The Endangered Species of Fashion

Everyone knows the Devil Wears Prada tale is as old as time, granted only if time went back to 1913. But even before then, did Louis Vuitton have a lackey who would go in search of the perfect threads for his new collection, fearing his or her job if they did not garner the exact, perfect spool for LV? Did Michaelangelo have a minion, or 3, who would clean his brushes and fetch him warm goblets of milk, three times a day?

I suppose we probably won’t ever know the answer to some of these questions. But MY question is, when did this ridiculous division of power really begin? Somewhere down the road between business and corruption, lies a serious problem that I feel is not being addressed to the level that it should be. The fashion industry (and entertainment industry, respectively) have often come under scrutiny for violating labor laws, but those usually just refer (in fashion) to international sweatshops, as well as the distribution of counterfeit merchandise. What’s not getting the proper attention however, are the “legal” labor laws in place in our society, cleverly disguised as “the internship.”

Case in point – a hypothetical scenario:

A random Fashion Executive: “Wow, I have so much work that needs to be done. I should hire an Intern.” 

Fashion Executive, interviewing Intern: “Yes, this will be such a great learning experience for you.” “What was that? Will you get hired here after? I can’t promise anything, but there’s a good chance.” 

3 months later… 

Intern, who has spent the last three months fetching coffee, taking down food orders and pretty much being the Bitch of the “office”: “Excuse me Mr./Ms. Fashion Executive. Am I going to get hired now?” 

Fashion Executive: “I’m sorry, but we just don’t have the funding for it right now. Oh, and you forgot the extra Splenda that I like in my coffee this morning. You’re fired.” 

So, what is this intern a.k.a. lowly assistant to do now? Well, if it were me …

First, I would laugh in Ms. Fashion Executive’s face and tell her that substituting regular sugar for Splenda, is really just substituting regular sugar for Cancer. Second, I would probably go home and cry. And sadly, I probably have before. Followed by weeks of questioning my entire self worth and reason for even wanting to work in the fashion and/or entertainment industries.

In my understanding, and as stated in the American dictionary, an internship is defined as:




Any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.

I’m no genius, but that kiiiind of sounds like an internship is supposed to be a learning experience…
So why is it then that big companies, like Conde Naste for instance, would just completely get rid of an internship program upon being faced with legal woes? I mean, why not take this opportunity to really work on this alleged internship program, and make it great? So that the future of this world would have a real shot to learn and succeed. It seems that these days, the term intern has become interchangeable with about 17 other things. And the PERSON behind the intern? Well, they are just completely expendable.

I have come across so many articles DISCUSSING the issue of interns and assistants being taken advantage of in the fashion and entertainment industries, but what is really being done to change it?

Why is this the face of an internship? 



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