Thursday, 15 April 2010

On a more serious note

Aside from all the excitement of fashion as a whole, the new season trends and the glamorous models and celebrities that inspire us, I feel it is about time for the harder, less enjoyable side of fashion to be addressed. As a current fashion intern and someone who has been interning on and off for over a year now, recent events have inspired me to tell the true story of the fashion intern, the highs, but mainly the lows.

Having interned at a handful of consumer magazines (naming no names), I have grown disillusioned by the fashion journalism industry. As the typical story goes, a young girl grows up dreaming of working in the fashion industry, attending fashion shows and shooting beautiful models in even more beautiful clothes. She works her way through school but is plucked away by her fairy godmother to join the fashion magazine of her dreams and is able to start her successful career, maintaining optimism and pride throughout.

The modern day fashion industry* leaves you feeling the complete opposite of optimism and pride. The modern day fashion internship leaves you wondering what you went to university for - does your English/Drama/Journalism degree enable you to make the perfect cup of tea/coffee? Or buy the exact lunch menu as requested by the fashion editor? Do you even care?

When I first started interning I found myself keen to impress. Ever polite, always ready to accept a task, no matter how ridiculous and degrading it may be (e.g. "go and buy me some fresh basil for my dinner party this evening"). I knew what I wanted to do and in turn, what I was capable of, but put that aside to learn what I believed would be new and highly useful skills to add to my growing CV. However, five internships later and I find my blood boiling when I am asked to do yet another task that could easily be done by a trained monkey.

Fashion is a very challenging industry, particularly in these difficult financial times, and the top dogs at our favourite magazines are reacting to this by depriving us enthuastic would-be fashion assistants of our chance to work AND be paid for it. Slave labour may have been abolished, but fashion interns have been and are still working their little ankle socks off to impress their superiors for very little credit.

I myself am questioning my future in the fashion industry, particularly in the field of fashion journalism. I am fully aware that great success takes a lot of hard work, no one can walk into work on day one and become Anna Wintour. Whilst 'The Devil Wears Prada' may be a fictional story, it highlights some important truths. The central character tries her hand at being Miranda Priestly's, head of US magazine 'Runway's assistant, she eventually realises that the stress of the job and the lack of intellectual stimulation is not enough for her. She leaves her role at the magazine and eventually finds her ideal job at another publication. The moral of this story resonates loud to me and I'm sure to many other interns; will the fickle nature of the fashion industry keep me happy? And can I continue any longer being treated as a glorified slave by the rest of the fashion team, completing jobs they don't 'feel like' doing themselves?

I don't have the answer I'm afraid. But I know that the more time I spend interning, the less and less 'sparkle' the fashion industry will hold for me. I'm not saying I am about to turn my back on the industry and more importantly, my own dreams, but I am certainly setting my own personal time limit for my goals. If I don't achieve the coveted fashion assistant role by the end of 2010, then I will certainly be rethinking my options. I'm not the type of person to give up, especially on something I believe is in my grasp, but I am capable of knowing when enough is enough.

Perhaps I am selling myself short; not giving myself a reasonable chance to achieve my dreams. However, I choose to see it from the other side, a view I am sure I am not alone in feeling. It will be the fashion industry missing out on me; not the other way around. The industry needs to find a better way for nuturing it's future key players than treating us as little more than unpaid labour. Only then will the industry live up to the dreams that it is made of.

*from my experience, 2008 onwards

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