July 25, 2010

The truth about fashion internships

I just read this interesting article from the Guardian and wanted to share it with you and add my 2 cents. The article points out how interns in the fashion industryare exploited without pay for months while carrying out core work the company builds on. This is a far cry from the glamorous image many have of an internship in the fashion industry. 

Since I study "Textile and Clothing Management", I also had to do my fair share of internships in order to improve my CV. After doing 2 unpaid internships and only being offered unpaid future internships, I decided that I would rather carry out my paid part-time job than work for nothing again. 

My first internship was at the marketing department of a brand, known worldwide for its expensive jeans. Although the company is very successful, I was offered no pay for 3 months of work but got clothing (2 jeans + a top) of a value of 300€ for free from their store. The value was calculated using the sales price and not the purchasing price which meant that the company only expended 90€ for my work. This might not seem too bad, but it made me kind of mad when I ordered store merchandise for several thousands of euros which would only be in the windows for a couple of weeks, yet the company had "no" money to pay their interns.

The second internship was at a small start-up company, where it is understandable when one does not get paid. However, the owners went on vacation for two weeks, leaving the whole workload and all decisions to me and another intern.

Now, while applying for my first job after college, I notice that most companies are searching hordes of interns or few employees that already have years of experience. Only few companies are offering jobs for graduates fresh from college which seems to be due to the fact that companies have an endless resource of interns working for almost nothing as the article mentions. However, I think that this policy will have negative consequences for fashion companies in the long-term as interns carry out sophisticated jobs, build up relations inside and outside the company, and then leave everything behind after a short time. 

Don't get me wrong, internships can offer invaluable experience and help to choose which future career path is the right one for you. To all of those that will do an internship, paid or unpaid, in the fashion industry I can only recommend to get information about the rights one has. Additionally, it is not necessary to do as many internships as humanly possible. A few well selected internships are better than an endless number of them. And maybe you can find a part-time job that you can carry out during your semester or semester break that is in the fashion industry. Usually it is also advantageous to set yourself apart from others with a semester abroad, preferably in combination with learning a foreign language.

If you are looking for more information also read this article.

What do you think about this? Did you make any experiences like that?    


  1. Thank you for sharing this! I am preparing to go to college for Fashion Merchandising, and internships are part of the course work. This is good to know!:)

  2. Thank you for your nice comment! I wish you good luck with your internships!

  3. interesting! same thing happened to me in Romania, twice...

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience magdamagda. Seems like it is common practice worldwide :)

  5. I find this annoying too. I study media and journalism in the UK, and as I want to get into magazine work, most placements are in London. Many internships are 5days a week, 9-5 for a minimum of 3 months, unpaid- I just can't afford that!

    I heard that some regulations are possibly going to be brought in to stop this in the UK; though I've seen nothing come of it yet!