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Is Being an Intern in...

Is Being an Intern in the Fashion Industry the Worst Job Ever?


“Fashion is a tyrant from which there is no deliverance; all must conform to its whimsical.”-French Proverb

It has been a big month for interns in general. The JFK/Mimi Alford affair was headline grabbing but that was about politics and sex. Though that was a pretty scandalous story the industry where you often hear about the scariest tales when it comes to interns is the fashion industry. The web site Fashionista recently did a piece on the horrors of a fashion intern. Young women’s experiences included washing a urine-soaked dress for a fashion shoot for Vogue, scooping up dog poop, retyping to-do lists and returning yogurt to a store. My personal favorite was the intern who wasn’t allowed to drink out of the same water fountain as the paid employees. That may be illegal. Even on the glamorized reality show The Hills even Lauren Conrad was treated like an actual intern at times when she worked at Teen Vogue (of course she later appeared on the cover of the magazine which I am pretty sure is not the norm for most interns at magazines.) On one episode her job was to dig out candle goo. This made us wonder is being an intern in the fashion industry truly the worst job ever?

Now, yes, you may be thinking the fashion industry is tough and these young women and men should know what they are getting into. Plus, everyone has to pay their dues even if this industry involves more bodily function dues than say being an intern for a tax attorney. But the treatment of unpaid interns is actually a major problem. More than a hundred prominent fashion houses are being investigated by HMRC concerning the payment of their interns. Fashion houses including, Stella McCartney who has been notorious for using unpaid interns, Burberry, Mulberry, and Nicole Fahri have all been sent warning letters stating they must pay their interns the minimum wage or risk prosecution.

But the treatment of unpaid interns is actually a major problem. More than a hundred prominent fashion houses are being investigated by HMRC concerning the payment of their interns. Fashion houses including, Stella McCartney who has been notorious for using unpaid interns, Burberry, Mulberry and Nicole Fahri have all been sent warning letters stating they must pay their interns the minimum wage or risk prosecution. Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the careers website Graduate fog and campaigner for paid internships says this is not exactly breaking news as fashion houses have been exploiting young workers for years. “For too long, fashion houses have recruited brazenly for what are clearly illegal roles that take advantage of those who do them and exclude those who can’t afford to do them. These interns are not just work shadowing, making the tea and sorting the post. They are effectively doing full-time jobs, just without any pay. Most of the time they do not lead to paid, permanent jobs—only to another unpaid internship. Many fashion companies are known to have a revolving door system, where one unpaid intern is simply replaced with another at the end of their placement.”

See more about interning in the fashion industry!

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