Saturday, 17 December 2011

the not-so secret diary of a fashion intern: RANT

*At risk of sounding like I am condemning all internships, I thought I'd point out before you read this and get all anonymous, nasty comment that I am not. What I am against is working full-time, unpaid to not gain anything from it. I want to be a journalist; returning mountains of samples will not make me a better writer. Nor, do I expect to have waltzed out of university and into the fashion director's shoes. Internships should be valuable experience and a step up the career ladder. Now form your educated opinions.

I debated subtly titling this piece but decided fuck it, I need to rant and so I shall. Psych yourself for a rant. A cohesive and valid one at that.

As the HMRC released their discovery (interns exist did you know!? No shit Sherlock) last week that interns across the media and fashion sectors (amongst others) are masquerading as full time, unpaid workers, my eyes have been opened and my jaw has not left the floor.

I understand the definition of an intern to be a role that is: 1. temporary and 2. additional. Interns, by dictionary definition do not run the press agency, publication etc. They're merely an extra pair of hands in times of encroaching deadlines. They should not be a fundamental part to the daily runnings of their chosen intern host. It surfaces that the reality paints a contradictory picture.

Call it blatant ignorance or genuine naivety but fortunately for me, I have never, in all of my countless placements from nationals to locals had the misfortune of being exploited just because I was a mere intern. I obviously didn't write the cover feature and there's the standard intern / editor hierarchy but I ain't had to sack off my out-of-work life in order to get through a mountain of returns, long into the night, to this day. I don't plan to make that a reality either. This week, I met girls who for that is a weekly event. And its not even thought of as a big deal, its compulsory, part of the pay packet. Except there's no pay-packet or even a whisper of a job after months of living on next-to-nothing, so called expenses.

What gets me the most is the fact that these CEOs are most likely rolling in it, in their made to order, silk, Versace suits, no less. If you're throwing lavish events, ordering Dom Perignon on tap, you can afford to pay struggling graduates who graft their arses day in, day out, for you. Frankly, its disgusting and I refuse to be caught up in that trap.

I have reached the point now whereby I started my twelfth, (as if) internship, on Monday and got the standard, introductory Q&A. "So do you do fashion?". It makes me think, did you even read my fucking CV? In my actual response, there are two facts that leave the fashion assistant of each intern host stunned. One is that I am old enough to have a degree (I have been assumed to be school leaver, more than once). And two, it is an English degree from one of the top twenty universities in the country. You would've known this had you read my CV. The dialogue that follows usually questions why I am there in the first place.

I have began to ask myself this very question and have reached the brutally honest conclusion: I am too good to be a returns bitch. There I said it. Fair, if I wanted to be a stylist or fashion assistant I'd happily lug suitcases up and down stairs. But no ta, I do enough of that in my actual life. Once, you've done one return, you've mastered the art. It's not rocket science. And if that's all you're 'gaining' and 'learning' then what is the point? I have served my time in fashion cupboards - some sweet, some not so great and can't help but feel that I'm overqualified and under paid to be a glorified skivvy. So, I shall return to the drawing board once the festive period is done with.

Back to the initial point. It infuriates me how this whole minimum wage debate is being publicised as a new discovery. Interns have kept the fashion industry ticking over for as long as fashion week has existed but its only now that they're threatening to do something about it. Something that will actually never be enforced, as as long as there is a queue of over-keen, wannabes the fashion world and others will continue to exploit the free labour. The words catch 22 spring to mind; can't get a job with an internship, can't get one without.

Who run the fashion world? Interns do. They at least deserve minimum wage or failing that, a whisper of a job promise after a mammoth six month stint. AT LEAST. Some credit wouldn't go a miss either.

-RANT ENDS-

Thoughts? My nosy nature revels in hearing other's stories - horror and fairytale.

x

25 comments:

  1. argh i completely agree with you, the exploitation makes me SO angry but the career system of the fashion industry makes it impossible to not do internships. it really worries me because I'm a wannabe journalist/fashion writer and the likelihood of a career for me seems almost non-existent.
    i definitely think there needs to be very strict and specific laws and regulations regarding internships because the extensive work they have to do is absolutely ridiculous!

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  2. agreed, agreed, agreed!! And also, why do they demand so much experience for unpaid work, how do I get the experience if nobody gives you a chance without it. AND, it's free labour, how dare they be so fussy about who they're NOT paying?

    Comment rant over.

    Rating this post

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  3. I think it's great that you're standing behind what you think is right, and making others aware of what's going on. Great post, hope everything works out well for you my dear!

    simplyyoursamb.blogspot.com

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  4. well said! totally agree.

    xx
    Glass of Fashion

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  5. I try to justify why I'm doing grunt work. If it's somebody I look up to and think will help me in the future, I suck it up.

    I've had my fair share of returns as well. it's not pleasant
    xx

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  6. great blog!
    xx

    http://julyets.blogspot.com/

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  7. I completely agree! Interns are completely taken advantage of and receive very little (if anything) back. sometimes they don't even get the experience they need because they've done and seen it all before.

    thanks for your comment on my blog, too :)

    www.lifeasadaydreamer.blogspot.com

    -Emily.

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  8. I love a good rant.

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  9. I can completely sympathise with this post - i feel just as strongly about it as you do.

    I've interned at quite a few places, and have had some nice - and not so nice - experiences. The worst thing about interning is the fact that you KNOW that the work you're doing is invaluable to the company. I've been told on many occasions that without interns, their company would grind to a halt. So why can't we be paid for this work, if it's so important?

