Stephen Street is a man of many talents, his main talent being fashion design. Street, a college junior, has attended SCAD as a Fashion Design major since 2015. A longtime interest in fashion contributed to this career choice, which has especially heightened through internships with Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Here, Street reflects on his time working at Diane von Furstenberg – at only 16 years old – as a Design & Screen Print intern, interview essentials, and more.
Photo: Stephen Street
When did your love of fashion begin?
I first got interested in fashion around the age of twelve. I had always had a love for art, and had been drawing since I could pick up a pencil. However, my love for designing womenswear didn't come till my teens. My mother had a fashion background, so I had inspiration since I was very young. I was interested by the idea of the way I could make people feel merely by what they were wearing on their backs.
What made you decide to intern at such a young age?
I’ve always been a very stubborn person; when I get an idea, I can’t let it go until it’s followed through. That being said, I wanted to achieve an impossible feat: intern at a major fashion house at age16. I decided to send out my portfolio to a plethora of favorite designers and see what would happen. It couldn't hurt, and I was eager to throw my hat into the ring of the fashion industry.
Why did you intern for Diane von Furstenberg? What was the allure?
I’ve always had a love for DVF. The colors and prints that always exude each collection of the house excited me. Of course, DVF's own story excited me as well! She made her dreams into a reality with extremely hard work and gravitas, and there is nothing better than working for a dreamer. The iconic "wrap dress" was also incepted at and by DVF, and that goes without saying as a major pro for anyone looking for a check on their list. From there, I knew where I wanted to set my sights.
What was the DVF hiring process like? Simple? Complicated? Do you think it would have been more or less complicated if you’d interned elsewhere?
The hiring process was fairly simple. I heard back from representatives at DVF that they had enjoyed my work and would like to set up an interview. I was so excited! From there, I headed to New York and had my interview with Neil Gilks (now head of apparel at RISD) in November 2011, right after my sixteenth birthday. My meeting with Neil could not have gone better, and he extended the amazing opportunity of interning with them that upcoming summer.
What are the most important things you think people should know about internship interviews? What did you feel was essential to your interview experience because of those?
Within fashion, of course, it’s all about how you dress and the confidence you embody. I feel as if it’s very important to dress right for any occasion; for an interview, I believe you need to look professional but also throw in a bit of personal style, especially for a fashion interview. That don't want you to be like everyone else, they are wanting to interview you; that being said, looking back at my interview outfit choice for DVF, I would never choose that now! In any interview, you want to be prepared and know a history of the company. You also want to know yourself, your wants, and your place when walking into an interview. Be respectful of the opportunity you've been given to prove yourself, show them who you are, and show them where you want to be.
Once you got your internship at DVF, what did it feel like? Were you nervous? Excited? How did it feel?
I was completely overjoyed! I couldn't believe the opportunity I’d been given. I was also very proud of myself for the hard work I put in to achieving that goal. It was very overwhelming, but there is nothing like finding out you are one step closer to your dream career.
Once you got the internship, what was it like; hectic? busy? What would a typical day look like as a DVF Design and Screen Print Intern?
Being a design and screen print intern meant that we’d generate ideas and screen print them for approval; we’d see what would and wouldn’t work. Anyone can tell you a day at a fashion house is never boring. You better work! I also learned a great deal about fabrics at DVF. I would archive prints and samples to be sent off to factories for production, and had to know everything down to the last detail. It made me very meticulous, and created a great love and attention to detail that I still embody today.
How did you balance out this internship with high school responsibilities, or if you didn't, did you learn how to? Were there any pros or cons of doing an internship before your junior year?
I was never much a fan of high school, I have to say; I would draw all day long and couldn't focus on anything else! That being said, I would spend my days after school working from afternoon till night on new designs, doing what I truly loved. My internship at DVF wasn't too hard because it was the summer break before my junior year of high school, so I had two months to focus on just on the internship in New York!
What did you think was beneficial about having such a major internship before most of your peers had graduated?
I felt it was beneficial because it was very unheard of at the time. It also caused people to look at me differently with a certain curiously. It gave me a bit of flare, and that truly excited me. I had a bit of an upper hand, not to say that didn't come from extremely hard work and determination. It also proved to myself and anybody else that there are no rules for when you start your career, and no one can tell you that you can’t do something. You just have to find your own way.
Would you say, based on your internship experience, that pursuing internships at a young age is important or more beneficial than pursuing them later? Why or why not?
It did make things difficult; companies oftentimes have to make sure they don't hire too young. Most of the time they will hire you as temp, but you’ll do the same thing as interns. Of course, when you’re sixteen and working in the fashion industry, people are obviously apprehensive of the age. That being said, it’s a huge opportunity to show people that age isn't always a barrier and that they can learn something from you, too.
Do you have any special memories, or experiences from your internship at DVF?
I made so many great friends and connections at DVF. It truly felt like a huge fashion family. I created some of my most inspired work in my time there. Also, to this day, living in NYC by myself and working for DVF at sixteen marks one of my favorite achievements. I also earned a great mentor at the time through Neil Gilks, as he helped me with advice on many matters after my time interning at DVF.
Overall, how did having the DVF internship affect you? Do you think it prepared you for seeking out future jobs and career opportunities as a designer? What did you learn from it? Has it affected where you are/what you're doing currently?
I learned so much from my time at DVF. It was my first real glimpse into what made up the industry I wanted to spend the rest of my life in. I learned techniques through screen printing and my day-to-day activities, which I still use every day now when considering design. It made me a much harder worker, and helped me realize that anything you want can be yours if you work twice as long with a passion for what you love. It also opened me up to many future endeavors, including a design internship at Ralph Lauren at 18, and my design internship at Abercrombie & Fitch this past summer. By gaining that experience at such a young age, it shaped my drive and talent in a way that made me want to achieve more and more.
Aaron Royce, 19, is a student and journalist with writing experience for print and online publications. His journalism interest began when he started reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vogue before entering high school; he was a co-editor for the school’s newspaper and arts magazine. Post-graduation, he attended Christopher Newport University before transferring to NOVA’s Annandale campus, where he is currently a sophomore pursuing a Communications major. He recently completed a summer as Northern Virginia Magazine’s style intern, and now writes for online publications and interns with ArtJamz Creative Director, RMCI Senior Designer and fashion blogger Anchyi Wei.