By Stephanie Huang ‘16Fashion Columnist
As the fashion industry becomes increasingly competitive, the importance of building a laundry list of unpaid internships before actually securing a paying job is becoming a necessity. While it is great to gain experience from major publications, media moguls, and online retailers, these companies have also been accused of exploiting interns to obtain free labor. Former Harper’s Bazaar intern Diana Wang recently filed a lawsuit against Hearst Corp. for a violation of state wage and hour laws, claiming that her internship was the equivalent to the job of a full-time employee. Wang stated that she was even paying out of her own pocket for company commuting expenses.
Recently, I was called in to be a guest stylist for an online retailer’s photo shoot. Needless to say, I was excited to have the opportunity to share my aesthetic with a brand that seemed to appreciate it. Though I was expecting nothing in return, the fact that I had skipped lunch, struggled to find a friend from at least one of the 5Cs that could actually give me a ride, and worked for five hours straight should have at least warranted a “thank you” from the bosses that I had pitched my stylings to. Instead, there I was feeling like a completely pathetic employee when they shot down my idea, demanding more variety and “color,” even though I happen to be a very neutral and pastel person. Not only did they want me to compromise my aesthetic, they did not even formally introduce themselves to me. After five hours, I felt used. I’m a blogger, not an intern, not an employee, and I was there as a favor to them—it was not the other way around. So whether they were looking for free styling, free labor, or another unpaid intern to boss around, I was eager to return home to Claremont.
Of course, this is not how all people in the fashion industry are. I met amazing graphic designers and a photographer at the styling, who were much kinder than their employers. I can happily say that every other unpaid fashion internship I’ve been a part of has paid off in both experience and perks—and thankfully, with fantastic bosses. Alexander Rosario, (PZ ‘15), who interned for Teen Vogue this past summer said, “I think it’s based on the company itself. I had a very positive experience with my internship. Although it would be best if you had a better stipend if you came from out of state, because living expenses aren’t cheap.” While Rosario does not think that these internships are mandatory to entering the fashion industry, he stresses the way that “they put you in connection with a lot of people” and how they can be used “to help get you further to where you want to go.”