Sometimes we find ourselves in places we never thought we’d end up. This is my experience as a fashion intern for TIFF 2015…
6:00PM Monday September 12:
It’s six o’clock on Labor Day and I get an email notification from my new boss. It’s my work schedule and a detailed note of guidelines for the week. I’ve been recruited as a member of the Stylist Box Team at The Toronto International Film Festival 2015 for Magnet Creative—a fashion and publicity agency.
“Wardrobe/Dress Code: All Black, professional, well groomed.”
I’ve already travelled all the way to Toronto from my hometown, two hours away with a weeks worth of preselected ‘I’m seriously chic without trying too hard’ outfits. Everything’s closed and my first shift begins at 11:30AM the next day. Malls open at 10AM so that means I have exactly one hour to find five all-black killer outfits, fifteen minutes to get ready, and ten minutes to make it on time (not fashionably late).
9:30AM Tuesday September 13
The next morning I take the subway down to the Toronto Eaton Centre and wait impatiently, the first one there, in front of the glass shop doors of Wilfred exactly three minutes before ten. Despite the franticness and espresso-induced anxiety, it sure feels hella cool walking into a store demanding you need five outfits stat. I had every employee on the floor working for me, pulling the latest black pieces off the racks.
Forty-five minutes later I successfully had managed to pull together some black staple pieces every girl needs in her closet for every professional or dressy situation she might find herself in:
I am walking into the Trump International Hotel & Tower, armed with my favorite pair of black pointed toe heels and no idea what to expect. I am greeted by the hotel concierge and I tell him I’m a member of the Stylist Box Team. “Right this way, miss.” He leads me to the elevators and presses the 56th floor button.
I quickly fix myself in the elevator mirror before the doors open to reveal a long shiny black marbled floor hallway. A woman walks out behind a door straight off the pages of Teen Vogue. “Hi there. What’s your name? You can put your stuff in that closet over there. The other interns are in that room over there.” She says in between sips of her Venti Starbucks coffee.
As I walk into the room she had indicated, I am greeted by a seriously fashionably diverse group of people. “What up?” an intern resembling Kanye West with multiple facial piercings nods his head toward me. “Hey, I’m Istiana,” I introduce myself to the group nervously. “This place is amazing isn’t it?” another intern exclaims. She’s right. The living room of the suite has been transformed into an extravagant fashion showroom. Racks of handmaid red carpet gowns and designer samples from the hottest Canadian designers border the room complete with a portrait of Joan Rivers throwing the middle finger up over the fireplace and a breathtaking view overlooking Toronto’s financial district.
Moments later, a woman in a floor length floral kimono, straight across blunt bangs, and thick black heeled boots enters the room. “Helloooo interns,” she drags the words out dramatically and taps her clipboard. It’s almost too good to be true; this woman is straight up the most stereotypical fashion industry very-import-person archetype—or a character off Gossip Girl/The Devil Wears Prada.
“Thank you all for being here. I need 250 VIP gift bags to be assembled before 1PM. Everything’s in boxes over there. Make sure only fifty of the bags get a bottle of champagne. Go!” she shoos us away with wide grin.
I am sweating through my new pencil skirt and silk top. We are in the ($17 million!!!!) penthouse of the Trump Towers yet the air conditioning is unexplainably broken (lol). Nevertheless, 250 tissue paper filled red gift bags neatly line the floor. These exclusive bags will be given to each VIP guest who visits the stylist suite over the next week. Contents inside include: a variety of gift cards, vegan nail polish, champagne, vineyard tours, gourmet popcorn, boxed water, and free offers to private boxing lessons, Raw Juice Guru, numerology and psychic readings.
At 2PM after a quick lunch break across the street at Bannock (chicken spinach salad and chia seed quinoa pudding) we return to the suite to be assigned our positions for the day. Today the designers will be showcasing their collections to media and PR people to be worn later by TIFF stars. It’s our job as the interns to greet, check in/out, serve drinks to, and guide these reps around the Style Box Suite. I quickly scramble to remember all the names and details of each designer as we are given a quick tour of the showroom in which we will shortly be expected to give ourselves.
Okay, that’s Nora for Zarucci. Hand embroidery, full skirts, and delicate crop tops… Christopher Paunil with fine silks and flowing silhouettes…Narces, the hottest and most versatile designer of Toronto…Montreal designer Andrew Majtenyi–drama and theatrics…okay I think I got this.
Media and PR reps start to trickle into the suite. Two of the interns greet them before sending the reps off to one of the four of us who will be their tour guides: “This is Istiana, she’ll give you a private tour of Style Box and introduce you to all the designers.” I shake hands with a woman from CBC and offer her a glass of champagne.
Over the next few hours I find myself escorting a number of fashion bloggers, photographers, and media reps around with fake-it-till-you-make-it ease: “And over here let me introduce you to Toronto based designer, Hillary Macmillan!”
Three crazy hours later, the last few guests leave, my feet are swollen and blistered, but I can’t believe what just happened.
Me! Me, a shy small town girl with no professional fashion or PR experience is actually here! I pinch myself slightly to remind myself I’m not dreaming or in a movie right now. Here! This crazy fast paced high fashion fame world is actually here and not so unattainable or far off. Not once did anyone look at me funny or ask me what I’m doing here. Not once did anyone suspect that I really had no idea what I was actually doing. It may sound cliché but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this surreal experience, it’s that you really can do anything so long as you believe and act like you can (even if really inside you’re actually terrified). Go into any situation with a confident smile and an I-have-nothing-to-lose mindset, you’ll be fine! Never in a million years did I ever expect to be chosen for this opportunity when I applied for the job, but I thought, screw it, I really don’t have anything to lose, except a chance, if don’t even try.
So with that, I exit the Trump Tower Residences onto Bay Street, bustling with posh businessmen and women, feeling excited for what tomorrow will bring. After all, anything can happen if you put yourself out there.