Did you know that more than 95% of London fashion internships are unpaid? Unpaid internships are illegal in the UK, but employers get away with it because interning is the only way to get a job. But you learn a lot, right? Well, if by "a lot" you mean toiling 14-hour days and picking up poo after your boss' dog, yes. Read on to find out what it's really like to intern at a London fashion magazine or brand.
Instead of paying interns food and travel expenses, the designer will order expensive take-out for himself every day. The studio will be in a god-forsaken part of Hackney with no transport links to civilisation. Your initial agreement to work 2-3 days a week will quickly turn into 6 days a week, 9 am to 9 pm. Other interns will be dropping off like flies — if you must do a shitty internship to fill your CV, better go somewhere people have actually heard of. The roles of social media guru, graphic designer, courier service and dog poo-picker will be delegated to you at once.
For no pay, you and 40 other interns will produce every part of the collection. Your supervisor will expect you to show levels of skill and enthusiasm that would warrant a £70k salary in a normal world. You’ll spend months working until three in the morning without credit or thanks. When sick, you’ll gulp down painkiller cocktails so as not to attract attention. Disillusioned by the brand you loved all your life, misanthropy will consume you. You’ll be tempted to drop everything and become a Buddhist shepherd in the Highlands.
The golden rule: the more illustrious the publication, the more menial the tasks assigned to interns.
An editorial intern is a glorified secretary with the extra burden of transcribing interviews. You’ll be sent on coffee runs and irrelevant errands, bringing back paracetamol and batteries. No one will explain you anything (“Just figure it out”), but all misunderstandings will be your fault. You’ll spend 80% of time on the phone, shielding your boss from PR people whose emails she’s ignored. Said boss won’t trust you with writing a thing. The closest you’ll get to editorial work is what staff writers are too lazy to do: research and fact-checking.
You’ll be managing the fashion cupboard, a large closet storing the magazine’s inventory of clothes and accessories. You’ll be handling call-ins (pieces that the magazine borrows for shoots) and returns. If something expensive gets lost (i.e. stolen), your boss will scream at you like something out of Greek mythology. You’ll get depressed looking at jewellery that costs more than your combined earnings in the next ten years. Lest you get excited about an upcoming shoot in an exotic location, know that travel is a privilege of the fashion team. You just pack up the luggage.
Your task is whatever your boss deems to be beneath them, which is everything except attending events and interviewing celebrities. You’re there to make her feel like Anna Wintour, a pipe dream obscured by ominous visions of loan sharks and impending bankruptcy. Rotting in a cellar with no windows, you’ll churn out inane articles for the mag’s website that no one reads. As there’s no budget for courier service, you’ll gain “extensive experience” dragging 40 kg suitcases all over London. What do you mean do we pay travel expenses? Don’t you have a monthly pass?
If you've interned for a retailer or fashion PR agency and want to add your story to this article, please get in touch!