Over my time working in the fashion industry I have met some amazing designers and some, shall we say, not so great designers with more fluff than puff!
I always thought a good designer was down to earth, hardworking and very passionate, which I believe would then shine through to their collections, but this is not always the case. You have to give credit to the fashion world as what many assume to be a glamorous and easy job is a far cry from the reality for the people behind the seams…
Try 14 hour days stuck in a small studio, fabric cutting, constructing, trying to reach ridiculous unobtainable orders or stuck in an office with a huge amount of pressure, having anything and everything trusted to you in order to make the line, event or collection go without a hitch, and all of this for minimum wage or even in most cases an “intern” scheme.
The intern scheme… You work for free and have the privilege of working for such a high-end label whilst gaining experience. This however is a fantastic opportunity no matter how much you feel you are being subjected to slave labour. No one is going to hire you without experience, and unfortunately in the fashion industry experience is what counts!
Fashion designers – glam, rich, professional? Well that’s what we are lead to believe but unless you are very high-end the majority I have met or worked with are skint, moody, egotistical and generally not very nice people, and a lot of them treat their interns and staff pretty badly. However there are exceptions. Very few and far between but they are there. I met the most wonderful designer who I worked in PR for – she may have been lovely, down to earth and very approachable but the pressure that was put on me and staff working for her was like nothing I had dealt with before. Never having worked in PR and originally applying to work in the design studio, this designer felt I was better suited to running events, writing press releases, and organising all of her events and shows for the collection… Basically, running her whole business! For someone who had never done this before it was daunting, but was slightly rewarding to start with. “Wow, I’m being given all this responsibility?” I thought. I remember feeling slightly pleased with myself that she was giving me so much to do, however this soon faded.
When you take on a “part time role” that is what you expect it to be, but unfortunately this was not the case. I left the house at 6.30am and would not be home until 8.30pm. You might think that’s okay. But the work didn’t stop there. You would be contacted all night to do additional work, even past midnight. I remember waking up after a few weeks one Sunday morning to more than 10 emails of tasks to be done, and this was before 10am! Bear in mind, this was a “part time intern scheme” which I was not being paid for. However lovely this designer was I could not carry on with this. Having a child, which she was fully aware of, it’s unrealistic to expect a mother to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, especially when they have originally signed up for a 3 days a week part time role.
The funny thing with this designer was, she may have seemed pretty successful, selling in Harrods, Selfridges, Net A Porter and online but she was broke. We were constantly told there were not enough funds to pay us, and all of the events, shows etc. that we held, were done free of charge and filled with sponsors and investors. Safe to say, I was sad to leave but I felt that what was being asked of me was not justified. There weren’t any travel expenses paid, so not only was it costing me about £200 per week for that, I was constantly busy and none of this felt worth taking the time away from my daughter, no matter how well I got on with her or “how lucky I was” to have this role. To me it just wasn’t worth it.
If you are heading in to the fashion industry be wise; yes, you will most likely have to intern, even the major high-end designers have interned at some point, but when it gets to the point where you are stressed, shattered, have no life other than work and you’re constantly living on Red Bull and cigarettes to keep you awake, is it really worth it?
- Victoria Jane Watts