Why the Cold Email Is Crucial to Your Fashion Career

Jessica Schiffer

In a world where email etiquette has become commonplace, it would be easy to write off the cold email—i.e., emailing a stranger—as too aggressive or inappropriate. However, when it comes to your fashion career, the gesture can actually be a silver bullet, helping you forge connections that may single-handedly set you on your intended path. Sound idealistic? Consider my own trajectory as evidence…

My first internship was with one of the top American fashion magazines, but I didn’t just stumble upon it while browsing the web one day—I emailed the executive editor directly. Most major publishing houses, like Hearst and Condé Nast, utilise the same email format for all their employees, so finding the exact address was pretty simple. When crafting the actual message, I made sure to keep it short and professional (this was a busy woman, after all), with a touch of my own sarcastic humour to help it stand out. Once I pressed send, I knew the chances of getting a reply were slim, but I was proud that I had at least made the effort.

By some stroke of luck—or, really, the fact that my contact was a big-hearted lady eager to pay her industry learnings forward—the editor responded with great enthusiasm, connecting me to her assistant and setting up the interview that would lead to an internship and subsequent job at the magazine.

During said job, I also began a personal blog that partially revolved around interviewing fashion industry folk. This required me to cold-email many of the biggest names in the biz (such as Eva Chen and our very own Hillary Kerr) to see if they’d be willing to chat with me, someone with a very tiny following whose interview would likely not be read by many people.

I found out very quickly that being genuine, and displaying a passion for the business that all of these people could relate to, paid off. Rare was the moment when someone didn’t respond, and no matter the outcome, I never regretted the outreach. What’s more, the practice helped me to build up my list of contacts, because even if we were only chatting via phone or email, I was now on these people’s radars.

In an effort to build up my portfolio, I also began pursuing a freelance writing career around this time. How did all of my first published pieces come about? The cold email, of course. One especially great moment came after reaching out to Leandra Medine about something unrelated to my own writing. She happened to like the style of my email so much that she flat-out asked me to contribute to her site. It was the ultimate proof that putting a little extra effort into your words online could pay off. Next thing you know, we were chatting all things writing and fashion over drinks in New York City.

The climax of all this cold emailing, however, came last winter, when I noticed that Who What Wear was hiring a features editor. It struck me as the ultimate gig, and I knew I had to do everything in my power to try to get it. Thanks to my previous bold move, I was now acquainted with Hillary Kerr enough to send her an email with my application that, in more professional language, essentially said, “I really, really want this.” Did that one note get me the job? Of course not, but did it help? Absolutely.

Today I receive my fair share of cold emails too, especially from young people seeking internships. I’m always far more intrigued by those candidates—who really sought me out and took a chance—than the ones who merely responded to a posting they saw. It shows me just how interested and passionate they really are about the opportunity, and exhibits that they’re willing to take important risks for their career. Of course, it’s by no means a requirement—and you can certainly still get a great job without emailing a stranger—but it can make a huge difference in how your application is perceived. I would advise anyone interested in fashion to give it a try—keep it professional, authentic, and not overly familiar (no matter how much you’ve read about someone), and it could end up being the game changer you’ve been waiting for.

Have you ever forged a career connection from a cold email? Sound off in the comments!

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