How to Land a Fashion Job: Career Advice From H&M’s Emily Scarlett

In our “How to Land a Fashion Job” series, we ask industry insiders to real talk about what they do, how they got there and how to break into the biz. This month, H&M Canada’s PR pro Emily Scarlett

Name: Emily Scarlett

Age: 32

Job: Public Relations Manager and Spokesperson H&M Canada

Follow: @emily_scarlett_, emily_scarlett_

fashion job emily scarlett

Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion PR? How did you get into the industry?

I actually wanted to be a lawyer but woke up one morning, during my fourth year of studying Media Information and Technoculture at Western University, with the realization that maybe this wasn’t for me. I have always loved fashion and sketching my own outfits, so on a complete whim I applied to Parsons School of Design in New York—and got in! I moved there after graduating and did an associate’s degree in fashion marketing and merchandising. After that, I did a few different internships in New York. When it was time to move back to Toronto, I saw a job posting on for a role in H&M Canada’s marketing and press department. I applied and have been with the company now for nine years. The first year was as marketing and PR coordinator and then eight years in my current role. And now, next month, I’ll be moving back to NYC to be Media Relations Manager of H&M USA!

What are the most important qualities a person needs to have for your job and why?

Flexibility, teamwork and a positive attitude. Every day is different and you can never predict what is going to happen, which I love, but it definitely means being flexible. One of our core values at H&M is actually “fast-paced,” and it couldn’t be more true of our work environment. It keeps things fun and exciting! Teamwork is another value (technically it’s “We are One Team”) and every person across the organization has to work closely together. And finally, you need a positive attitude. You spend more time at work than anywhere else so you should definitely feel great about what you are doing and where you are doing it, especially in this business—fashion is supposed to be fun!

What would you say was your first big break? Who gave it to you?

My first big break was interning for Glenda Bailey, the EIC of Harper’s Bazaar. I had an amazing PR teacher at Parsons, Tom Handley, and he recommended me for the position.

Who in your life would you say inspired you to be where you are today?

1000% my mother. She has always been a strong, confident force in my life. She taught me a lot about being myself, knowing when to take the high road and when to fight for what you want. Even today I constantly ask her advice. I’m a mamma’s girl through and through!

What was the most pivotal move in your career to get you to your current status?

In 2009-2010, I was asked to support H&M in France as their temporary PR Manager while we recruited a new person for the market. It was a crucial time for the company as we were in the midst of opening a flagship store on the Champs-Élysées. That opportunity got the ball rolling for my career in terms of helping our head office with supporting other markets. Since then, I have helped with H&M Mexico, South Africa and now, Colombia.

What was the worst/most challenging position you’ve had in the industry and what did you learn from that experience? 

I worked for a fashion show production company during two seasons of New York Fashion Week. It wasn’t “the worst,” but it was super challenging in terms of the crazy backstage world of fashion week and everything that goes into making those shows happen. It was a huge amount of work but I learned so much about the industry early on.

What can an aspiring intern do to set themselves apart? What have you seen on a resume that makes you cringe?

I love to see creativity! Resumes are old-fashioned and we are all about new media today. Someone recently sent me a video where they did a mock TV fashion segment, which is something I sometimes do in my role—it was awesome and really set them apart! As for what makes me cringe: Don’t ever put the words “I have a passion for fashion” in an application.

If you were just starting out today, how do you think you would try to break into the business? Anything you would do differently? 

There was no social media other than Facebook when I started. (Yes, I am a social media dinosaur.) If I was starting out today, I would take full advantage of all the different ways there are to cultivate relationships.

What would you say was one of the biggest risks you took when you were just starting your career? 

When I first moved back to Toronto I was offered an internship at a publication while I was waiting to hear back about the H&M job. Nothing had been confirmed but I just felt like it was going to happen. So I was patient and waited, and boy am I glad I did!

What are some of your career highlights so far?

There are so many, really! But in no particular order: opening the flagship store on Champs-Élysées, meeting some of the most amazing people all over the world and being able to call them some of my dearest friends. Also: dancing with Uma Thurman at the Versace x H&M event in 2011, meeting David Beckham (he is the nicest!) and most recently, accepting a new challenge that will see me move to the U.S. to work with the H&M team there.

What inspired you to make the leap to the U.S. team? How will your role change?

I loved living in New York when I was there as a student, and it was always on my bucket list to move back. So when this opportunity came up I was really happy to accept it. The U.S. is the largest H&M market in the world—almost 500 stores compared to Canada’s 82!—so the scope is definitely going to a big change. But I love learning and being challenged, so here we go!

What was one of your proudest moments in your career so far?

When we re-launched the Canadian flagship store at the Toronto Eaton Centre this year I was beyond proud. It was a lot of work but the results were incredible and I felt a huge amount of pride for H&M Canada and all that we accomplished together.

What continues to surprise or amaze you about your gig? 

I wake up every morning pumped to go to work and thanking whatever lucky stars got me here—even after nine years!

Who’s your ultimate fashion PR icon, past or present?

I think everyone working in fashion is doing some sort of PR, whether they know it or not. I’m going to go with the ultimate of all ultimates, and coincidentally, my Halloween costume this year: Anna Wintour. What she’s done for fashion, Vogue, young talent, new talent, old talent, the Met and the banged bob is really unparalleled.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far? 

Be patient. Good things come to those who know when to wait.

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