Breaking Into the Fashion Industry in 10 Minutes

$3 and 10 minutes, that’s all it took to shoot with the biggest fashion magazine in Madrid.

I know, it sounds fake. Too good to be true. Oftentimes when I’m walking down the street to the grocery store or to do some mundane task the thought will pop into my head, “I broke into the fashion industry”. Which makes it impossible for me not to break out a smile. But you don’t want to hear that, you want to hear how it happened.

It was 10am on a Sunday morning when I was scrolling through Vogue while brushing my teeth. Maybe it’s not the #1 dentist-recommended thing to do, but I always find myself brushing for longer than 2 minutes when I’m distracted, so in hindsight maybe it should be. I kept coming up on videos and articles about Bella Hadid on the Paris Fashion Week stage. Coperni designers sprayed her with liquid that instantaneously hardened into a dress she walked the runway with. The advanced technology and enormity of the moment went right over my head that morning, my only thought being, “that looks like a little kid playing with shaving cream.” And that’s how the idea was born.

In our living room, I confronted Sevyn, “I want to spray shaving cream on you.” Understandably with no context, she did not say yes right away. However just moments after I explained my entire vision to her, I was already in the convenience store across the street, still wearing pajamas, buying a $3 can of shaving cream. I could have changed, but I have a Calihan Theory about instances like this – moving fast is a competitive advantage. The closer I published my video to the original, the better it would do since relevancy was high. The longer I waited, the more risk I took on. Someone else could complete the idea first. As much as we don’t like to admit it, creative ideas have an expiration date, and I was set on not letting this one spoil.

So as our hangovers still permeated our brains, dishes were left unwashed in the sink, and homework is undone, I sprayed the exact Coperni dress on my roommate. Only this time, in shaving cream. The entire thing, buying the materials, making the video, and cleaning the floor, took an entirety of 10 minutes. Within two days it had 2.5 million views.

Growing up, my generation learned that there are two currencies that can get you anywhere if you have enough of them – cash and followers. As I watched the view and like count go up and up alongside my followers, this was a forefront fact in my mind. 

It wasn’t until I got a message from a major fashion magazine in Madrid that I truly let my networking and economics brain take over. They were simply asking to repost the video on their socials, but the only thing I saw was an open communication tunnel. Admittedly it’s a bit odd for people in my position to ask a company over DM’s to speak about a future career (i.e. I’ve been told they’ve never fielded a situation like this before), but then again I needed to take advantage of at least some of my new currency.

So I responded to their message that they could repost the video, but that I was also a photography student looking to work in the fashion industry and would love to shadow a photoshoot or speak with someone about a career in fashion. They invited me to a photoshoot the very next day.

Unbeknownst to my parents, I missed two of my classes to stay through the entirety of the six-hour photoshoot. Admittedly it might not have been the smartest idea with midterms quickly approaching however the fashion industry is near impossible to start in, and you don’t often get awarded two chances.

The photoshoot brought forth another Calihan Philosophy – make yourself indispensable, everywhere. I was supposed to just be shadowing and asking questions but I could not let this philosophy die easy. I heard the photographer ask for an assistant and I quickly jumped on board, introducing myself and listening to his directions as best I could with my lack of knowledge in photography-Spanish. I attempted to be perfect in every aspect– finding the reflections, getting camera replacements as quickly as possible, and even providing water without being asked during wardrobe changes.

During these wardrobe changes, we talked. I told him about the photoshoots I was planning and how it’s my goal to photograph New York Fashion Week next year. He laughed and told me I had big dreams. He said that with a few more years of assisting under my belt and photography school over, then I would be ready to head some real photoshoots. I bit my lip, and especially didn’t tell him I wasn’t in art school.