    My worst placement was working during london fashion week. I was told I'd be working from 9-5. They lied. We HAD to be there for 8am, and were scheduled to leave as late as 7pm. On my first day I didn't sit down for 9 hours, I was standing in the cold, helping people find the venue, while the organisers were scoffing champagne and canapes... it's completely unfair and I feel like a complete idiot for smiling and agreeing to do it just for an extra line on my CV. But the sad fact of the matter is that when you decide 'enough is enough', there'll be another hundred girls lined up to take your place - the cycle just never ends!

    Sorry for the essay ha! Great post.

    Charlotte x

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  10. same in the music pr world - most you get is expenses paid - though I'd already be happy about that....

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  11. AMEN! I've interned at a few places and have only been able to afford it thanks to student loan and working part-time throughout. After graduating in September I've looked into taking up more placements, but cannot afford to stop working to take up a full-time placement which pays minimal expenses (or nothing at all.) Although I found my placements really valuable, the culture of relying on interns (and offering them little in return for their time and hard work) which exists across many industries today in this country is so wrong. I hope that it changes but am very doubtful that it will.
    x

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  12. I read about this and it really upset me! I decided already this year that I just can't be bothered going down the fashion internship route. It appears to be more and more of a waste of time when it comes to getting an actual job at the end of it.

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  13. It absolutely disgusts me! I'm glad you've had a rant. And what makes it worse nowadays is because graduates haven't had a chance to have a full time 'proper' job it is virtually impossible for them to get their foot on the career ladder. Interning is basically slave labour but it is fast becoming the only option to keep your CV filled with relevant experience. Countless times I have been called to interview and been rejected because I haven't done that exact job before despite reems of relevant experience. How in god's name am I meant to get into a job? I've had countless internships (not exploitative but not paid either). I'm not going to get any 'real' experience if noone will give me a chance. Employers need to take advantage of young people's enthusiasm and drive and PAY them for their time. Eurgh this topic makes me seriously angry. Great piece :)

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  14. oh I completely agree, i've only interned about 4 or 5 times and at the very most all you get in a small percentage of travel costs paid. I think its great to have internships on your CV, but do think if for over a long period of time, you should get paid. I've known people that have been interns for upto a year, struggling to pay rent and have no other time for a paid job, luckily some do get a paid job at the end of it, but emphasising what you've said.. not many at all x

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  15. I graduated in July with a degree in Fashion Promotion and have now done 6 different internships, but alas this apparently still doesn't qualify me for a job that I probably knew how to do 3 years ago. Travelling to London every day at £170 a week for me to work for free isn't an option and at 21 I don't want to scrounge off my parents for years on end. I'm glad there are some people like you who understand just how painful the whole process is. I'm fed up of people saying be patient and it will happen, because I've gotten to the point now where I really don't think it will.

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  16. I agree that internships can totally be demeaning (depending on who their for, of course) but you really do have to be someone's bitch before you find yourself in charge. not you in particular, but just in life. you can't always start out at the top. granted you've had a lot of internships, you probably know better hahah

    http://imsaratee.blogspot.com

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  17. amen to that!
    and although i havn't worked yet, and i'm going onto doing my degree next year, you have totally opened my eyes to the dangers of working as an intern. I was oblivious to the fact things like this can happen, so thankyou!:') xo

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  18. It's terrifying, I'm in my second year at Exeter uni, I want to write, but the prospect of being someone's skivvy for however long they want me makes my skin crawl. I'm applying for all of the summer internships I can, the whole process is ridiculous, most companies have this long winded application process from which they select the best applicants but then all of the job descriptions are the same. Filing, fetching, returning etc... I get that no intern is going to stroll into HQ and right the cover article but then if nothing else useful, what's the point? I just don't get it! xx

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  19. Great post.
    http://xtheperfectmess.blogspot.com

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  20. I completely understand that upcoming designers who barely have the income to take a wage themselves can't afford to pay their interns, but the fact that huge publishing companies cap travel expenses etc is a joke.. I've been interning for various companies since I graduated this year but I'm honestly not sure how much longer I can carry on, as determined I am to get a fashion assistant position.

    That's my two cents :)

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  21. hear hear! i've been working as interns fair lots while looking for the job. i was taken advantage of. i was thrown a shitty pile of work what the staff didnt want to do. and they kick me out as they please.

    my friend worked for heat/ok magz for years as an intern but until he have had enough, talked to the boss and demanded for the job. he got it. yayay, but wait for it, he was given a freelance job and he didnt get asked to come in and work for them AT ALL. the really crap thing, he have already moved in a flat and spent fuk loads. a let down big time.

    great rant babes!!

    xo katrina
    theyoungbridgetjones.blogspot.com

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  22. That is why one must have RICH parents. Duh!!
    ha ha, yeah, life is a shitter, these days though, you don';t like to pipe up or you'll be out on your arse. statistics say for each job these are 1,000,000 candidates... probably. Love the blog.

    Milli xxx

    p.s- Where have you interned?

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    Replies
    1. It's a tough slog. But everyone would do it if it was easy. Drop me an email if youre interested in my interning experience- see visual portfolio x

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  23. The art world is the same as this, I always end up sitting behind front desk alone all day tallying visitors to a tiny gallery for free when all i want is to be a painter! I also did loads of work for free for someone, then they came to talk at my uni and wouldn't even say hello to me, so disheartening :/

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