Archive for the 'Fashion' Category

At an unpaid internship at a designer label

I was…

>> forced to work over 8 hours a day – sometimes over 10 hours a day (they made me sign a contract in which I had to agree with this)

>> given no payment, no meals, no accommodation, no transport money

>> forced to be available to work on public holidays and week-ends

>> given hard physical, mindless or non-educational work(such as tidying-up)

>>  not given proper training

>> advised by the supervisor not  to ask any questions related to their work as it disturbs them and makes me too nosey

>> not (in the least) to expect a job offer

>> to treat my employer with great kindness and gratitude

>> not even thanked for my work after working at least 480 hours for a profit making company

>> sent on dozens of errands lasting almost all day – even when it was pouring with rain at 10 degrees – with two 20kg heavy suitcases to pull

>> given a letter of recommendation that did not mention the tasks that I HAVE done, but those that I have NOT done(the tasks that were not offered to me in the first place)

>> given a letter of recommendation that makes it look like I have refused to do tasks given to me(which is not the case, since they were just not given to me) and underlines knowledge that I lack, rather that my skills and capabilities

>> after spending hard labour and at least over £1200(money for accommodation, transport and food) on this 3 month internship, giving the company valuable material to make profit on, I was given nothing to help further my career

Generally at this company:

>> when sick, interns still come to work and take painkillers as not to attract attention

>> many interns keep quiet about bad treatment and many hours of no sleep as not to ruin their career

>> the interns have no one to legally support them when they are not even given a decent letter of recommendation

The small UK company is a high fashion label of the fashion industry that “employs” about 15 interns per year. Its owner has only one permanent employee.

This is not only about no wages, but about bad immoral treatment, modern day slavery. I was treated with no respect and it made me feel worthless, even though I know they have gained so much from the work I have done for them. Is this humane? Is this legal?

We need to put an end to this! Please monitor internships and set-up a representative that fights for or rights and black lists such companies!

Also graduates suffer – they don’t find any paid jobs because of all the free labour…

To whoever sent this email in – do get in touch (as anonymously as you like) as we’d like to help you out

Is Vancouver Fashion Week a complete scam?

We received the following from Canadian interns who want to expose Vancouver Fashion Week for the mass-intern-exploitation-event that it is- or seems to be. The more comments we could get about this the better, we want to know if any of you guys have heard about this or know someone who can back up their story. If all of what they say is true (it sounds depressingly likely) we also want to know what the good people of Vancouver are going to do about it!

Have a look at Vancouver Fashion Weak’s website. It has statements from many of us, and more will come. There are detailed explanations of peoples’ experience in their internship. The post was not intended to defame, this is clear abuse of the internship program and a backlash from the students.

We don’t know much about the legality of our situation but we know what is happening is wrong. Basically, we all became interns with Vancouver Fashion Week without realizing that the organization is structured in two parts, with one producer who incorporated the name Vancouver Fashion Week, and over 100+ interns.

There is no management or structure within the company, no accountants or budget, and we are given tasks beyond our capabilities and manage each other based on who interviewed first. Because of this, there is a turn around of interns daily and weekly, with many of us given the responsibility to ‘interview and hire’ another barrage of interns. Also, we are expected to recruit and take money from designers & sponsors without any information on even a location for fashion week this fall and we are all very worried.

We are in a position where we cannot even discuss these issues within the organization, because there isn’t one with employees who could help us except for the producer. A past ‘intern’ wrote her Masters thesis on VFW a couple years back, which will paint a clearer picture for you.

Women’s mags: not all lip gloss and smiles

I have been interning at a variety of magazines since graduating from university last year. Currently I’ve been seeking internships in women’s mags as that is my chosen field. It’s a really competitive area, but when I managed to land a 5 week placement with a well-known mag – ohmygod so excited! I knew the name would look great on my CV. I was super excited but that excitement quickly wore off once I got there.

My first day, I was eased in. Logged in the new beauty products that had come in for the team, called and e-mailed some PRs about samples and press releases and the (never done before) activity of getting the lunch for the boss. I know as an intern I’m expected to do the dirty work, do the things the paid can’t be bothered to do but really? I was interning in a building which happens to have an assortment of food places situated at the bottom – several floors down. It would have taken her FIVE minutes to get in the lift, walk out the door and into the take-away but nope, instead she handed me £10 and asked me to buy her some lunch. I was cool with that, thinking it was a one off – it happened again the next day too.

Now the beauty team claim to REALLY need an intern, they are supposed to be an important part of the team. First of all, my desk was nowhere near the teams, I was given no temporary e-mail, had to use my own personal one which created problems at later dates when contacting PRs. The team were nice enough but the work…there wasn’t much.  At a push, I was busy for half to 3/4 of the morning with logging the new products and then would have to spend most of the day asking for something to do.

During the time I actually spent with the team I asked to leave early on a few occasions – once because of the riots, another for a family member’s birthday and I was REALLY sick in my third (and final) week. They knew I wasn’t feeling too hot, but they didn’t care. I was told I couldn’t leave early on a Wednesday (it was blatant I wasn’t well and shouldn’t have really gone in but I did still) until I had finished everything. I finished as much as I possibly could and was finally allowed to leave at 3pm – not really worth it but I was home and in bed by 4:30pm. I called in sick for the Thursday as I wanted to get better but when I e-mailed my superior to say I was feeling rough, I received an angry reply about how I’d had too much time off and asked to send over the information for some props for a shoot – not ‘hope you feel better, see you Friday.’

I didn’t even rest on that day as I was on the phone trying to find a prop, which was much harder to find than anticipated. The Beauty Director finally e-mailed me at 4pm to say ‘don’t worry, we have some – for free.” WHAT, I’d spent the entire day on the computer and phone, not sleeping and resting to battle my cold. 

The Friday morning I came in to a desk piled up with products – completely unnecessary to be honest. They could have neatly put all of the new bags to one side of my desk but they had just thrown them all over the chair and computer area which meant I had to spend the first ten minutes of my morning cleaning up the desk so I could actually GET to my computer. The team arrived gone 10am and I was promptly asked to go downstairs to get a Starbucks for one of the writers – a Starbucks she would have just walked past. I spent the afternoon of that Friday doing absolutely nothing, I’d asked around 5 times for something but there was nothing.

The icing on the cake was that the director strolled into the office at 5:30pm after being on a shoot all day and interviewing a celebrity. Instead of talking to me, she was met by one of the fashion team where they tried on some new shoes for a wedding and gossiped about the celebrity etc – during office hours. The previous day the director had asked to chat with me, now if it was something important you might put it higher on your list than trying on your Jimmy Choos and gushing about your wedding next year!

I left the office gone 6pm as I had just been sitting idly for the previous two hours, waiting to talk to my superior. She was busy chatting about a famous singer so I didn’t see it my place to interrupt an important conversation…I checked my e-mail that Friday evening to find I had been fired. She had emailed me at 7:30pm to say I had made dozens of mistakes (she only gave one example), that I had asked to leave early too many times (3 times over 3 weeks) and in general I wasn’t enthusiastic or hard working enough. 

I was GUTTED. I take my placements as a job, professional and I always do my best. She hadn’t bothered to even say hello to me when she eventually strolled in yet I was being told I was the one not making an effort? She had even made it seem like I was trying to steal expensive products form the cupboard (wouldn’t even imagine doing such a thing). I replied to her e-mail that night but guess what? It’s been nearly two weeks and she hasn’t contacted me. I had to phone the assistant in the end to get some answers – I didn’t think you could really be booted from an internship for not being chatty enough. 

I would love to warn people about this person but unfortunately I can’t do it on my own blog without sabotaging my future career. If I had been making obvious mistakes then why had no one informed me before? I have always thought that internships are for learning and to be taught but I wasn’t taught anything. The only thing I’ve come away with is my confidence in a pile of rubble. They didn’t help me in the slightest and I just needed to get this out there!


Are you having a laugh?

A beady eyed reader sent us the following ad (online here), which appears to be suggesting that working as an unpaid shop assistant is the opportunity most fashion graduates would kill for- what say you fashion graduates?! Surely if you sell such expensive clothes, you might be able to stretch to paying your retail assistants…

Sales Associate

Browns Fashion. Browns is a temple of style in the heart of London. As one of London’s most valued heritage fashion landmarks, it continues to offer pieces that have been individually handpicked from the world’s top designers. Our founder Joan Burstein is credited with discovering such talents as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Commes des Garcons.

Length of placement: 4 Weeks Location: Sloane Street Boutique

Experience gained: The student or graduate will be able to gain a valuable knowledge of all aspects of a luxury exclusive retail environment. It is ideal for an individual who has a keen interest in Fashion, gaining first hand experience in working with prestigious designer labels. A great opportunity to have a valuable insight into premium retail. The candidates will be working closely with the store manager and the highly experienced team.

This opportunity would benefit a Fashion student or graduate. Expenses: Lunch & Travel Expenses only

Funnily enough they don’t have any vacancies at the moment and there is a permanent ad on the website for three month long internships. I smell a rat.

Internships during uni?

I have just completed a year in industry which is part of my course at the London College of Fashion. I worked seven days a week for a whole year, 5 days unpaid as an intern (expenses were paid) in London and 2 days at the weekend in retail so I could afford to live. I was also fortunate enough to have the support from my parents, although I know it was a huge struggle for them to help me out, and my other two sisters suffered, for my benefit, and without their help I would not have been able to do it.

I believe my internship was fantastically educational for me and was lucky enough to get to work at Paris and London Fashion Weeks and was much appreciated as one of the team. It was a very small high end company I worked for (only 3 of us full time), but I’m glad I did it. It was the most challenging year of my life, and I cried a lot of the year, but at the end of it I have a great deal of experience to show for it. I believe that once I have graduated, I would not do an unpaid internship again, as it was so hard, physically, emotionally and financially.

My main problem comes with the university itself. The university, in wanting to get their students into the top companies, fail to realise that they are actually undermining our futures by making deals with these companies. At the end of my final year, I hope that the expensive education I have paid for has not been a complete waste and that I will be able to get a well paid job a the end of it, but I have a feeling that it wont be so easy.

In undertaking the sandwich degree, we were told that we would have to pay half of our fees for the year. For this we were told we would get two visits from our tutors at uni and they would come to our company, speak to our manager and see how we were getting on and regularly email us to make sure everything was ok. Throughout my year in industry, I was only contacted once, not by my tutor but by the Fashion Business Resource Studio, to make sure things were going well. I had access to the university library, and had to write a report on my year and consequently dealt with the person marking this just once, with feedback on my proposal. I am also aware that it was the same for the majority of my classmates, and previous students. My point is that my university made promises to me which they did not keep and I had to pay more than £1500 for the pleasure. This year I was also only able to get half my student loan which was insignificant and this was the year I felt I needed the money the most.

I believe that if the companies are to change, then the universities themselves need to stop, (figuratively speaking), prostituting out their students, and make a written agreement with these companies so that these students cannot be exploited. I also think working for free for a certain period of time could be allowable, for example 3 months, but any longer and it becomes unreasonable. This is the only way it will change, and the students themselves need a better understanding of how working for free will affect them in the longrun.

“Most days I worked from 8.30 in the morning until at least 2am”

Interning for Alexander McQueen, as told to the Guardian:

“Most days I worked from 8.30 in the morning until at least 2am,” he says. “We usually worked seven days a week and some of the interns got really tired because of the hours.”

Cassidy also claims the company relied on interns to carry out core work. “In the pattern making department there were 10 interns and only five paid staff. In embroidery there was just one designer and 10 interns.”

