A Reflection on Being A Fashion Intern: The Bits You Don’t Expect.
I am the product of my parents: both teetering towards their 6th decade on this planet, the idea of being degree educated and then expected to work for free left them visibly shaken and aghast and I must admit I too had my reservations. I swore to myself I wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t spend many thousands of pounds and many hours of my life working towards achieving a degree just to be free labour to someone, as you can imagine I was under no false pretences when it came to being an intern. Half an hour job hunting soon changed my mind. I found it completely impossible to find a job advert that didn’t use the word ‘experience’ at least 50 times, and, from personal experience, I strongly advise avoiding those that don’t.
Interning is like leading a bizarre double life. You get up every morning, go to work, talk about your day at work, discuss life in the office, chat about colleagues, and feel like a bona fide grown up professional person. Then you leave work and start to reflect on your home life and realise you’re eating tasteless 5p noodles with hot dog sausages, sleeping rent free on a sofa somewhere and have finally reached a point where buying a bottle of Ribena from the local shop is ‘splashing out’.
Alongside my new double life: career person by day, lowly pauper by night, you will find that interning is exponentially frustrating. I’m interning at a fashion company based in Leeds, as someone who has wanted to work in fashion since, like forever, spending my days assisting on photo shoots, styling outfits, jabbering on social media sites about celebrity style choices and attending ironically cool fashion events in underground night clubs is my idea of heaven. The hellish part comes when I switch back to reality and realise that, with no guarantee of a job at the end, I could either be working for free, and suffering the afore mentioned repercussions, for some time, or find myself very, very begrudgingly taking a position in a bar/café/high street store and waving good bye to consorting with models and playing with clothes. Interning has spoilt me, this tantalising way to make money has been dangled in fount of me, paraded around and, after three months, it will be quickly snatched away, how can I ever be happy working in a supermarket after doing all this? I have developed a dangerous resolution to earning money in any other way and reality sadly dictates that soon I might have to.
I’m not entirely sure why we put ourselves through all of this. Sure, I’m learning, and more importantly bulking up my CV, but it isn’t really the same as having a job: It’s like playing. I play at being fashion person. I don’t actually worry about money, simply because I have none; I don’t worry about paying bills because I really can’t and so live rent free with a very patient boyfriend and his house mates; I don’t worry about furthering my career in the company because I’m only there for 3 months. I simply turn up every morning, do what is required, and try to soak in as much as possible. I don’t complain about going to work because, quite frankly, I don’t go to work. Interning is a lovely little limbo, somewhere between pretending to work and actually working. I do tasks I would be doing if I were making money, whilst not having any of the worries I would have were I making money.
So, where too now? My time not at my internship is spent doing one of three things: job hunting, rewriting and rewriting and then rewriting my CV and…job hunting. I sit sometimes and just try to concoct marvelous ideas for ways to get myself noticed. I wonder if Topshop would hire me if I walked into their office wearing nothing but a sandwich board that stated ‘Will not wear clothes until they are paid for by working for you.’ …probably not. I think the result of that would be a criminal record, but this is the thing, I’m starting to get desperate. I love this work, I love my internship, but I also like making money. I used to dream of owning a Chanel handbag. Now I would be happy just being able to have a cheeky pint once a week (I’ve deliberately left out how incredibly depressing forgoing a social life for several months can be because I have no intention of being that whiney, but trust me there are only so many box sets a girl can watch before she’s hankering for some genuine human interaction).
I have to accept that there is a strong possibility that I will not fall out of my internship and into the open arms of a company willing to make my entire professional dreams come true. I must learn to be patient and in the mean time I intend to thoroughly enjoy playing at being a grown up fashion person, and to try and make the most of endless ‘We can make our own fun staying in tonight’ nights and developing my ever more inventive ways to flavour 5p noodles. Grated cheese and mayonnaise anyone? (Seriously it’s not as bad as it sounds.)
Interning is a bizarre state that I find myself in, but it is one I must put myself in if I am to get to where I want to be. I stand resolute in my belief that this will not be the last time I’m on set at a photo shoot. How do I know that? Because there is no way in hell I would be working for free if I thought any differently.