Internships, a signature component of the FIT experience, are still going strong during the pandemic—albeit remotely. According to a recent survey, 93 percent of FIT’s summer interns reported that they achieved their learning objectives, and 83 percent would recommend their internships to other students.
“There’s a myth out there that everything has shut down,” says Tardis Johnson, associate dean for Student Academic Support. “Everything hasn’t shut down—it’s migrated remotely.”
When the pandemic put the city on lockdown, the tools for remote learning were already in place, though not at this scale, says Frantz Alcindor, director of Career and Internship Services. In moving internships online, he has educated employers on which tasks, like social media outreach and writing, can be done online. He has also ensured legal protections for students, for example, when using their own computers to handle sensitive data.
To those struggling to find internships or jobs right now, Marjorie Silverman, chair of Internship Studies—a department that offers courses that help prepare students for their internships—says to keep learning. “Employers are going to know what it meant to be a student in 2020,” she says. “How do you use this time to develop your skill set, whether it’s learning a foreign language or serving your community? How do you use this time to show that you are relevant to industry?”
We spoke with four students about how their summer internships played out.
Hoover Yu Hau Chung, Menswear ’20
“I am a pro-online learning person,” says Hoover, who had a career in advertising before coming to FIT. He finds he can focus better in video meetings, and if he doesn’t understand a term—he grew up in Hong Kong and his first language is Cantonese—he can unobtrusively look it up.
His summer internship, which took place after he completed the coursework for his degree, was with an avant-garde, gender-fluid label called Linder. Previous internships at Derek Lam and Eckhaus Latta were more structured; for Linder, Hoover helped the two owner/designers complete their spring 2021 collection, which involved lots of sample-making on his home sewing machine.
He missed the in-person interactions with more experienced artisans that might have improved his own skills, but he learned what he’d hoped to: “How artistic brands create their DNA and come up with their clothing—that is something that cannot be taught.”
As a graduate, he is still looking to build skills, to give him an edge in the job market during this historic recession. He plans to study 3D design and intern in performance wear, and will look for a full-time position next year.
“It’s going to be a long haul,” he says. “I just have to be a renaissance man right now.”
Apoorva Grover, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’21
Apoorva, a student from Nigeria, had a seven-week marketing internship with Carol Hannah, a luxury bridal company. Each morning, her supervisor would lay out the day’s tasks in a Google Doc, and they would talk them through on the phone or a video call. She carried out market research on the brand’s competitors, bolstered traffic to the website using search engine optimization (SEO), drafted blog posts, and ran social media analytics.
Toward the end of her internship, restrictions in New York City relaxed, and she was allowed to work in the store. She finally met her supervisor and Carol Hannah in person, and she worked on an in-house photo shoot and mailed out sample gowns for brides to try on.
She says that working remotely could have been demotivating, but she had a great relationship with her supervisor and felt that her work mattered (she was the company’s only intern).
“Knowing that sitting behind my laptop and making a few tweaks is making a huge difference for Carol Hannah was a really good feeling,” she says.
Jay Son, Fashion Business Management ’21
When Jay’s prestigious summer internship with Ralph Lauren was canceled, he scrambled and found one at La Perla, an Italian luxury intimates brand. He couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
Monday mornings, his supervisor, a merchandising manager, gives him a project for the week, and Monday afternoons, he attends a corporate videoconference to hear about the state of the brand. His work mirrors what he studied at FIT: organizing data to make a report of each week’s sales trends, creating line sheets to help sell the products to each store, and assisting with buying and replenishment programs.
“I’m really excited, because this is exactly what I wanted to learn,” he says.
Jay also enjoys the work-at-home lifestyle. He doesn’t have to wake up early, he saves money on lunch, and he records every conference with his boss so that he doesn’t have to keep following up. He does miss face-to-face interaction, though: “That is not something you can achieve from a video chat.”
He plans on continuing the internship through the fall semester, and he looks forward to the going into the office.
“Before I started, I was worried—I thought it would be ridiculous to work remotely,” he says. “But surprisingly it has been going really smoothly.”
Kia Ward, Textile/Surface Design ’21
Kia interned with Fashion Fights Cancer, a nonprofit that offers fashion- and design-related activities to those who have been affected by cancer.
“My aunt passed about five years ago from ovarian cancer,” Kia says. “When I saw the opportunity, I knew I had to give something back.”
Every morning, she logged into the organization’s project-management system to see her assignments, which included asking established designers to donate clothes or their time. Some designers taught classes to cancer survivors; others appeared in photos to promote the charity.
Adjusting to remote work was not easy, and Kia wished she had gotten to meet her team in person and see the facilities. With two weeks left in the internship, she hit upon a project she became passionate about: working behind the scenes on the Fashion Fights Cancer’s Therapy Podcast, which featured FIT alumnus Byron Lars, Jason Wu, and other designers talking about current issues, such as the impact of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. One episode was a conversation about natural hair in the Black community. She loved working on the podcast so much that she extended her internship.
Kia is nervous about the job market; she sees companies laying off their workforce and hopes the industry will rebound by the time she graduates. Ultimately she wants to open a boutique where she can sell African-inspired prints that she designs.
“I’m praying and hoping that there will be opportunities for me,” she says.
Here, Ward describes her internship in a short video: