Monday, 21 March 2011

monday musings 001
The Curse of The Fashion Intern.

The story of my life these days sounds a little bit like this; I’m due to graduate this coming summer, have I got some cushtee-salary, graduate job lined up? Nahhh.

Having studied English Language, (more like linguistics) for the best part of the last three years, I cannot wait to close the book on the University chapter of my life. It has been the time of my life but man, has it served its time. I have lost the little enthusiasm I once had for learning the entire process that the human vocal tract implements for articulating every sound a human can possibly make. I am not even joking. For this reason, amongst a handful of other contributing factors, I am not jumping on the bandwagon that provides the attractive meal ticket to so many graduates these days. This being; the trend to bag the first, run of the mill, graduate job offered to them. This 9-5 grind has zero appeal to me when its premise is for the sake of being employed.

So what is my grand plan? Ideally graduate with a respectable degree class, complete a NCTJ course in News Journalism, preferably in Wimbledon, London, secure some solid, life-long contacts.

BOOM, my foot is in the proverbial door.

Of course this is the pipe dream. The reality is worlds apart.

The last few weeks of my life have been centred around discovering the best i.e. the quickest and easiest way into the cut-throat world of fashion journalism and it essentially, boils down to one thing; that enviable fashion intern with the big dogs. A pre-requisite for most fashiony professions.

What is meant by a fashion intern? A term used flittingly, it encapsulates all avenues of the industry. The strict definition posits “a recent graduate undergoing supervised practical training”. True, to an extent but interns can often be expected to work long hours on mundane, tedious tasks for little or no profit or credit. A pat on the back may be all it takes to have your face or name cemented into the boss’ mind when it comes to discussing potential candidates for an upcoming job role. This is a priceless prospect.

Interns are especially hot property around the time of fashion week. This is where the ongoing debate - experience vs. exploitation really adds fuel to the fire. And why? It works on the same basis as slave labour; its free. For example, why should PR companies pay their existing work force, overtime to line up the seats of every room in Somerset House when they have an abundance of willing youngsters who daren’t question working an 8am till 1am day, at their disposal? It is this willingness and the characteristic ‘I will do anything to get me where I want to go’, philosophy that stretches interns to their limits.

BBC2 aired a show in February entitled; "Who gets the best jobs", I probably watched it at the wrong time as it only reaffirmed my post-university panic. The moral of the story? Be willing to work for free, no expenses reimbursed, in London. Girish Gupta carried out four separate, unpaid, journalism internships in the big city, bed hopping from backpacker hostels to gum tree contact’s sofas. Having, in total, thirty two of his articles published with not one penny to his name. He stuck it out.

What you have to remember is that with the number of horror stories comes the odd fairytale.
Girish is now a recognised and respectable, high-flying freelance journalist including the role as foreign correspondant for The Times.

Alexandra Shulman, editor of UK VOGUE, hosted a Q&A evening via Vogue’s twitter, last week. She was inundated with questions regarding internships. The clichéd advice that have echoed many a career advisor and experienced journalist resounded; be curious, write well, work hard; all pretty obvious traits to an aspiring journalist. The light of the end of the tunnel? "You definitely don't have to do internship at Vogue to get a job here. I didn't!" Read the highlights here.

Having recently attended a conference on ‘Making it in the media’, wise words were spoken by the Managing Director of “The Press”. In response to where does the line come between experience and exploitation, he said “I would be obliged to start paying an intern at the point that their copy is published, even if it is just minimum wage”. However, it is very different story when dealing with the UK’s most well-established fashion and publishing houses. The simple reason? The demand is there.

It's all about a balance, but the trouble is knowing when that balances comes. The experience and skills gained, even if this be brewing the best cup of tea known to man, being able to cement that on your CV is invaluable. Although you can’t live without money, I dare you to ask Vogue’s Chief Exec to enlist you on payroll, it just wouldn’t happen. Their reasoning? Why should they pay you when so many others are offering it, quite literally on a plate, for nada.

In my humble opinion, I honestly think that if you’re aware of the grittier end of the industry, the fact that you have to start at the bottom and have a bit of tenacity about you, then why shouldn’t you be the one making it big.

Feel free to share your stories and experiences.
Also, if you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.


  1. I'm graduating in a matter of weeks too my dear, and am also feeling the fear. I've got a few things in the pipeline and am prepared to work hard to get the experience I need in order to make the right choices moving on. I do think that there should be some sort of general rules for internships though but can't see it happening as there is so much interest in posts now. It reminds me of The Devil Wears Prada a little bit i.e 'A million girls would kill for this job' :(
    Fingers crossed for you my dear

  2. Big up dressing up. This is excellent. Enjoyed it muchly

    I really feel the paralells trying to make it in film. Especially the competing pulls of 'going solo' and working your way up the industry. Creative endeavour is a struggle but a worthwhile one (one hopes!).I feel it is certainly worth the gamble doing something you love and the first 3 years of anything are going to include good amounts of graft and perseverance.
    Keep up the fantastic work!

  3. Nice post on fashion interns. It's tough in the fashion world.
    I'm following you on google friend and bloglovin'.
    Would be great if you could check out my blog and do the same.
    Also if you could like my FB page that would be awesome!
    All the best.

  4. I found you on fb and just wanted to let you know that I love your blog and plan on keeping reading :)

    I also added you on Bloglovin. Add me back?

  5. with all of the things I read in this post, you make me want to do the internship so baad! too bad I'm still 16 going on 17 who goes to school 9 hours a day and spend so much time stuck on the traffic. But I hope one day I can be like you. It just seems so fun.
    Anyway, thank you for your comment! Hope you will visit me again :)

  6. This is such an awesome's great to someone highlight the nitty gritty rather than the standard "I'm going to be an intern and it's going to be SOOO great".

  7. I think, sadly, that fashion's just one of theose industries where you either have to have contacts, otherwise have to work your ass off! At least, with an internship, a lot of people go through the same thing, and you'll have a better chance of success one you've got through it - good luck!

  8. Yeah, I just graduated last year. Have been interning ever since :/
    I've decided to start my own fashion label now, if you can't find a job in the industry make one for yourself, haha. Wish me luck and good luck to you too! xx

  9. helen, i adore your writing skills. ur forever an inspiration,xx

  10. This is a really interesting post and I wish you the best of luck, whatever you chose to do

  11. Congrats on graduating soon! It sounds like you have the right attitude and motivation to excited to see where life takes you!


  12. I REALLY enjoyed this post, you write so well! And I feel your's such a hard industry to break into, and every person I've spoken to who has made it into an editorial position in a glossy or whatever is always like 'oh I was just lucky'. not helpful! wishing you lots of luck x

  13. really good post. I think that we all feel the same fear when thinking of the tough fashion world! anyway thanks for your comment!!
    kissez from your new Greek follower!

  14. Anonymous3/22/2011

    Thanks for your sweet comment! xx

  15. Good luck, im sure you'll be fine. Your obviously prepared to work hard, and im sure prospective employers will love that!x

  16. Well done on the graduation and good luck with everything, chin up and it sounds like your already on the road to success just hang in there everything thats meant to happen will happen :)
    lovely blog!

  17. I am in my fourth semester and I haven't got a clue what I am going to do later on. I figured it would be best do some interships before I get into something that doesn't suit me so the first one will be in my summer break. Once I graduated I will do some more in different areas and when I know what field I want to go into I'll do my masters accordingly... that's the plan! ^^
    I study Business and Marketing btw, so I can do pretty much anything :D

  18. i love your writing. you inspire me to write more. so, im following you now <3 good luck on the road to success babe. it sounds like youre well on your way and i congratulate you!!

  19. Beautifully written post :) I'm graduating soon too and am studying Fashion Journalism. I keep getting shit-scared about everything but to be honest, I've decided that as long as I'm happy in my future job that's all that matters.
    I'm sort of rejecting everything at the moment so I'll be off travelling for a couple of months at the end of year, meaning I won't be applying for all the big jobs when everyone else is. This carefree attitude is keeping me sane!

    Rosie x

  20. Hello helen, thank you for the lovely comments on my blog! Its great to have such nice feedback in these early days of getting it all up and running. Been glued to yours foe the past hour now! WOW, very inspiring stuff, I love it and now a follower. Hope you'll be following me to

    love Bird. xx

  21. i really like this post!

  22. I recently was a fashion intern for Look magazine, not really a big player in the fashion game, and all I did was do the returns and organsise the fashion cupboard.
    It was such a tedious task, and I worked 9.30 to 5.30, but I did get my travel re-imbursed.

    Even though it wasn't the most exciting of jobs, people will recognise that I have the experience, and unfortunatly this industry is all about experience and who you know, as opposed to what you know.

  23. Good luck with everything!
    Unfortunately, work experience [and LOTS of it] is just something that everyone in the fashion industry has to do. Some people are lucky, and find themselves in the right place at the right time with the right deal-clinching person in the room, and get in very quickly. Others may work unpaid for years without ever being offered a job. The internship circus is what often separates the people who 'want to work in fashion' from the people who are so unbelievably dedicated and can absolutely not work ANYWHERE else.

    I have to admit though, as a veteran intern who started at 17, I have never had one of these 'awful' jobs. Yes, I have worked hard, I have worked anti-social hours and not been paid for it, but I never felt exploited. I think in a lot of cases, unfairly-treated interns just don't have the courage or they worry they'll lose their internship if they speak out, but that's not true.
    Some internships are less useful than others, like Madeleine's (above) at Look magazine. {I did that job too a few years ago!) but on others I asked the fashion team if I could help on more senior roles and they agreed, like assisting on shoots, casting models for PR client shows and researching inspiration for Vogue editorials...

    To be honest, on a lot of my internships, especially at Vogue, I enjoyed it so much I didn't even mind that I wasn't being paid!

  24. Wow, we're in almost the same boat there!
    I'm in my first year of studying a degree in Linguistics, thinking it would be far better than just jumping right in and doing a fashion related degree! I'm just struggling so much with finding summer internships or any work experience that will help me get my foot in the door when I graduate.
    Would love to hear how you're getting on with it all!

  25. Thinking: love the way you write!

    Following ;)

  26. I'm studying journalism at university currently, I have under two months left! I started with such a passion for writing, all I've ever wanted to do was write but I've had local news shoved down my throat from day one.

    I think once I graduate I'll fall back in love with it, but for now even blogging seems a chore sometimes. I'm increasingly becoming more and more interested in South Korean media and fashion and as a result looking to get a TEFL qualification and run my blog alongside living out there teaching for a year or so.

    I think you have the determination to get to where you want to be cherub. Look at your blog, you have so much support and have done so much already. It's just a matter of time!

    Poppy Coburn x

  27. Thank you for the interesting post, I enjoyed reading it

    P.S. Thank you very much for your comment =)) Now I have to choose one of the dresses, haha.

  28. I like your blog, lots of thoughtful and engaging posts.
    I too am graduating in 2 months and have completely fallen out of love with my course.I am so keen to work in fashion journalism after Graduation day dawns; but I have no idea which country I am going to be spending the next few years in (my bf has been offered an amazing job in LA and I have promised to go with him.)
    To top it all off, I am dyslexic-so my passion is somewhat hindered by my abilities (or lack thereof.)
    Good luck in your ventures-you seem to be a very intelligent and articulate young lady. Likwise I am willing to start at the bottom and give any opportunity my all. It's just getting that opportunity in the first place seems to be the biggest hurdle of all.....


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