You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging as much as usual this year, and I have been using the word placement a lot and with little explanation to what I am actually doing. Fashion is an extremely competitive industry, I have read articles where budding editors have completed an internship at a magazine with the aim of getting another internship at a different magazine and the realisation set in that these are the kind of people you could be up against for future job positions, people really go for it, and they go for it big. This is the reason I decided to take on a placement year. It seems it is not enough to just have a degree anymore and the debate of experience vs. education is no longer justifiable as the answer in such a competitive industry is that you need both. After studying fashion for three years, something didn’t sit right with me continuing into final year and without ever putting what I had already learnt it into working practice.
Why Rio & Brazil?
Fashion seems like a sector in itself but there are so many areas you can specialise in: illustration, CAD, design, textiles, styling, marketing just to name a few. Everyone has their niche that they enjoy and mine is fashion writing. Each area overlaps slightly, writing merges with styling and photography through recommending and putting outfits together and including images to accompany the article. Rio Brazil catered to this exact niche. I was worried as all the opportunities available were design based, then one day my course lecturer Grainne introduced us to an exceptionally stylish couple Steven and Jeane Simpson. They explained they were from local boutique Rio & Brazil and they were starting a new website where they needed interns to receive professional photography training, take part in photo shoots, write editorial pieces and interview local media personalities. It was a lucky strike for me, I had only heard of such positions in London and this was based right in my city centre, I had to go for it.
What to expect when interning at Rio Brazil?
Do not expect to be making tea or watching from the side lines, personally an ideal situation in a placement is feeling like an employee and not an intern, getting fully involved experience and become a valued member of the team.
It is very easy and completely normal to go into a placement expecting to slip into the role of Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, but you will not be thrown into the deep end as everything was approached with training, practice and asking for help and guidance was always encouraged. An example of this is the product photography. As a group we received full professional training and were tested on different set ups and product shots to increase confidence. When it came to photo shoots, we assisted before independently shooting, being shown what to look out for and the difference between a good and bad image.
What you can expect, is to get a wide range of experience in many different areas. As mentioned, photography played a big part in my role but because I was working for a business where everything was done first hand in the studio, I got to see the ins and outs in the running of an online and in store boutique. Working for a massive company, I may have been in a more focused role specialising in a certain department but here I got involved in everything from social media, styling, editorial writing, interviewing, product and editorial photography, photo shoot prep, fashion show dressing, brand research and product descriptions. As well as this Steven and Jeane gave us a lot of insight into their roles when visiting European cities for buying purposes and all the backend and marketing side of the website. Working alongside Jamie with his editing and graphic design skills also gave in depth knowledge to the work and graft that goes into the visuals of a website. Being involved in a studio environment allows you to pick up skills and ‘know how’ just by being there.
Being a part of the team:
Our team was made up of three interns: Jamie Baird: Visual Communications student at University of Ulster, Kerry Smyth: Fashion Management student at Belfast Metropolitan College and Me: Fashion Management Student at Belfast Metropolitan College. We were managed by Steven and Jeane Simpson, Jeane being the editor at mrandmrsstitch.com while Steven Simpson is creative director. It was very clear from the start that Rio Brazil is a family run business, owners Cathy and David Simpson are mother and father to Steven, creating a very warm and welcoming atmosphere from day one. The tag line of the business ‘welcome to the family’ is very authentic and present. Working in the studio our interests merged well, with Kerry and me coming from a fashion background we eventually fell into our own strengths.
One task that stands out is when Rio Brazil took part in the Fabulous Fashion Teas at the Merchant Hotel. We all worked at the show and the catwalk images were used to create an online look book for mrandmrsstitch.com. We had to go through all the items used in the show and make sure each piece had been photographed, a description/style note was written up and they had been edited. Kerry photographed the images, I wrote up the product description; Jamie edited the image while Jeane and Steven handled everything on the backend of the website. Everything just came together and everyone knew what they had to do. This task was nearing towards the end of placement and I can remember feeling the true essence of working as a team.
As mentioned before, the placement provided a wide range of training and experience so it is too difficult to pinpoint one project as they differ so greatly. In terms of matching my interests I massively enjoyed the whole process of interviewing Jill from ReFound. I was already a fan of ReFound so to get to know the woman behind the business was very exciting. I had seen photo shoot images of Grainne Maher pieces taken in the Refound building, so to have the chance to assist the mrandmrsstitch.com photo shoot here was a pleasure. The project interested me from the start, while helping Steven come up with interview questions I did a bit of research on her creative background and it was very inspiring. I have always wanted to gain experience in this area so to be given that opportunity was invaluable.
Another task I loved and came away from filled with positive vibes was the on location photo shoot for the menswear online look book. It was fun making a bit of a buzz about the city centre by shooting Rio Brazil’s finest suiting out in the street. Steven took a few images while Kerry and I absorbed the technique, then we were sent out on our own to shoot independently. There was lot of independent work throughout the year but you will never be given anything you are not ready for. This task was brilliant experience, getting to shoot on location opened my eyes to editorial photography.
Aside from independent projects, working as a group brought a vibrant and creative dynamic. There was a day when Jeane gave us a brief to work on a banner showcasing summer dresses for the website. I picked the looks, Kerry photographed the poses and Jamie put it all together on Photoshop. We worked collectively listening to each other’s ideas and input, chopping and changing until we were unanimously happy. I always enjoyed the group work, we got the job done and had fun in the process.
Throughout the ten months spent here, we were not just treated as a part of the team but we were welcomed into the Rio Brazil/Mr & Mrs Stitch.com family. I knew that when I got the placement I would make sure I worked hard and made the most of my time here but I never expected to make friends with all the staff and become a part of such a close knit environment. Since finishing I have a lot of hope for future employment, I feel like I can walk into a job with confidence having real life experience (along with my part time job) of working in the fashion industry. Listening to advice and guidance throughout my time I have learnt a valuable lesson of getting tasks done to a deadline in good timing without stunting creativity and quality. I also feel that in September when starting final year, I will be able to make better and more informative choices in my work as I will be able to relate back to my industry experience. To anyone thinking about taking up a placement I would highly recommend it, a long term placement will open your eyes to situations you never would have come across in university. To all the staff at Rio & Brazil and to my fellow interns Kerry & Jamie, Thank you for making my time here truly awesome.