Tuesday, 26 April 2011

My Work Experience in The Daily Telegraph Fashion Department!

I know. I can hardly believe that title either. But yes, folks, I am not making this up - over my Easter holiday, I did a couple of week's work experience alongside the legendary Hilary Alexander and her fashion team at The Daily Telegraph ("Britain's Best-Selling Quality Daily", don'tcha know!) And of course, I thought I would share my experience with you all:

Hilary Alexander:

When I saw her on that first morning, I was embarrassingly star-struck. This lady is incredible, and SUCH a household name int he fashion industry. As she's retiring in June, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity not only to meet her and see her doing her thang, but to work alongside her. One of my first tasks was to sort through the post for the fashion team, but I managed to make a right royal mess of it - I put Hilary's post on her desk. Dun dun DUUUN!!! Apparently Hilary's post goes to her assistant, Alicia, and I'd messed it up. Smooth way to start off my work experience, eh? Hilary was on the phone at the time, and gave me a look as if to ask "What are you doing?", before Alicia swiftly intervened and took the post. Phew. It all turned out OK.

But Hilary isn't anything like the editor in The Devil Wears Prada, she's really very lovely - I have to say that when I came in on my second morning and she said "Good morning, Rachel", I could've squealed with delight: "Hilary Alexander knows who I am!" Luckily I managed to keep that in. There were the odd occasions when I did feel like Andie in The Devil Wears Prada though: we had to ALWAYS man the phones - luckily I wasn't quite so inept to ask "Could you please spell Gabbana" - (and answer with "Hello, fashion"), and I was on occasion sent off to get the team drinks or food. Hilary, should you care, is rather partial to a tuna sandwich and a slice of millionaire shortbread. Boy, was I nervous that she wouldn't like the sandwich I got her though!
Hilary and I share a love of these!
Hilary is absolutely brilliant at what she does, and is so well respected not only among everyone at The Daily Telegraph, but everyone in the fashion world. We organised a fashion sale of all the gifts Hilary gets sent from fashion PRs and designers that she doesn't want - believe me, there were LOADS, and most of them I would've jumped for joy to receive (including a current season Anya Hindmarch bag worth £695!) I suppose that's the difference between Hilary and myself (well, one of many): she's been there, done that, and seen it all before. She's used to all the designer perks, whereas I'm an enthusiastic and naive newbie. I think my over-excitement at all the incredible things Hilary and the team were doing probably started to get annoying, so tried to reign it in a bit. But I can't help it! It's my positive, excitable nature!

So yes, Hilary does seem to lead a rather fantastical life. Just while I was there she had drinks with Tom Ford (meaning she couldn't be interviewed for ABC News), private fittings with Mary Katrantzou, and filmings for The One Show. The awesomeness blows my mind.

So what else did I do?
Naturally, I was doing lots of menial office tasks, but hey - I'm not complaining! I just felt incredibly lucky to be there and see what was going on. There were three of us work experience girls there at the same time (a 20 year old London College of Fashion student, and a 24 year old Central St Martins student), and so I imagine I was just one of a constant stream of work experience people who come and go all the time, and are all the same to the fashion department, but obviously to me, it was a really big deal.

I did loads of packing up and organising fashion returns of samples that'd been sent in for a big shoot in Morocco that Hilary'd just returned from, completed press send-outs (letting PRs know when their products had been featured in Hilary's articles), did background research, ran errands (such as running round London picking up hats!), organised the fashion sale - which ended up raising over £1,300 for charity! - and one of my favourite tasks was contacting designers and fashion PRs, trying to get contact details to compile into a spreadsheet. I loved it because I got to talk to people from fashion houses all round the world, and even managed to use some of my French skills when calling up the Parisiens! It really takes confidence to call and email people that you don't know when you're not used to it, and try to answer their queries when realistically, you're just an intern and haven't the foggiest! When Hilary said I was doing well, I may have actually let out a little squeal.


The Daily Telegraph is an amazing place to work - it's absolutely massive, and basically one ginormous, open-plan office. Yes, I felt ridiculously insignificant, but it was kinda awesome feeling part of something so huge. Also, the whole office was decorated with bunting, flags, and pictures of Royals and Corgis to get everyone in the spirit for the Royal Wedding, which I loved!

I learnt a lot while I was there (not the least that a big cup of tea at 4.30pm on a working day is a Godsend!), and feel so privileged to have had the opportunity. I blimmin' LOVE work experience, and yes, am super duper keen, but why not? It's interesting, fun (most of the time!), you develop as a person and enhance your CV - and let's face it, in this economic climate (blah de blah de blah), we need all the help we can get.

Of course interning and work experience is very topical at the moment, what with this issue of using your contacts to get a "leg-up", but I can honestly say that I just called The Daily Telegraph, got an email address, sent off my CV and a covering letter, and a few weeks late - boom! And then there's the matter of companies using work experience students as unpaid labour who can do the menial jobs for them, which is all very controversial. I know I'm very lucky that I have the means to pay for my train tickets to London and friends to stay with down there, but for some people, they don't have that, and so unpaid work is out of the question. I hope I won't be doing unpaid internships forever, but at the moment, it would seem you can't get a job without experience (and it's hard to even get work experience without some prior experience!)

At the moment I'm grateful for the work experience I've had and the ones I've got lined up for my Summer - who needs to go on holiday when you can work, eh? But please, I'm dying to know anyone else's views on issues surrounding work experience, so please, comment away or get in touch with me.

My advice to fellow youths would be to follow my lead - let's go forth and get tuna sandwiches!


  1. Hi Rachel,

    I just read this blog post and wanted to contact you! Your placement at the Telegraph sounds so exciting and such a valuable experience.. VERY jealous! I'm in my second year at Nottingham Trent, where I study Fashion Marketing and Branding. I would love a career in fashion journalism so at the moment I'm searching my butt off for internships at magazines for the summer! Such hard work though.

    I think we should keep in touch so we can have chats about work experience from one fashion student to another :) my email address is lucy.budge@yahoo.co.uk.

    Look forward to hearing from you :) x

    1. Hi Lucy,

      I'm so sorry but for some reason I seem to have only just read this comment even though it's from a year ago!

      Are you graduating from Nottingham now? Hope you found some placements last summer.

      Rachel x


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