Industry Voice

The aim here is to inform our readers on insider industry knowledge and to ensure that employers get a voice too.

Oasis, another beloved brand lost in the chaos

May 16, 2020


The quintessential British High-street that we all know and love is having a major shift and we are preparing to say goodbye to the shops that have been alongside our walkways since the dawn of time. A string of fashion chains including Oasis, Warehouse, Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley and Debenhams have faced pressures from rising costs, the shift to online shopping and low consumer confidence. The crisis facing the retail sector is profound and it is now a question of survival of the fittest to adapt and survive the devastating blows of this pandemic. Fashion Intern reaches out to employers at Oasis who have been personally affected by the Covid-19 crisis. 

Oasis and Warehouse have taken the decision to permanently close all of their stores and online shopping with the loss of more than 1,800 jobs after administrators have been unable to save both fashion chains. According to the Guardian, Rob Harding, a joint administrator at Deloitte explained how “it is with great sadness that we have to announce a sale of the business has not been possible and that we are announcing so many redundancies today.” Speaking in April, Hash Ladha, chief executive of Oasis Warehouse said: “This is a situation that none of us could have predicted a month ago, and comes as shocking and difficult news for all of us. We as a management team have done everything we can to try and save the iconic brands that we love”.

Fashion Intern interviewed Holly Browne, senior brand content manager to get the inside scoop on working life at Oasis and how it feels to be made redundant.

Holly Browne, Senior Brand Content Manager

As Senior Brand Content Manager at Oasis Fashion, what did your day in the life look like?

At Oasis, no day was the same. You’d find me brainstorming digital content plans with my team, finessing email and homepage schedules, attending monthly shoots, creating copy guidelines or scribbling down a thousand thoughts per minute in preparation for a big campaign session. It was fun, fast-paced and challenging. I’ve always been ambitious and driven, but not so much at school. I adored Art and English, but when it came to exams I crumbled. Following disappointing GCSE results, I was lucky to study Graphic Design at West Herts College, which led me to gain a place at Solent University where I studied Writing Fashion and Culture. I felt like I had finally found my calling. I interned over every summer break and developed a taste for the industry, gaining experience at As Seen On Screen (now ASOS), Easy Living, the London Paper and Fashion156. There, I created copy for the website and enjoyed every moment. I then applied for my first permanent role at Isabella Oliver, the renowned maternity brand. The rest, as they say, is history.

What made Oasis so special? 

It was refreshingly real, tongue-in-cheek and innovative, especially next to the indistinguishable pure players and pocket-money prices that continue to dominate the industry. I always felt that Oasis was this big, beautiful ball of energy that stood out in the crowd, like a cheery floral beacon. It genuinely made people happy; Oasis was always determined to make its customers crack a smile and feel good – and I don’t think many brands can say that. Oasis was truly loved and will be missed by many. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been involved in some unforgettable campaigns and collaborations, but all of those achievements and highlights wouldn’t have been possible without my amazing, inspiring Oasis family. Great people are what makes a great company, and I have many laugh-out-loud memories and lifelong friends thanks to my time at Oasis.

Do you think the closure of Oasis is a warning sign to other high-street brands? 

I’m not sure it’s a warning, because most retailers will already be having/have had similar conversations and issues. I think the industry was saddened by the news of Oasis, but I don’t think it was shocked. Retail has become so tough that these headlines are becoming the norm; another beloved brand lost in the chaos. Let’s hope that this isn’t the end of the high street, but a new, exciting opportunity for brands to innovate and up their game.

What was Oasis’s failure? Was Covid-19 the nail in the coffin?

‘Failure’ feels a tad strong, and if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure. The upcoming summer and autumn/winter collections were beautiful. We were so excited by the product development and what was to come… The marketplace will always be crowded, but this is where successes shine. H&M’s ever-growing portfolio (Arket, Cos, H&M Home, Monki, Weekday, & Other Stories etc) is phenomenal and I admire the company’s unique approach to each brand.

What has been the hardest thing about being made redundant during a pandemic? 

Not being able to hug the people you’ve loved working with. And not being able to go to our local and raise a glass to Oasis. It was heart-breaking. I wouldn’t say redundancy was a surprise, but nobody ever wants to hear that news, especially during the lockdown. I can’t wait to celebrate the good times with my incredible team and give the brand the farewell it deserves.

What are your plans for the future? 

