Two sophomores get a jumpstart into their careers
When is it too early to start looking into internships? The answer is NEVER. Katlan Henderson and Chanell Portis are sophomores in the Merchandising program at UNT and have begun their interning experience NOW by working for Rhonda Sargent Chambers Show Productions as paid interns. They have both gained an abundance of skills from working with RSC that they plan to use in their future fashion careers.
A common question I’ve found that many students have about internships, is where you look to find the internships themselves. How did you find out about interning for RSC? What was the process like?
Katlan: It wasn’t really a traditional process of getting an internship. In this case I didn’t have to seek out this internship. I had volunteered for RSC numerous times and built a professional relationship with Rhonda and her team. One day I woke up and checked my email and she had offered me a spring internship with her! In this case the previous work and time I had put in with her benefitted me most. I worked her events as a volunteer for about a year before I was offered the position as an intern.
Chanell: I started as a volunteer for Rhonda, I heard about my first opportunity after getting an email because I was a member of Merchandising Inc. After working multiple shows and staying in contact with her, she offered me a position on her team. I worked hard as a volunteer and she was able to see how hard and diligently I worked.
What are common tasks you do when assisting RSC?
K: My responsibilities vary depending on the event. Rhonda has allowed me to work front of house and back of house so tasks often differ. Common responsibilities with every event are usually pre-dressing and fitting models, organizing their rack, checking models in, dressing models during actual show time, taping shoes, tagging clothing, steaming clothing, etc.
C: I usually show up hours ahead of the show to help prep-garment racks, organize clothing, accessories, and shoes. My tasks can change depending on the event and the volunteers that Rhonda has working that day. Since I have worked with her team many times before, I am given more responsibility to do more difficult tasks. I have personally assisted her and worked front-of-house managing guests, organized models, and a commonly help dress and change models during the show.
Can you describe a memorable moment or experience that you’ve had while working with RSC?
K: My favorite memory working with RSC is when I worked the Versace Show. Versace as a brand has always been a favorite of mine and I’m a huge Donatella fan. Being up close, touching and seeing all of the details in her designs before the show was amazing. That show was also the first time I really got to be laid back and talk personally with Rhonda. It was the first show that she gave me the chance to prove myself at the front of house and back of house. Afterwards, she stuck around and chatted with Chanell and I. We took selfies and she video-taped us pretending to go down the Versace runway after the show was over; it was great!
C: I have had many incredible and memorable experiences when working with RSC productions. Around May of last year I had worked the DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Against Aids) fashion show. The theme was cirque, so there were grandiose costumes, painted dancers, animals, drag queens, clowns, and so much more. I was also able to meet and create relationships with a few models that I still talk to today.
Another memorable moment was when I was invited to work the Dallas Versace show. It was wonderful to see the beautiful clothes I had seen on the Fashion Week runway and be a part of something so special! All in all, I have been able to create and strengthen friendships and connections, which is something so incredibly special to me.
How do you think this job will benefit you once you graduate and enter the workforce?
K: The main skill I’ve gained from working with RSC is how to have incredible attention to detail and work swiftly at the same time. The pace of fashion shows is incredibly fast and you have to be able to keep up. There’s a strategy to everything that’s done backstage and I think the best skill that working with her gives you is the ability to think on your feet. Sometimes, things go wrong and you have a split second to figure out how to fix it so that the people watching on the other side of the wall don’t know anything is wrong. The ability to work with people efficiently is something Rhonda and her team do very well and subconsciously teach the rest of us.
C: Working in the production side of fashion shows is nothing like many would believe it to be. It is an enormous amount of work. I was able to learn to communicate with various personalities, plan and organize apparel, keep track of inventory, manage guests and models, and style looks. I believe that with these skills, a future employer will see my ability to learn quickly, my diligence with performing tasks, and my knowledge to further help my career.
Would you recommend doing an internship (assuming it wasn’t a requirement to graduate) to a student wanting to enter the fashion industry?
K: Yes, I definitely would. I feel that it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before you decide that you want to do this particular job as a career. I’ve always wanted a career, not a job, so I want to be certain that I enjoy what I do. Doing numerous internships helps you figure out exactly what niche I fit into, what doesn’t work for me and what does. My advice to anyone wondering if they should do more than their required internship is to definitely try everything you can make time for.
C: Yes! I would highly recommend that students pursuing any career in fashion, should do an internship. An internship allows you to gain invaluable experience, make connections and fully develop the skills and knowledge within a certain field. School can only teach you so much, it is the hands-on experience that will truly push you further. Anyone can go to school, but it takes a person with passion and drive to make their dream a reality.
The skills that Katlan and Chanell have learned while interning for RSC will be incredibly beneficial in the future when it comes time for them to enter the workforce. By taking the initiative to take part in such a fast-paced position, they’re setting themselves apart from other applicants in their field of interest. While your classes give important knowledge on different aspects of the interest, the experience you gain will benefit you the most, as it has for them.
Follow Katlan Henderson and Chanell Portis on Instagram @kae.mechele and @chanellportis
Words by Raeleigh Hall
Edit by Reilly Farris and Maia Wilson
Images from Katlan Henderson and Chanell Portis