Áine Lee – From Covid-19 Retail Job Loss to New Beginnings in Amsterdam

Business of Fashion

Business of Fashion

A negative experience of education in the past can hold you back from moving forward and achieving your goals and Covid-19 retail job loss has put many people in the position of reassessing their careers. 

Portobello graduate, Áine Lee, had to overcome her lack of confidence after dropping out of college when she was younger while dealing with losing her job in retail due to Covid-19 to step back into the world of studying.

Feeling lost after losing her job and wondering why she had spent all these years in retail, Áine got in touch with Portobello Fashion Programme Manager, Anne Marie McAuley for advice.  

She signed up for and has now completed her Level 6 Fashion Management course which she studied online from October 2020 to May 2021. She had previously completed her Level 5 in Fashion Buying and Merchandising in 2018. 

Completing this course has given Áine a new lease of life in the fashion world and a brand-new career opportunity in an amazing new country. She has turned her life around.  

“For me, it was always about the fear of going back to college and getting back into study, but it pays off so much, aside from getting the job my confidence has gone from zero to 100,” she said.

From Covid-19 Retail Job Loss to New Beginnings in Amsterdam  

Áine chatted to us from her new apartment in Amsterdam where she is starting a new role with the Richemont group which owns luxury high-end brands like Cartier and Chloé. 

“Last year when Covid kicked off I lost my job and I felt like that was it, the whole world was coming crashing down around me, I was completely lost.

“I knew I still wanted to stay in fashion, and I knew I was good at what I was doing but I suppose with everything that was happening I just thought maybe this isn’t the best route for me to be taking now.

“I had a couple of different interviews and opportunities here and there, but nothing really surfaced throughout lockdown. 

“There was one day where I had a lightbulb moment after an interview, and I contacted Anne Marie. I knew she was there from Level 5, she was such a good point of contact with all the students. I reached out to her and knew that it made perfect sense to do Fashion Management. 

“The modules covered are things that I had never even looked at and I had worked in retail for six years at that stage so I knew what I was going to get from the course would be beneficial especially with the way things have gone with jobs being so competitive after lockdown. 

“I was nervous going back to study because the first time I had done it, it didn’t go so well. You do take a bit of a blow when you drop out of college.

“For me, that was the thing about Portobello that it was three modules, and it was February till September one evening a week so it was the perfect introduction back into studying because I was working full-time, I knew I had to keep that up too.

“With Portobello it was so accessible, it did take major commitment because I still had to get my Level 5 at the end of the day, but it was the best options for me. 

“I never looked into buying and merchandising before doing the Level 5, I knew what the roles were, but I didn’t know how much went into them so from that aspect the buying module in the Level 5 was brilliant because you got the complete overview and insight into it.

“There is a lot involved in that role, it is quite broad, and you are almost taken aback when you are first learning about it.  

“From a design point of view in the Level 5 I learned so much about the history of fashion which I would have known bits about, and it was so interesting and so nice to have it all in front of me.

“With the Level 6 it is a lot more in-depth, some modules were difficult, but that is probably the best thing about it, it tests your mind a bit more and you are thinking about things like marketing and applying marketing to fashion, I had never done that in my previous roles so it was interesting to see how it all comes together. 

“I have now gotten a new job and all this knowledge I have gained from these modules in the Level 6 have given me that boost of confidence.

“The business planning aspect, management and law they are the things I wouldn’t have known the proper definitions and terms around, so it has been great building my knowledge there. 

“Before Level 6 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do anymore, it was a weird time anyway and losing my job in retail on top of it I didn’t feel like I belonged in this job anymore, I completely lost all confidence in what I was doing.  

“Going back to the basics and doing my Level 6 learning about the backbone of everything and realising that this is a strange time for everyone right now in retail especially, but this is the makings of it and learning about it again has given me that faith in what I am doing.  

“I had only ever worked in stores, I had worked my way up from sales advisor to supervisor and my most recent job was visual merchandising, but I already knew I wanted to get into a head office role, long term for me that is always where I wanted to go but different things came up and I never got there but now I feel more ready than I ever have to go and do it, and I’ve been lucky enough to get a job now to work within the office setting of the Richemont group in Amsterdam. 

“I’m in Amsterdam now looking out at the canal, it’s beautiful. The job I have gotten is as a Fashion Team Leader at a Client Relations Centre with the Richemont group.  

“They own a number of high-end luxury brands, the likes of Cartier, Chloé and a couple of brands like that. I’m so excited to get back into work and apply what I have learned over the last year to the role.  

“It’s very different, I have never really done online or over the phone so it’s new for me in that sense, the important thing for me is that I am getting to work with a really big group. I can’t wait to see where it takes me, I think this is going to be the makings of me seeing a different way of working to high street retailers.  

“I think between my new job and finishing Level 6 my confidence in myself is completely on a whole new level compared to last September,” she said. 

Looking back on her position last year, Áine encourages anyone who is in a similar situation of feeling lost in retail at the moment to go and do it, and open up new career opportunities for yourself.  

“It can look very daunting, looking at modules and the courses, in general, you think you won’t have time for it, but you do it’s so well organised.  

“For me, it was always about the fear of going back to college and getting back into study but it pays off so much, aside from getting the job my confidence has gone from zero to 100.

“I was trying to pick myself off the ground last September trying to figure out what I was going to do whereas now I feel like I know things and I don’t even realise I know them.

“It’s just great having that knowledge there ready to use and being more familiar with different things, in that sense it has been brilliant. From that sense I think just go and do it you have so much to gain,” she said.  

If you are interested in gaining qualifications in the business of fashion, check out our Year 1 – Fashion Buying and Merchandising Level 5 course and Year 2 Fashion Management Level 6 course.

We also run a three-module booking package starting in September 2021.

Head to the Business of Fashion Knowledge Zone for more articles and follow @fashionportobello on Instagram.

Áine Lee – From Covid-19 Retail Job Loss to New Beginnings in Amsterdam Áine Lee – From Covid-19 Retail Job Loss to New Beginnings in Amsterdam