Now’s the perfect time for me to take a step back and think about what I really want to do next. I’m keeping my ear to the ground and seeing what’s out there, but I’m also trying to enjoy this pause in my career. I’m helping out friends with a little freelancing, cleaning the house from top to bottom and Zoom quizzing like a pro! Who knows what the future holds, but here’s to the next chapter.

Hannah Eichler, Former Senior Brand Stylist

What was it like to work at Oasis?

It was such a fun and varied role as I got to do loads of different things, everything from e-commerce shoots, content shoots for Instagram and things that went across the website. I think one of the most valuable things about working for an in house brand was that it taught me ever a lot about the different departments such as how buying & merchandising works, all the content teams and strategising and marketing. Fundamentally if you can respect how different departments work and you have an appreciation for their process then that makes you quite a powerful person to know. I think my most memorable moment was when I styled two bridal campaigns and I saw the pictures up in all the stores and the windows all around the country.

What are your thoughts on the closure of Oasis and Warehouse?

Honestly, I feel so sad about the closure of Oasis & Warehouse. Oasis had a really strong brand voice and there were so many people who loved shopping there. The feedback we had was always so amazing, but I suppose they sold a lot of occasion wear for about £70-£80 and actually a lot of people don’t want to spend that kind of money anymore, they want a cheaper option. It was appealing to a small area in the market I suppose. When I was there, it was rumbling. They pulled us all in for a meeting and discussed the things in the press, talking about selling and that sort of thing. I started to feel a bit conscious but as with any company like that, it’s dealt with in a senior compacity.

Do you think Covid-19 will continue to impact the high-street?

Whilst yes I think Covid-19 was the nail in the coffin for Oasis and Warehouse, it certainly wasn’t something that was the only factor in the closure. Warehouse only two months ago launched menswear, so it feels a bit weird to me they were putting money into that and all of a sudden they aren’t’ operating anymore so I feel a bit suspicious about the whole thing if I’m honest. Obviously this will all have a massive impact on the high-street going forward, people are choosing to shop online more which will definitely see an impact. I think the brands that will do really well, are the ones that entered the industry prior in an online format. In terms of the future of Oasis, I have read that some senior members of staff are still staying on. In a similar capacity to Coast and Karen Millen, Boohoo bought both companies and now are operating online so one you never know, Oasis might get a buyer last minute. I really hope this isn’t the end of such an amazing company!”

The future of Debenhams

May 16, 2020


With Britain in lockdown during the pandemic, Debenhams’ 142 UK stores have been closed, while the majority of its 22,000 workers are being paid under the government’s furlough scheme. Fashion Intern interviewed Chloe Shilton, a press assistant who has been furloughed.

Chloe Shilton, Press Assistant

As Press Assistant at Debenhams, what did your day in the life look like? 

My job is extremely busy as I work in a press team of just three. My usual day involves sending out samples to press, hosting showroom and store appointments for journalists, compiling monthly coverage reports, selling in product to publications, planning events and leasing with buyers over showroom samples. I got into PR by doing a fashion journalism degree at London College of Fashion and undertaking lots of unpaid internships during that time. After I graduated, I secured a job as a PR intern at River Island where I worked for two months. After that, I was recommended to Debenhams by the PR manager at River Island, and have worked at Debenhams ever since.

With Britain in lockdown during the pandemic, Debenhams’ 142 UK stores are now closed. How has COVID-19 affected your current job?

Yes, a lot of colleagues including myself have been furloughed, so I am not currently doing PR. A global pandemic like Covid 19 is sure to affect industries like fashion and particularly the PR side of it. I think that PR as we currently know it will change – it’s hard to say exactly how, but I know that in fashion you have to embrace and adapt to change quickly to succeed. 

What do you think the future is for Debenhams? 

That’s a good question. The market is most definitely saturated, and it’s all about finding a USP for your brand in order to survive. You have to create an exciting and enjoyable shopping experience, or why wouldn’t people just shop online? Debenhams is looking at its online strategy as this is where a lot of the money is, but despite this, before the pandemic, the majority of our sales still came from in-store, so there is a lot to be said for physical shopping and the value it holds to our customers. I think that companies such as ASOS have an advantage by being online only, as they do not have to pay for rent in their stores or store staff. However, I believe that there will always be a place for the high street. When the TV came out, everyone was worried that it would kill the radio, and it didn’t. I think that things will balance out but only if consumers are committed to supporting the high street, and the high street works hard to engage customers. It works both ways. It would be so strange to imagine the high street with all retailers closed. 

