Slave Drivers…Alexander McQueen?
The beloved fashion house, Alexander McQueen has been forced to apologise after advertising for a full-time, unpaid internship.
A “talented knitwear student” was desired to work for five days in the London studio for nine and a half hours a day for up to 11 months. Travel expenses and £60 a month for lunch would be paid to the student.
Shelly Asquith, the president of the University of the Arts London Student Union wrote the fashion house a letter demanding them to reconsider their internship scheme.
“As if studying for a degree in arts and design wasn’t a financial burden enough, your email requests students to work for free for up to 11 months in your studio, and all they will receive in return is a meal voucher,” begins the letter. Asquith then goes on to point out the “bitter irony” that a twill-woven jacket from McQueen’s latest collection costs £8,930, an amount that almost equals the university fees a fashion student pays each year.
The knitting aspect of the internship involved research, CAD, presentation and organization, all key aspects and therefore claimed to be integral work, which would require the student to be paid the National Minimum Wage, under UK law.
In response, a spokesperson for Alexander McQueen commented that the advert was “issued in error and was not in accordance with our HR policy”.
Should More Fashion Internships Be Paid?
This scenario, as well as Stella McCartney’s heavily-criticised work experience programme which was forced to close, has brought up an increasingly important issue- should fashion houses start paying more interns?
Having had much experience with job searches and internship-finds in the fashion industry, I can agree that finding paid work as a student is definitely a struggle. However, many young people will forfeit the pay for experience which should, in turn push them higher up the career ladder, but when do things go too far? I believe working for a luxury fashion house for a potential 11 months without any sort of minimal pay is excessive, especially if the internship involves demanding, hard work. For instance, a two-week work experience placement or a month’s internship with a fashion brand is a great opportunity for a student with little to no experience to get a realistic perception of the tough industry. Many schemes out there are not paid but I believe it’s up to the student to figure out whether it’s worth the experience or if the pay is required for the tasks and hours they are asked to put in.
Having said this, fashion houses should try and offer more paid internships, even if they are on a minimal wage basis. Being a student and paying £9000 fees a year for university, as well as managing living expenses is certainly not easy and although experience is crucial, sometimes a line has to be drawn, especially when you’re working for a luxury house with massive profits.