The Real Pressures Of Being An Unpaid Fashion Magazine Intern

It’s not all about wearing designer clothing. posted on

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I worked for a few months as an intern in a fashion closet a “trendy” fashion magazine in New York. When they say you’re going to work in the fashion closet, they mean it. You literally sit in a a closet all day. Most of your time in the office is spent folding clothes and putting them on a rack. Over and over again.

Almost all of the clothes for shoots come from fashion PR companies. Aside from the biggest brands, which might have in-house public relations staff, all the smaller designers have larger PR agencies. These companies are their point people who deal with getting their clothes into magazines. So a lot of the day, when you’re not in the closet, you’re running around to the different fashion PR offices and picking up and returning the clothes.

In the summer, you’d be walking through crowded streets of Manhattan with tons of huge bags of clothing in 100 degree, humid weather. I was once so sweaty I had to go and buy a new shirt at American Apparel.

And then something always goes wrong. After the shoot, there’s always stuff missing. Or something magically appeared that wasn’t initially on the invoice. An editor would ask, why do we have two of this blue shirt? So you’re tasked with figuring that out and there often isn’t a good answer.

Things were frequently disorganized. When I arrived on my first day, they forgot that I was coming. They realized they had hired too many interns, so they said we could all only work three days a week. In the end, that was okay because it gave us some days in the week to actually try and make some money.

Of course, working in a magazine’s fashion closet is hardly ever paid. I understand it’s the industry standard, and it can be worth it to get a foot in the door. But they should offer some kind of stipend for lunch or the subway, at least, because what you’re doing is really grunt work. It wasn’t educational in the strict sense that unpaid internships are legally supposed to be, but it does show you the nitty gritty of how the industry works and functions. If your lifelong dream is to work at a fashion magazine, it really is a good way to start, but you have to be proactive. You have to ask to write for the blog. No one is going to ask you.

There was a lot of pressure to fit into the culture, but not necessarily in the stereotypical “fashion magazine” sense where you had to be perfectly put together and incredibly skinny. People were actually pretty hush-hush when it came to talking about how everyone dressed. You wanted to look cool and unique, but you definitely didn’t want to wear recognizable designer clothing. One intern wore a new Marc Jacobs top and an editor made some snarky comment about it. The only time people really freaked out about someone’s clothing was when someone wore a really short, tight dress. I don’t know that people really talked about it, but the looks were very noticeable.

The real pressure was to have a kind of wild, crazy social life. The editors would all come in hungover in the mornings, talking about whatever new “it” club they drank and did drugs at the night before. If you were young, and new to New York, and not in the whole fashion scene, it was hard to fit in. There was more pressure about that than there was to wear designer clothes and be a waif.

As told to Hillary Reinsberg.

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