What are your plans for the future?

The future is really uncertain at the moment, and I’m doing all I can to make sure that I keep up with all the change. My routine is completely different now – I get up, go for a walk, apply for jobs and email my contacts to ask about any potential opportunities. I usually bake something and relax in the afternoon. I really miss how busy things used to be but also it’s definitely important to take some time out to reflect. 

Image Credit – Drapers

What its like to undertake a virtual internship

May 16, 2020


Working from home has shown us all that employees are able to be just as productive sitting in their pyjamas in bed with a coffee in hand, as they are in a busy London office working 9-5. There is now no definitive point to when you close down your laptop, pack your bag and head for the train home. When do you switch off from the relentless pinging emails and say I’m done for the evening, knowing full well you are living the same day on repeat. Besides what else do you really have planned during the lockdown? With that said, companies such as Twitter have told their staff they can work from home “forever” after realising their work from home measures during the lockdown had been a success. Moreover, Facebook and Google have extended their work from home plan as “people are proving they can be far more productive working from home.”

In terms of internships, with everything moving online, companies are adopting digital platforms to facilitate virtual internships. So far at least 500 students are set to undergo internships in a remote set up. A few companies are also enabling virtual company tours via video conferencing to ease the learning process. With so many people successfully working from home, it’s prompted businesses to ask the question, do we really need workers in the office every day of the week? According to frontier economics, “with the reduced demand from commercial and industrial businesses scaling back their activities, electricity usage has dropped throughout the country meaning companies are saving a huge amount of money on workforces staying at home.” Will this change the way companies operate in the future?

Fashion Intern speaks to Holly West, who is currently undergoing an unpaid virtual internship for a travel guide start-up company.

Holly West – Intern

Tell us a bit about you?

I am a History and Ancient History graduate from the University of Exeter. I graduated with a first in 2018 and then took 2 years out to work, save money and very fortunately go and travel the world! Writing has always been a passion of mine, be it writing for the university newspaper, for my own blog, or for anyone that wanted to publish my work. It is a hard industry to break into, everyone wants to do it and you have to really stand out from the crowd or know people to get ahead. An absolute dream of mine would simply be getting paid to write. If I could travel the world, eat good food and be paid to write about it, I’d be happy. A good work-life balance is always something I would aspire to, and so getting get paid well enough to freelance in the future and choose where I could work from would be an ultimate goal. 

Who are you currently interning for and how did you get an internship there?

I am currently interning for a travel-guide company called Don’t Be A Stranger. They are a start-up, planning on launching their website and app this year – however, both have been put on hold due to COVID-19. I found the internship advertised on The Dots, which even without Coronavirus, was always set to be a remote position which fitted perfectly at the time as I was travelling around Indonesia. 

What is it like doing a virtual internship? 

It’s actually super easy and flexible, especially since I am not getting paid for it. Each week I have a video call with the editor, she fills me in on what the brand has been working on, and we discuss what I have done that week. Then we talk about which pieces to work on the following week (usually 2-3 articles), bits of research she wants doing, or additional tasks. I have a structure but it is very flexible, some weeks I will send over 2 articles, some weeks I’ll bash out 4/5. 

What does your daily routine now look like? 

So I am currently locked-down with my boyfriend and his family, all of which don’t have office-based jobs, which makes it quite difficult to stay motivated! Generally, I will get some breakfast in, watch the news, maybe do a quick home workout or have a walk and then get to do a couple of hours work before lunch. I often set up in the kitchen, or upstairs on the bed (I get cold sitting still for too long!). After lunch, I do a couple more hours before I go for an afternoon walk to get some exercise in and break up the day. Often after that work goes out the window and it’s time for a glass wine and a game of scrabble. Because I don’t have a full structure, I work on any given day I feel. Some weeks I will work all weekend and then take more days in the typical working week off, other days I will try and work a full Monday-Friday and enjoy the weekend, just to know what a normal 9-5 feels like! 

What does your WFH wardrobe look like? 

Although it would be so easy, I actively try and get dressed to do work, otherwise, it makes me feel tired or like I am not ready to get things done with my day. Before I start work I get dressed properly, but the clothes are often comfy because I wriggle a lot on my chair when I work. A pair of patterned wide-legged trousers and a white t-shirt, a pinafore and a cropped t-shirt etc. Some days when I really want to do exercise later that day, I’ll put on ‘activewear’ to work, so I have no excuse as I am dressed and ready for a HIIT.  

