Despite the horrible weather in New York over the weekend, Occupy Wall Street’s Intern Labor Rights group did get out to fashion week, as planned — just like all the impractical ladies running around in leather leggings and six-inch heels post-blizzard. The demonstration was quiet, with protesters handing out dainty “PYi” (stands for, pay your interns) swag bags at the Kenneth Cole show on Thursday night. They were so discreet that Fashionista correspondent Tyler McCall wrote, “Frankly, I was expecting lame pantyhose or maybe chapstick or something when I opened the box.” Instead, it included slips of paper bearing the campaign’s relevant hashtags, a “PAY YOUR INTERNS” pin and a flyer about why unpaid internships are being protested.
Intern Labor Rights protested over the course of three days in New York. The demonstrations will continue at London Fashion Week, which takes place after New York Fashion Week. In London, materials handed out to show goers will include a letter from Libby Page, who has held seven unpaid fashion internships, according to the Guardian:
“I started doing internships when I was 16,” said the 20-year-old from Dorset. “I would often be expected to work for six months for free, but I have never done more than a month because I couldn’t afford it. I feel now that if an intern is doing any actual work they should be paid.”
Page’s letter reads: “Mistreatment of fashion interns is something the industry should be ashamed of, and something we should be talking about. I have heard far too many stories from friends, peers and young people around the country working long hours in poor conditions and being subjected to demeaning treatment in the name of fashion. ‘The intern will do that’ is not a phrase I want to hear again.”
So far at New York Fashion Week, the Intern Labor Rights protests have failed to generate much buzz amongst the industry. Front row conversation seems to be more focused on whether or not disgraced former Dior designer John Galliano will appear on the runway following Oscar de la Renta’s show Tuesday evening — not how embarrassed people are that the industry has a reputation for improperly compensating interns.
And then, of course, a lot of people at the shows continue to be wildly preoccupied with their own outfits. Because even an Occupy protest can’t outshine the shit show that is street style.
Swag bags at the Kenneth Cole show.