A Designer Internship

A budding fashionista gets a firsthand look at the industry

by Christina Barber-Just

Her favorite movie is The Devil Wears Prada. Her dream job is to work for Italian Vogue. She’d love to meet Valentino. Yes, Elizabeth La Barbera ’15 has a passion for fashion. And thanks to Smith’s Praxis program, which gives stipends to students with unpaid internships, she indulged it with a summer internship at The High Street Showroom in New York City.Elizabeth Barbera ’15

The showroom represents four designer-clothing labels—Enza Costa, Riller & Fount, Benjamin Jay and Modern Saints—and sells to small specialty shops as well as websites like Shopbop. The experience got La Barbera thinking about becoming a fashion buyer and primed the Italian studies major for her junior year abroad in fashionable Florence.

The showroom

“It’s small, with rolling racks of clothes surrounding the perimeter of the space. Buyers make appointments to come up and see the clothes.”

Her tasks

“They varied from steaming clothes to filing orders to being a model for the buyers.”

Her modeling experience

“None at all! The only reason they had me do that was because the buyers didn’t want to put the clothes on themselves or didn’t bring a model with them.”

Her possible career

“Seeing all the buyers come to the showroom really attracted me to that job. My aunt was a buyer for Macy’s, and I thought that was cool.”

Her personal style

“Confused. I get overwhelmed with colors, so I wear a lot of black and a lot of basics, but my goal is to experiment and to try to be a little more edgy.”

Her favorite outfit

“Dark skinny jeans, a T-shirt, a blazer, a scarf and boots. I love the fall because I get to wear blazers and boots.”

Her fashion pet peeve

“When people don’t wear things because they’re insecure about them. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, it’s the attitude with which you wear it—cheesy, but I totally believe it.”

The Italian connection

“I’m passionate about Italian culture, and the way you present yourself in fashion is a huge part of the Italian culture.”

This story appears in the Fall 2013 Quarterly