source of inspiration.

5. Please share some tips and suggestions for those who also want to study fashion in NYC...
Go here! But be ready for the ride. Ain't going to be smooth, but that's how it is in fashion. It's not all glamour. It is hard work!

(Photos from,,

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