What do you eat during days in lockdown?

So I am a big foodie, and I love cooking. I often use cooking/baking as an excuse not to work! Generally, I am pretty healthy, other than the odd BBQ whilst the weather has been nice, and quite a lot of wine to get us through these ‘unprecedented times’. Breakfast is usually the same, banana porridge or eggs and avocado on toast. Lunch I often roast up a big batch of soup or make a falafel salad with a big mound of hummus. Dinner is always varied because I love to cook and I am staying with my boyfriend’s parents, I am paying my way by cooking dinner all the time – they tell me what they want and I rustle it up! My proudest moments have been making my own roti and flatbreads, and I love making a big batch of dhal – so simple but delicious!  

Do you ever take a ‘Netflix lunchbreak?’ and accidently find yourself immersed in 5 episodes of Tiger King?

I have got through a lot of TV during my time in lockdown – if the weather is even remotely grey, that’s it, it’s a TV day! I think because my internship is so no-pressure and isn’t tight with deadlines, it means I am prone to get sidetracked (but how good was Normal People and season 3 of Ozark though?!). I get that Monday feeling often and tell myself that this week I will treat it like an office job, but it is hard when life is so different from normal and everyone is going out for a mid-afternoon walk. One of my favourite ways of working is the Pomodoro Method – it breaks your work time up into small 25 minute chunks, rewarded with a 5-minute break each time. Once you have done 4 rounds of this you can chill for 30 minutes. It works a lot better for me to do tasks in short bursts rather than just telling myself to work for 5 hours. 

Has working from home made doing an ‘unpaid internship’ a more viable option, now that you don’t have to worry about paying out for travel and food?

Working from home and doing an unpaid internship has been such a better option for me. I live in the countryside with no real contacts in London save a few friends from university. The idea of getting an unpaid internship in London and having to shell out for trains, accommodation and food for weeks or months on end just isn’t financially viable and makes the whole idea of internships really exclusive. Working remotely means I can live at home, make money at my bar job (now furloughed), and gain the valuable experience I really need. Sometimes being unpaid means getting motivated is hard, I have been doing it for nearly 5 months now and to not get financially rewarded for all the hard work is difficult. But at the end of the day, it is important to remember that the experience and the portfolio building is what I really need right now, and with the ability to work remotely, it has given me great insight into what I want to do in the future, just minus the pay.

Working as a Graphic Design Intern

May 28, 2020


Fashion Intern interviewed Sophie Brocklebank, Social Media & Graphic Design Intern at G_IRL. FI investigates what life is really like working as an intern during a pandemic and the pressures that come with balancing a degree alongside.

Soph, tell us a bit about you? Why did you choose to study Fashion Promotion?

Hey! So I’m Soph, I’m 22 and I have a passion for visual communication and creativity! I also love cats a LOT. I’ve always, always wanted to work in fashion but only ever studied academic subjects so embarking on this degree was a huge gamble as to whether it would be right for me or not and it turned out to be perfect. A degree in Fashion Promotion is a great way to ease yourself into the fashion industry and try out loads of different things before deciding which path you want to go down. When I arrived in September I literally knew that I loved fashion and that was it, I had no idea what I was good at or where I wanted to go. I’ve been able to explore trend forecasting, branding, marketing, buying and merchandising, design, fashion media, PR and so much more while allowing myself time to figure out what I really wanted to do.

On a personal note, how has Covid-19 affected your degree and internship?

It’s a weird one to get your head around because on the one hand, we have all this extra time, but on the other hand something about lockdown has really knocked my motivation and confidence and I don’t really know why. I’ve definitely struggled with my degree these past couple months but I think it’s important sometimes to stop being so focused on getting a high grade and just handing in the best you can do, especially at this time. My lecturers have been amazing and are always there to help. I’ve been a lot more motivated with my internship though, which mostly comes down to the amazing community we have at G_IRL. We have a group chat with all the team members and ambassadors and everyone’s just so lovely and supportive. And obviously having the past couple months off my pub job has been helpful to really allow me to settle into my internship and give it all I’ve got.

What has it been like working as a Graphic Design Intern at G_IRL for 4 months?