In May last year, after eight months of unpaid work, he quit. “I left because it was obvious there was virtually no chance of getting a job there,” he says. “They would have been happy for me to continue, but I just couldn’t afford to go on working for nothing. I had already done five unpaid fashion internships elsewhere.”

Employment law expert Timothy Brennan QC says companies who use interns in the way described by Cassidy could be breaking national minimum wage rules.

Internships are, like, so cool

After watching Avatar lots of people got depressed because they weren’t living on the beautiful planet Pandora, where God is a lovely tree and everyone is giant and blue. Aside from a few hopefuls who got naked and ‘blued up’- the rest of us got on with living in our own weird world. Just how weird is demonstrated in news such as this – Kanye West and Lady Gaga want to be interns – and more generally ‘posh work experience is “the 21st-century answer to the old-school Season”’. All the rich kids want it, and more importantly all the rich kids can get it off their Dad. Rather than coming out as a debutante with your own personal ball, summers are spent making coffee in an office. Eh??

This change is noticeable – internships are often viewed as more desirable than actual paid jobs. I’ve never been seduced by this PR, and coincidentally, have never watched The Hills, Gossip Girl and all the other programmes that feature really fit interns – oh yeah, also The West Wing, and let’s not forget the Daddy of them all – the Bill Clinton – Monica Lewinsky saga.

Read all about it here and here, and here.

I miss the 90s

Fashion in a cupboard

I have a story from working on a newspaper supplement…

It was a national newspaper and the first thing that struck me was that they couldn’t cover my travel costs, so not only was I working 10-5 for free, I was actually making a loss.

I was working in a fashion cupboard. I heard from another intern working there that the job we were doing actually used to be a paid position and was therefore much more efficiently run. With little guidance I was expected to just ‘get on with it’ in a windowless and people-less room and with little to no help from the people I worked for.

Clothes that I had never seen and were ordered in before I arrived were lost, but did they try to help me? Of course not, I was left to deal with the problem and fob off some PR company.

Whilst most of the people working there were pleasant one woman had a holier than thou attitude and got annoyed with me for putting something in the wrong place despite the fact that the bossier, know-it-all intern had told me to do it. I knew she was annoyed by her monotone ‘that’s…quite…annoying…’ comment.

I can also echo another piece on your website about fashion people claiming to be overworked. I find they hardly do anything. I can’t imagine how they would cope in the real world where they would be overseen by a boss who might put a stop to their frequent mundane chit chat and cigarette breaks. You chose 10 pairs of shoes to be photographed against a blank screen by someone else? I can think of nothing less stress inducing.

Crazy crazy shoes

Beyond Parody: Interning in the Fashion World

In our second interview with an ex-Intern, Interns Anonymous caught up with someone who had a behind the scenes look at the fashion world.  She found that working at a glamorous magazine actually wasn’t that glamorous.

Interns Anonymous: Tell me about your internship. What kind of magazine was it?

*****:  I worked for a fashion magazine. I was in the beauty department, working alongside the beauty editor and her assistant. It was unpaid…

Interns Anonymous: Did it live up to the stereotype of the fashion world?

*****:  Emphatically yes. But in different ways. It’s not as glamorous as you would think. But the people are almost like a parody of themselves. I don’t think they are very well paid, but I think they have very wealthy parents.

Continue reading ‘Beyond Parody: Interning in the Fashion World’

Even prostitutes get paid…

I’ve been working as an “intern”, (or if you prefer, substitute the usual ‘unpaid, unappreciated, exploited office helot without whom the entire company would implode’) in a business organisation  for the past 3 months. Technically, I should be getting some specific experience and in fairness I have been, for a given value of ‘some’. The trouble is all the other stuff I’ve been asked to do. Like organise and book my boss’s holiday, book restaurants for his friends, find tickets for shows, go to the supermarket, squeeze fruit into juice for 5 hours for a cocktail party etc etc. My boss once made me go to the cash machine, and honestly I have never been so tempted to commit a crime in my life.

