Co-op Diaries: Katie Dunn at Cosmo & Rue La La

By Stephanie Eng
Photo: Katie Dunn

Name: Priscilla “Katie” Dunn
Hometown: East Setauket, NY
Major: Graphic Design
Minor: Art History
Year: 2013

Companies Worked At: 1-Cosmopolitan Magazine,
Co-op Position: 1-Art Intern, 2-Design Intern
Department: 1-Art Deparment, 2- Boutiques Design Team
Co-op Cycle: January–June
Pay: 1- Unpaid, 2-$15/hr
Part Time/Full Time: Full Time
Previous Internships/Co-ops: Design Intern, KBL Eyewear

I sat down with native New Yorker and senior Katie Dunn in the relaxed atmosphere of AfterHours and was heartened to learn that anything is possible with a proactive mindset, a cheerful attitude, and a good work ethic. Read on for the full interview!

Haute Fashion: How did you find this position?
Katie: So for Cosmo, I googled fashion magazine internship and was linked, and for Rue I went through myNEU COOL. Originally I was a SmartBargains intern but then switched over to Rue when it was phased out.

HF: On an average day what were you responsible for?
K:  An average day at Cosmo was going in and picking up and distributing everyone in the Art Department’s mail, and my main responsibility was constantly updating a mini version of the issue we were currently working on.  That’s how they keep track of the issue’s components–color, design, article order, and photography. We were looking at issues two to three months ahead, so in January, for example, we were looking at April. I was also in charge of designing some layouts. In the beginning I had small roles like picking colors for the quiz in the back, but eventually after they started to trust me a little more I ended up getting a bigger one. I also occasionally gathered and/or created props for photo shoots.

At Rue I mainly did mock-ups for the boutique site for the next six days, so the boutiques team could keep track of colors, design, what kind of event (very similar to Cosmo’s mock-ups) and helped design a lot of the Daily Events for the site, which showed all the deals and promotions for pieces from a huge variety of designers: anything from Lilly Pulitzer to huge names like Prada to the most up-and-coming designers.

HF: What skills did you bring to the job?
K: I’m a very organized person and really detail oriented, which, as a graphic designer, I think you have to be. I definitely believe I’m hard working and I pay attention and am aware of things going on around me, and I think that’s why they relied on me a lot. At Rue, I was able to adapt to a fast-paced environment because they’re a fairly new company, and are constantly changing and finding new ways to do things.

HF: What did you learn from your co-ops that will help you in a future job?
K: I learned to not take things so personally, both as a designer but also as a professional. I learned to further embrace critique, and to be open to suggestions and different ways of doing things. I was able to see how two different companies worked, whether in print media or web design, so I could work with either one interchangeably. I learned all the different software in depth like InDesign at Cosmo and Photoshop at Rue La La. I came in only knowing the basics but by the end I was totally comfortable and at home with the software, which was an invaluable asset. It’s nice because people are willing to help you, especially if you’re coming in entry-level or as an intern. As a result I became more versatile as a designer and a working professional.

HF: Has fashion always been part of your career goals? How did you become interested in fashion?
K: Every little girl likes to dress up, and I think of old photos of me taken by my mom or dad where I’m dressed up for every single one. And once I was in high school, I had a really good friend who did fashion design classes with me at FIT and LIM for fashion drawing and history of fashion, and I just knew I liked it and that it came naturally to me. My other friends aren’t as interested in fashion so they come ask me for advice. I was looking at other jobs in design firms, or branding firms but ultimately I always planned to be in fashion and knew what I wanted to do.

HF: How did this co-op/internship change your perception on fashion and the industry?
K: I thought Cosmo was going to be glamourous and the interview was just jeans and a sweater, I pictured Devil Wears Prada but it’s a lot more laid-back. I could wear Converses as long as I looked somewhat cute it was fine. At the photo shoots it was really interesting to see how many outfits need to be brought out; the amount of outfits and jewelry and shoes that are needed is ridiculous! They’ll change outfits a bunch of times for just one shot and it’s like the whole Fashion Closet is there. It’s also interesting seeing the makeup artist, the fashion stylist, and the hairstylist all working together to create a cohesive look. The company has changed a lot since I was there two years ago because of a few major departmental changes.

At Rue La La I had more realistic expectations.  A lot of the people at Rue dressed really well, which was expected but nice for inspiration for my own closet. I became a little bargain crazy, and if anything, I was buying more because of all the promotions I was looking out for. It’s easy to say a $6000/$2000 is a bargain but it’s still $2000! Of course I justified it as “doing research.”

HF: Any great memories?
K: I got to meet Helen Gurley Brown, a feminist in the 60s who was pretty controversial with her views on the single woman and sex. As Editor-in-Chief for almost 40 years, she swapped out “the perfect housewife” articles in favor of the sassy and sexy single lady’s lifestyle articles, completely changing the way the magazine was run. She recently passed away in August, but I will always remember her turning to me in the elevator and going “Oh my god! You have gorgeous hair!” Since then, I’ve prized my hair as my best quality because the ultimate Cosmo girl, Helen Gurley Brown, gave me that compliment. I also had the privilege of meeting Kate White, former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo, and it was so inspiring hearing all this wisdom from such a strong and successful woman. I also got to attend the iPad Launch Party where Pauly D was the DJ!

After my first week training at Rue, I was exhausted and going home. I got into the elevator, and there was a ridiculously peppy and friendly man already in there. He started asking me about my position at Rue and if I was enjoying it, and what I was learning. I honestly was starting to wonder why this guy wanted to know all this information. We talked for a little while longer, and as we were walking out of the elevator, I asked him what his position was at Rue, and he replied, “I’m the CEO.” My jaw dropped. I was slightly embarrassed but it’s a great story.

HF: What advice do you have for people who want a similar internship to yours?
K: While job, or rather, co-op hunting, I’d say don’t ever doubt yourself. Don’t ever think you can’t get your dream internship, even if it’s your first! I had no retail or previous fashion experience before interviewing/interning at Cosmo besides the LIM and FIT classes. I had always loved reading Cosmo, and I started thinking BIG for my first co-op. I hadn’t even gotten on the train home from the interview with Cosmo, and I received an offer email!

Once you get the co-op, don’t be afraid to express your enthusiasm if you fall in love with something. For instance, I fell in love with prop-styling during one of the photo shoots, and I voiced that to my supervisor as well as the art director on the shoots. They started assigning me to those shoots (“Cooking with Katie” articles about food, cocktails, party ideas, etc.) and I learned so much. My coworkers even sent me off with a prop-styling book on my last day interning. Then I received a call to be the Productions Assistant on the shoots over the summer too. Good things lead to other great things!

And most importantly: NETWORK! Keep consistent contact with your coworkers: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email. You never know when someone might be looking for help or offering opportunities. Who knew that word of mouth was so important: “Oh you need someone for a job? Well I have a friend who did a great job at his/her internship while I was at_______. Super reliable. Here’s his/her information,” and there you go! And when I say consistent contact, I mean it. Find a funny link or interesting art or fashion blog that a coworker might like? Send it to them! No one wants to receive an email out of the blue from a previous intern who suddenly wants something. Be optimistic, open-minded, and learn not to take things personally.

What do you think of Katie’s co-ops? Tell us what you think in the comments!

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