As I started this internship opportunity, which was a first of its kind for both Carole and I, I felt the understandable and familiar concoction of excitement and nervousness. I didn’t know, really, what I was getting into (something pertaining to fashion and retail, I supposed); but what I truly didn’t know was that it would be one of the most enjoyable, informative, and useful internship experiences I have had.
Each week I would meet with Carole in one of two places: her shop, Waller & Wood, idyllically situated in Abbey Green; or, her studio, a bus ride and (also idyllic) walk away. I often felt that same jittery concoction when I set out, for, though I could be doing anything, I always knew I could look forward to it.
In my internship with Carole, I’ve sat in on many of her classes, listening to them exchange stories and gossip, whilst I completed various tasks, from photographing pottery and reorganizing her mother’s old inspirational scrapbooks to washing and ironing fabric — even screen-printing some of Waller&Wood’s first canvas bags. When I wasn’t in the studio, I was in the shop, taking test photographs of her new collection, working on the online store, or helping make new earrings. Much of my internship was spent working on launching her new Venice collection: I helped on-set during the photo-shoot for the forthcoming leaflet; I helped them re-decorate the store in preparation for the collection launch party; and I helped at the party itself, interacting with guests and customers. We went into London, where I helped set-up for a week-long trade show in Canary Wharf, and discussed the pros and cons of Carole participating in a fashion show in Cannes. But what I got out of the internship is arguably greater than anything I contributed.
In interning at Waller&Wood, I learned the challenges in and factors of running a small business, information crucial to an aspiring business-owner like myself. Through my conversations with Carole and my time in the shop, I learned how crucial setting and environment is in all retail situations, from product launches to trade shows; as I worked on developing a list of contacts for Carole’s glass works, I learned how important it is to always actively seek inspiration for future projects, and to always be thinking who would buy them; in working on the leaflet, I learned how crucial it is to create an image that is balanced in its timelessness and its appeal to current audiences.
I learned that one must be aware of the style of the brand, the ideal customer and the actual customer, and how to develop the two. In spending time at the store as well as in the studio, I gained an understanding of Bath’s openness to independent shops and met local characters. I met a woman whose jewellery is sold in Waller&Wood as she came to pick up some pieces for alteration, and as she and Carole talked I learned how important it is to revisit and revise one’s work, and to remain open to alteration. As I watched Carole’s students work, I saw their appreciation of the beauty in the accidental and the struggle of trying to recreate that which was once perceived as imperfect but later seen as the opposite. Helping out during the Venice collection photo-shoot, I saw the value in having different team members (from stylists to make-up artists and the photographer himself), for they could provide perspectives that would strengthen the resulting images. After a long day in the studio, Waller’s students would drive me back to Bath, and it proved a good opportunity to learn more about Bath culture and life, and a chance to talk to its characters.
After this internship, I feel better prepared to face the challenges associated with operating in the retail world, either as a buyer, seller, or store-owner. I feel as though I understand the complexities associated with each and the struggle of affording to do what you want; however, I do not feel dissuaded by this knowledge — if anything, I feel more excited than ever.
Isabel Hoag Lord