I absolutely adore everyone at G_IRL and I enjoy the work I’m doing so much that sometimes I have to pinch myself. I sometimes feel like I’m living this dream life – books and films always tell us gruelling stories of working your way into the fashion industry, being the “coffee b*tch” and running around photocopying all day. While it’s definitely hard work, and there’s a lot to do running up to deadlines, I love what I do and the responsibility I have in the magazine and brand gives me a sense of importance rather than feeling like I’m at the bottom of the food chain. Having this as my first ever internship just makes me feel so lucky. The G_IRL brand is incredible and I’m so proud to represent it.

I love what I do and the responsibility I have in the magazine and brand gives me a sense of importance rather than feeling like I’m at the bottom of the food chain.

Sophie Brocklebank

What does working as a Graphic Design Intern involve? Have you lost the will over zoom meetings?

Do you know what, the team that works at G_IRL is so small and we all have such separate roles that we don’t really use Zoom. We have a group chat and send a lot of voice notes though, I think one day Lucinda (The Editor) sent me one that was like 20 minutes long haha. When I’m doing G_IRL work, which is usually 2 or 3 days a week at the moment because I still have uni, most of my time is spent designing and creating social media content for the G_IRL Instagram story. For the past 8 weeks we’ve had this really cool makeup feature with a giveaway every Monday and I’ve been making all the slides for that. When I’m not doing that, I’ll be designing some typography or graphics for the print magazine or working on anything else that needs designing. A couple weeks ago I made a ‘washing instructions’ flyer that goes out with all the clothes orders. I’m basically always designing and producing graphics for whatever needs to be done at the time.

Has this internship opened up your eyes to working in the industry? Has there been anything that really surprised you?

From what I know, my internship is pretty unique and not a completely accurate representation of the fashion media industry. I’ve been so lucky to work with such a friendly, tiny team so I definitely don’t expect it from the industry as a whole! I guess how lovely, supportive and chilled out my boss is was a surprise and just how close the G_IRL community is. It has massively surprised me how much people like my work, because we only learned the very basics at uni so most of my graphic design skills are self-taught and I have so much still to learn. But I always get amazing feedback which has really increased my confidence. Lucinda also works extremely, extremely hard on G_IRL, all hours of the day and is basically superwoman so she always amazes me.

What’s it like doing an internship whilst still having university work to manage? How do you stay on top of everything?

It’s definitely hard, especially because I had my part time job as well. Obviously things have changed hugely now so it’s nowhere near as hard but I imagine when things start to go back to ‘normal’ and the pressure increases I will be practicing self-care and basically just having as much ‘me’ time as I can, which always helps if you’re a busy person. I love incense and also making daily to-do lists I find helpful. Music plays a huge part in my emotions too, so I can really use that to give myself a positive outlook on things and stay calm.

Has working from home made doing an ‘internship more of a viable option’ as you no longer have to worry about travel expenses or food?

Definitely! We originally had to complete an internship this summer as part of our course (obviously this isn’t compulsory anymore because of Coronavirus) and I worried for MONTHS about how I would afford it, where I would live, what would I do if I woke up one morning with awful mental health and didn’t want to come in…I’ve definitely started to realise that there are loads of benefits of working from home for me. As long as I’m getting out for walks and I see people regularly, it works really well for me. I definitely day drink a lot more than I would if I was in an office haha.

What does your WFH routine & wardrobe now look like?

I’m definitely not a WFH role model! As I said before I have struggled hugely with motivation during lockdown but I’m doing the best I can. I usually get up at about 9, make some breakfast, watch an episode of something and chill out for a bit. My daily routine is basically a cycle of doing work, watching a TV series, drinking Pepsi Max and going out for walks. It works for me! Most days I wear a baggy tee and some shorts or literally a bikini because it’s so hot at the moment. I definitely don’t get dressed “properly” but I’m comfy and that’s kind of all that matters to me. I do my makeup some days too which is always a nice treat. The weather here is amazing so I spend a lot of time in the garden or just going out for walks so I wear gym stuff a lot too.

Once you finish your degree what are your hopes for the future?

Big question! I would love to do an MA and I currently have my eye on one at CSM but I haven’t worked out whether doing one in London is going to be financially sustainable. I would love to stay interning for G_IRL for a while and basically just want to focus the next couple years on building a really strong portfolio and becoming confident in my skills. I love the idea of taking over an art direction role at a print publication or running a brand’s social media. The one thing I know for sure is that I never want to put myself in a box. I love the idea of just doing what I love and experiencing new things. I would love to just randomly bring out a collection one year and then move onto something completely different. I just want to experience it all.