The most recent outrage He Who Must Not Be Named has perpetrated was to ask me to track down a certain kind of foodstuff as a gift for some friends: and this item, believe you me, is rare as hen’s teeth. Probably rarer. So I call up Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges, all the major supermarkets and some of the minor ones too. No go. Then I trawl through the internet. No luck, except a cash and carry who demand you buy 100 of them. For a moment I’m tempted to do so, just to see his face as 100 of the dratted things are unloaded into my his hallway. Most people by this stage would give up, but my boss is made of sterner stuff; that sort of attitude did not win us the Empire. No lily-livered surrender for them. He Who Must Not Be Named resembles an angry deity, propitiated only by the sacrificial sweat of their workforce. Boss decides that the thing to do is to ring up the factory where it’s made –in China.  He reasons that everybody speaks English these days so they must have someone who can help. With some scepticism I call them, and sure enough the person on the other end of the line has no idea what I’m saying and eventually I thank them for their time (in English, since my school didn’t stretch to Mandarin) and hang up. I’m told to send an email, which I duly do. This saga has started to haunt my waking and sleeping: I’m so irrationally stressed about it that I’m almost weeping in frustration. This is compounded by being sent texts about it at 9pm on a Sunday evening, for example.

I have a Master’s degree from Durham and this is what I’m reduced to. Like an idiot, or a masochist, I take it, partly because I’ve been brought up to be helpful and partly because I’m so desperate for a job now that I’d probably Morris dance naked on the House of Commons roof if it meant someone would offer me one. I’m terrified that any refusal will lead to a terrible reference, so my boss can dangle the prospect of a permanent position at the end of this stint (which, incidentally, has no official end date, so I could be working for free forever or until I find another job), ensuring that I never refuse to do anything, no matter how absurd or mundane. In the meantime I am effectively paying, since I have to pay for my own travel expenses, to have my dignity and self-respect peeled away, layer by layer, as though flayed alive. Even prostitutes get paid for their services; interns have to pay their punters. And meanwhile employers still want their pound of graduate flesh, and we still give it to them.

I want a cocktail

I want a cocktail

Running in Heels

The Sun has a good story about a new intern-orientated docusoap called Running in Heels. It proports to offer a “warts-and-all insight into life on the lowest rung of the fashion ladder – the intern.” Sounds fascinating.

“Every year, hundreds of hopefuls work up to 60 hours a week for FREE, in the hope of eventually landing a permanent job. The show follows three girls working for Marie Claire in New York as they strive to impress their bosses into giving them paid job.”

 Brolly hell ... struggling with coffees and mags

Sound familiar? One Saskia Quirke writes of her Devil Wears Prada day:

“I WAKE at 6am after a restless night of what-to-wear worries.”

I think she should be worrying more about her sanity having agreed to work 60 hours a week for nothing.

“I haven’t eaten since 8am and I’m starving. But these are fashion people and food is for losers.”

I thought bulimia went out of fashion when John Prescott admitted to having it?

Whoever said fashion is fabulous hadn’t been an intern at Marie Claire. I’ll stick to my day job thanks.”

Except you cant get a day-job unless you have been an intern! Arghgh! The internship Catch 22! There is no mention of how she is affording life in New York. I will hazard a guess that a room in Brooklyn is as costly as any in London.

The programme itself might shed some light.  Running In Heels airs on The Style Network (Sky Channel 253) at 10pm on Tuesdays. I won’t be  watching, as I doubt I could stomach much more than what is quoted here. 

Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.


Interns Anonymous accept no responsibility for the contents of the blog, comments or any other content on this site that is posted or provided by third parties. This website is designed to act as a forum for interns to share experiences and opinions about their work, therefore, we will not censor opinions we do not agree with. The opinions stated in blog contributions do not represent those of Interns Anonymous. We disclaim all liability for such content to the fullest extent permitted by law. If you have any queries please email us.

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