I ran into a similar problem with consulting and the finance world as well. Many people believe you must do the sell-your-soul work for two years just to get the exit strategies, but I never believed in this. Maybe it’s just adolescent optimism, but I never saw why one couldn’t just go straight to the end goal. I had a supervisor at a private equity firm once tell me, “don’t graduate and go into something you don’t like because you’ll waste some of your best years being miserable just to find out years down the line you could have gone straight to the exit strategy.” Obviously, I took that to heart.

I’m not arguing that being an assistant is a waste of time, or that one should get to skip to the big, world-changing things without doing the small meticulous work. It teaches you about the intricacies of the job in regards to lighting, you learn how to work underneath someone else (admittedly, I have trouble with authority), and you learn how to take criticism. By working under different people, I am constantly creating a list of things I would do differently, or the same, when the tables are eventually turned and I am the one in power. I simply believe that the only way to truly practice photography is to do it. If I want to make a career out of doing photoshoots, planning every aspect of my own and learning from the failures will help me way more than fetching water as someone edits the photos they just took.

Whether I did the assistant role with a happy heart or a brain that was constantly thinking, “I could have made that shot so much better”, I had indeed made myself dispensable. A fact I would learn six hours later when I got a text from the Director of Fashion, Hilario, asking me to come with him the very next day to pick out looks for the next photoshoot. It was an out-of-the-blue request, simply because I didn’t have much interaction with Hilario and had mostly expressed interest in photography. Fashion styling is where my secret fashion passions lay though. Secret in the sense I am just beginning my fashion journey and do not think of myself as adequate enough to express my want to work in an industry I have still not perfected on a personal level. Of course, I immediately answered yes.

Imagine going shopping in a store that has every luxury brand you can think of, and everything is entirely free. That’s what shopping for a magazine photoshoot is like. From Prade to Kate Spade to the entirety of the Karl Lagerfield line. If I saw a piece of clothing that fit the photoshoot mood board, I just took it off the racks and found its perfect pairing.

I’d seen the difference in work culture a bit before, but this experience brought it out even more. Hilario, despite being extremely better educated than me in fashion and knowing this was my first time, truly put weight in my opinion. By the end, he had approved four looks that I had put together entirely by myself. When he asked what I thought of a certain sweater-coat combo and could tell I didn’t like it but didn’t want to say anything, he forced me to. I told him I believed the sweater needed to be gray, he found a gray sweater, put the two together, and agreed with me that gray looked better. I was flabbergasted that someone in such a higher position than me was admitting that my advice, as someone who was just supposed to be shadowing, was correct.

The Type-A fun started when we were done with our shopping. At this point, we were two miles from the office with a suitcase and four huge bags full of clothes. Even in regards to company usage, cars and taxis aren’t utilized in this environmentally progressive city. So instead of hailing a cab, we headed down the stairs onto the metro, designer bags hanging off each arm. The antithesis of the dark underground subway that so often smells a bit suspicious with the pearly white bags was something I could do an entire photo essay on.

I didn’t let my mind wander to the shots I might take if I did have the ability to do this photoshoot like I usually do. I pushed the example sentences out of my mind, and I focused on being here, riding the metro in Spain, and styling for a fashion magazine. Realizing that I had just broken into one of the hardest industries, and all it took was $3 and 10 minutes. 

Yours truly,



5 responses to “Breaking Into the Fashion Industry in 10 Minutes”

  1. […] It’s fall now and the leaves are changing colors in the park that I run through listening to music. My life in Madrid is more rhythmic and I have completely forgotten about my podcast-induced runs. I have more friends, more balance, and less solo finance studying. My time outside of school was spent sightseeing or spending time with friends… until a little video I made in my living room went viral. And somehow, I found myself working for a fashion magazine. […]


  2. Woah! That’s one hell of an experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wanna see the video!! How amazing


  4. […] A little funny video of mine went viral, and it somehow turned into an internship at one of the biggest fashion magazines in Madrid. […]


  5. […] major way Madrid served me that I still can’t even fully wrap my head around, is giving me the opportunity to work in fashion. I’ve said it before, but I cannot see any other time in my life that I would be able to work in […]


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