Life as an Intern

Justin Smith

Justin Smith

Justin Smith is a creative spirit. Our Olivia Adams interviewed him via e-mail about his experience as an intern.

By: Olivia Adams

Photo – Courtesy of Justin Smith

 OA: How did you find out about the internship with Wound Menswear?

 JS: Back in December of 2009, after pulling some stings and working some magic, I went to Sarah’s fashion show, The Poet Warrior. When I went home, I added her on Facebook. I followed some of her posts one was asking for models. I was going to go on tour with her and model her clothes but I was unable to do that due to funds. A few months later she posted how she needed interns; we talked and set up a date for an interview.

OA: How did you prepare for the interview?

JS: When going to the interview I was so nervous. I ended up borrowing clothes from friends just so I could look good. Driving there I kept rehearsing questions in my head, naming a list of designers, reviewing everything I knew about fashion. Unfortunately I missed my exit on the freeway and had to turn around. Thankfully, I was ahead of the clock.

OA: What advice do you have for other students going into an interview?

JS: I would honestly tell other people not to worry about an interview. Don’t stress on things like what to wear, who you know in the industry, blah blah blah. Instead, just be who you want them to see: your real self. An interview is an interview, the rules for all interviews still apply though. Sit straight, eye contact, smile…

OA: What is Sarah Lapinski, the designer, like in three words?

JS: Sarah Lapinski, in three words, is energetic, smart and creative. She has boundless energy to get done what needs to be done. She is both street smart as well as book smart. She knows how to read people and do insane math equations off the top of her head for sewing. Her designs were some that I have never seen before, such as floral patterns and dyed hemp. Shirts accentuate the perfect parts of a man’s figure.

OA: Can you describe what it was like working for the designer in three words?

JS: Working for Wound was very dreamlike, full of learning and meeting new people every day who shared the same creative vibe Sarah and I had.

OA: What are some of the tasks and duties that you had to perform while working for Wound Menswear?

JS: While interning at Wound, I did so many different tasks. I ran to the store to buy thread, took notes, measured clients, entertained, pulled outfits, sewed buttons, learned to make shirts, pants, etc. I styled my first runway three weeks after starting. I worked on a movie set for The Wars of Other Men. I organized, I cleaned. And I loved every second of it. The hardest part of working for Wound was a collection of small things. I am a perfectionist about many things so if a stitch I made wasn’t straight, or I did not have the right accessories for an outfit, I was hard on myself and would not stop until it was right. I worked early in the morning before the internship; I was very sleep deprived and often tried to hide that I was. When I was asked to drive somewhere, I would often get lost because I was still new to Detroit. All this eventually changed, thankfully!

OA: In the fashion industry there are all kinds of personalities. Did you find most people to be a pleasure to work with, or difficult to work with? What was the most challenging thing about working there?

JS: Working with all these different people, I realized that people did not take me seriously at first. Not remembering my name, ignoring me, or treating me as everyone’s assistant is something I encountered early. But I would work hard during a photo-shoot or whatever I was doing and impress everybody. I wanted everybody to know that I am serious about what I am doing. A lot of people I met, however, took me in and treated me greatly. Designers and models and makeup artists were making me laugh, offering me advice and telling me stories about when they were in my shoes. I learned a lot from everybody and still keep in contact with most people.

OA: What was the best part about working there?

JS: The best part of interning for Wound was meeting all of the creative people and learning new ways to do something. I thrive on creativity and I thrive on using the skills I learned to do something new and different every day in my own creations.

OA: What benefits have you earned as a result of working for Wound Menswear? 

JS: By learning to sew and (de)construct, I have been able to start my own creations. Jewelry, a wedding dress, clothes for myself. When I go out for a night on the town, so many people tell me they love something that I am wearing and it always is something I have made. It’s such a confidence boost.

OA: What is your career goal and do you think this internship has contributed to it?

JS: I’m working on my own line but I am keeping all that hush hush, as superstitious as I am, I don’t want to jinx anything.

OA: Do you think fashion has a chance in Michigan?

JS: Fashion has a chance anywhere you go. It is all just a matter of getting the right people to come there and see what is around. A friend of mine lives in Kansas and she creates the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen. This past year, I have noticed all the eyes in the US on Detroit. Designers can work this angle and bring more buyers and creative individuals to Detroit. The fashion industry is alive; it just needs a little help.

 OA: Any other words of encouragement or advice that you’d like to give?

 JS: For anybody who is going to go to an interview for an internship or go create their own line, don’t let people rip out your creativity. Do what you think is right. Go to any legal extreme you think is necessary to achieve your dreams. I’m not stopping. I’m not letting people change my mind on what I do.


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