A recent government crackdown is shaking London’s fashion industry. The UK’s HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, a dept. of the UK government responsible for collecting taxes) has reportedly sent letters to 102 fashion houses warning them that they are under scrutiny and urging them to pay their interns the minimum wage or face penalties.
Of course, unpaid fashion internships happen, and their legality is debated here in the states as well. In fact, the phrase “unpaid fashion internship” sounds a bit redundant in my mind because you’d be hard-pressed to find a fashion internship that wasn’t unpaid. It’s a tricky situation that lacks an obvious solution.
Interns are indisputably a necessary part of this industry. Without them, collections wouldn’t get made, fashion shows wouldn’t happen and magazine editorials would feature a lot more nudity than they already do. Also, as one designer pointed out to British Elle, younger, less established designers are in a particularly difficult position because they may not even be able to pay themselves, let alone their interns. And on the other side of it, major designers have tons of people dying to give them free labor just to have the name on their resumés.
In many cases, the intern does learn useful skills and the experience helps him or her land a job later on. But in some cases, young, impressionable college students are forced to spend those unpaid hours doing bizarre, traumatizing, degrading things that have little if anything to do with the field in which they were hoping to gain some valuable experience.
To prove it, we’ve reached out to some of our friends and colleagues in the fashion industry to assemble a batch of horror stories from their intern days.
From cleaning excrement to returning yogurt, here are some examples of ridiculous things people we know have been asked to do, and done. Be warned–some of them are a bit disturbing. And to be fair, this is just for fun and isn’t meant to discredit internships in any way–I owe everything to mine and almost all of the following stories come from people who now have good, respectable, paying jobs in the industry. Read on.
Please leave your own horror stories in the comments. I know you have them.