The Devil Wears Prada is a book written by Lauren Weisberger and published in 2003. Weisberger says the story was partial fiction, and partial first-job-experiences of her and her friends.
This book was turned into a movie in 2006 starring Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt.
Parts of the book remind me of my time interning at Elle Magazine. Andy's tasks as an assistant overlap with some of the things I did as an intern. There was some hierarchical culture, but my experience wasn’t nearly as negative or dramatic as the book’s storyline and tone. I had a great time interning at Elle and learned a lot. It was my one and only experience in the fashion media sector, as I’ve worked my whole career as a fashion designer, which has a very different culture than fashion media.
There were certain unspoken expectations, like you should be dressed in the latest fashions and wear at least some designer brands if you wanted to fit in. And there was a sense of deep respect for the creative vision of the higher-ups that ran the magazine.
In The Devil Wears Prada, Andy clearly feels out of place in fashion media. The fashion industry does sometimes have a way of making you feel out of place, even if you’ve been in the industry for a while. And this isn’t just fashion media. I have felt this way at fashion industry events, and on numerous fashion design interviews.
I have been on interviews where the interviewer looked particularly disappointed with what I wore to the interview, which I believe, had a big influence in my not getting a job. But that’s fashion. The fashion industry definitely has its own interview outfit culture that is different from mainstream corporate America. There is a certain ideal interview style. A balance of quality, professionalism, and edge, which I’m sure I had not mastered in my younger interviewing days. I’ll admit that.
It seems shallow, but a big part of the fashion industry is clothes.
In the book, Andy gets the job offer on a Friday morning, and the HR person wants her to start on Monday morning, three days later.
This is typical in the fashion industry. In my experience, when hiring, a company usually wants you to start right away. Since I have only worked in the fashion industry, I thought this was typical every where. Apparently, it is not. There are other industries, like tech, where, from getting the job offer, you can start one to six months later, which gives you time to quit your current job, end on good terms, and accommodate them if they need you for longer to train your replacement. Plus you can potentially take a few months break in between jobs to rest and reset while still having the security of a job waiting for you.
It would be amazing to have this in fashion, but I have never seen it.
In the book, Andy hand-delivers designer clothes all over the city using a car service. This is really common at magazines. I went on many car service rides picking up garments from designers and dropping off other garments.
The urgency for which garments need to be picked up and returned for events and photoshoots means a shipping service does not always work. Also, some garments are too expensive to leave in the hands of a shipping service. So many magazines prefer sending interns or assistants with a car service.
I remember a time, when I was interning for Elle, that I was delivering and picking up an assortment of fur coats. By the time I got back to the office, I probably had ten fur coats each weighing at least ten pounds. Those things are heavy.
I couldn’t carry them all at the same time. The driver helped me carry them to the elevator, but then he had to go. When the elevator came, I started loading them in by myself, and the door closed with three or four fur coats, each costing a ridiculous amount of money, in the elevator and me outside the elevator on the first floor lobby. I almost had a heart attack as I furiously pressed the up arrow, and watched the numbers above the elevator door go up. I pictured the coats getting further and further away from me, and watched as the numbers slowly came back down, hoping and praying those fur coats would still be in the elevator when it arrived back on one. The longest two minutes of my life.
To my relief they were still there on the elevator floor, plus six people that worked in the building, coming down for lunch, looking confused as to why fur coats were taking the elevator all by themselves.
That was so stressful.
Nina Garcia, at the time, was the Fashion Director of Elle Magazine. Once, when Nina was about to come into the office, we were told by someone, not to look her in the eye. I thought this was kind of silly, but I understand this was probably just one person’s idea of showing respect.
Joe Zee was Elle’s Creative Director while I was there, and I sometimes got his mail for him. I was told to just put his mail on his desk, and not talk to him.
But I remember one time, he ended up speaking to me, and showing me his most recent styled photoshoot in the latest edition of Elle. He was always very friendly, but I was so worried I was going to get in trouble, even though he started the conversation.
We talked about this Chanel Penguin sweater in a photo shoot that he styled. We were talking about how cute and playful it was. It was nice to witness his genuine enthusiasm for what he does.
I had a great time at Elle, and like anywhere, there were tight deadlines and some stressful situations, but people were always nice and reasonable.
At the end of the day, The Devil Wears Prada is a fictional book, and, in my experience, paints a dramatized picture of the fashion industry.
I like this book, but it is definitely not a pleasure read for me. When you work in fashion, you don’t want your leisure time to involve fashion. It’s similar to watching Project Runway.
It’s not enjoyable for me, not because it’s not a good show, but because it is the industry I work in every day.
If you are new to the fashion industry, or are not involved in the fashion industry, I can see this being an enjoyable read.
Did you read the book or watch the movie? Mention whether you work in fashion or not, and what you thought of it below in the comments :)
Watch my video review of the book here: