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As a clothing line representative, you serve as the direct contact between retailers and your distributor or manufacturing company. Apparel representatives often work independently – you can contact manufacturers and distributors directly to bring on their clothing to your current lineup or work on staff for the apparel producer.
You don’t need to have a degree in fashion design to sell clothing. However, many employers do prefer representatives to hold a business, marketing or communications degree. Since being a clothing representative is essentially a sales job, you should also seek certifications from sales seminars and training programs. Highlight your commitment to your career by earning a Certified Sales Professional or Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative designation from the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation.
In order to start working as an independent representative, you need to show distributors that you have an extensive list of contacts that you will pursue to carry each line of clothing you sell. Build your base of contacts by attending apparel trade shows and talking buyers at popular booths. Develop relationships with your instructors and mentors you meet in college and follow up with them after graduation. Join professional apparel associations such as the American Apparel and Footwear Association, where you can participate in educational seminars and forums and network at the annual convention.
Land an Internship
Try to land an internship with a clothing manufacturer while you’re still in school or shortly after you graduate. Worldwide apparel companies such as Nike offer paid internships that give you an inside look at the clothing industry while boosting your resume considerably. Expect to travel to wherever corporate headquarters are located for the internships. This will help prepare you for the role of clothing line rep, which requires extensive traveling.
Engage a Recruiter
Many manufacturers and distributors rely on professional headhunters and manufacturer rep recruiting companies to find independent and staff representatives. Promote yourself to those recruiters to get yourself noticed. Recruiters usually try to match sales representatives with companies that are a good fit with your skills, training and industry contacts. For example, if you have experience and contacts in the women's apparel industry, you are likely to be matched with a company that makes and distributes women's apparel. Recruiters will work diligently to make a good match because they want to maintain productive alliances with hiring managers in the industry. Additionally, their compensation is based on your projected salary, so they usually work to get you the best deal.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."