WRITTEN BY LIZ KLEMENZ
The job search for an internship is no easy task for a young college student. Being a student at the University of Cincinnati, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Finding an internship that is beyond getting coffee takes numerous amounts of digging, self-searching, and planning to truly figure out what one wants to get out of their experience to ultimately fulfill career goals. If one is an aspiring fashion designer, the ever-changing nature of the apparel industry, with its survival-of-the-fittest mentality, is no help either. Approaching the end of my summer internship with Audrey Liz, I wanted to take the time to reflect on my most-recent experience, not only to measure my own self-improvement but also to share with others how Audrey Liz is truly invested in fostering the future of the fashion industry.
After my first internship as a sophomore, I felt confident in my own abilities with some experience now under my belt. Trying to find a new opportunity for my next internship semester amid the Covid-19 pandemic, however, brought on its own set of challenges. Many of the companies UC partners with could not afford their internship programs that year, therefore forcing me to look outside of the university for internship prospects.
How I First Heard About Audrey Liz
When I was weighing my options, my mom handed me an article from her high school’s quarterly newsletter. An alumni had recently started a clothing line based on her and her mother’s experiences of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. This clothing company was, of course, Audrey Liz. Aside from their inspiring story, I considered the idea that by working for them, I might gain some insight into eventually starting my own clothing business. I called them, told them who I was, and pitched my idea. To my surprise, they asked me if I would like to schedule an interview.
Why I Decided to Work Here
While I (fortunately) don’t have any direct ties to breast cancer, I wanted to work for a company whose values aligned with my own. Designing for women who have had mastectomies, Audrey Liz not only caters to, but brings attention to, an alternative body type in women, making them feel feminine in their clothing when they’ve lost two of the primary things that make them traditionally feminine: breasts and sometimes even hair. As a wider range of women’s body types continue to get more attention in the media, I believe it is important that clothing companies follow suit and design for different body types. Women who have had mastectomies are no exception, especially when it is usually for an extended period of time before women can go back to wearing typical bras after their mastectomy.
Another core value I had when it came to the fashion industry that Audrey Liz aligned with was responsibly sourcing their materials in the United States. I was happy to see that the manufacturer was paying their employees a living wage and providing safe working conditions. With the exponential amount of rising pollutants and the exploitation of labor that comes with fast fashion, it was refreshing to see that Audrey Liz does not contribute to this issue and fully understands quality over quantity. The demographic of older women that they market to has seen too many faulty advertisements over the decades to invest in something morally reprehensible, anyway.
The setting was small and intimate in Lauren’s home office, complete with lighting and photography equipment and a garment rack packed with samples for sizing. She packed her orders there, too, which was interesting to see firsthand. I learned many technical and soft skills through each of the projects. I conducted market research to further my understanding of Audrey Liz’s target market of older women, planned advertising strategies for Audrey Liz’s various social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, and made cold calls to plastic surgeons’ offices to ask if we can put our pamphlets in their waiting room. Through these tasks, I improved various technical skills like presenting information in a cohesive way, creative problem-solving, and furthering my familiarity with software like Microsoft Excel. Soft skills I improved included collaboration when working with Lauren on taking photos, handling delicate situations like being sympathetic and understanding when learning about the physical and emotional hardships women go through after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and gaining confidence in myself through presenting information to Lauren and Carol.
I learned about the many facets of what it takes to start a small business. At first, it felt as though I was working on miscellaneous tasks that didn’t seem to correlate with one another. Lauren later explained that each of the tasks I had been assigned is an important part of what one needs to know when starting a clothing line. Ultimately, I’m glad that she didn’t explain this necessity until after I had completed these tasks because this lack of context allowed me to truly see those many facets of a small business for myself.
Audrey Liz established that they were invested in the future of the fashion industry when they decided to take me on as an intern and when they took the time to talk with me and see what parts of the industry I wanted to learn about. My internship with Audrey Liz turned out to be a valuable experience. Not only did I learn and grow so much in a short amount of time, but I now have the confidence and improved skills required as a young professional to succeed in the fashion industry and later on start my own company. I hope that other individuals can take inspiration from my experience to be introspective and take the leap of faith to better themselves, personally and professionally.