Occupy Wall Street Takes on Unpaid Internships, Will Protest at NYFW

Protests are not uncommon during fashion week. From designers' use of animal fur to lack of racial diversity in models, activists have a number of reasons to take issue with the industry. The latest? Unpaid internships. And good old Occupy Wall Street will be demonstrating against them.
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Protests are not uncommon during fashion week. From designers' use of animal fur to lack of racial diversity in models, activists have a number of reasons to take issue with the industry. The latest? Unpaid internships. And good old Occupy Wall Street will be demonstrating against them.
Photo: Teen Vogue

Photo: Teen Vogue

Protests are not uncommon during fashion week. From designers' use of animal fur to lack of racial diversity in models, activists have a number of reasons to take issue with the industry. The latest? Unpaid internships. And good old Occupy Wall Street will be demonstrating against them.

OWS has an Intern Labor Rights division, members of which are currently planning to have a visible presence during NYFW between Friday, February 8 and Sunday, February 10. They're also planning demonstrations for London and Paris fashion weeks, Buzzfeed Shift is reporting.

"I don't think there'll be hundreds — I don't think it's going to be that big, but we'd like to have a significant presence," protest organizer Peter Walsh told Shift's Amy Odell of the planned NYFW demonstrations. Their hope is to persuade and educate people about the technical illegality of most unpaid fashion internships. "The fashion industry is a for-profit industry — it's not like they're working not-for-profit arts organizations. They're making billions of dollars and the fact that they're asking their students to donate their labor to these businesses is really outrageous," Walsh said.

It's not the first time OWS has showed up at fashion week. Two seasons ago, they tried to shut down the Calvin Klein show to "raise awareness of the 1% Structures behind the Fashion Industry." It didn't work.

And we're not really convinced this will be much more successful--especially without any support from fashion industry establishments. Still, unpaid internships are undeniably a hot-button issue right now, with former Harper's Bazaar intern Diana Wang's unprecedented class action lawsuit against Hearst still underway.

If anything, OWS' efforts will move the ongoing conversation about the often-necessary, but rarely fair unpaid internships in the fashion industry forward.