Poor Alexander McQueen can’t seem to catch a break. In New York, his Meatpacking District flagship staff are facing a lawsuit for indulging in some casual horrendous racism. Now in East London, the fashion giant is under fire for “accidentally” advertising an unpaid internship.
McQueen sent out a letter to fashion colleges and universities saying they were in “urgent” need of a “talented knitwear student” after their current intern had suddenly left. The internship would be six to 11 months long, working nine and a half hour days, five days a week.
It also required “flexibility”. Here in America that’s code for a willingness to eat dinner at your desk, but might mean something different in the UK. At least lunch was paid for – well half of it any. Prospective interns were enticed with a lunch stipend of £60 a month, which equates to US $4.50 per day. You can’t bring your own sandwich to work and spent it at the pub after, though – it comes in vouchers.
Shelly Asquith, the student union president at the University of the Arts London, was (justly) horrified. She wrote a letter to the late designer’s head office accusing the label of abusing students from less affluent backgrounds (like McQueen himself was) who can’t afford to take on unpaid internships. A spokesperson for Alexander McQueen has now told Huffington Post UK the advertisement was an “error”.
The advertisement in question was issued in error and was not in accordance with our HR policy, for which we apologise. In line with UK government guidance, Alexander McQueen has a strict policy of only accepting interns where the student is required to complete a placement as part of their higher or further education studies.
The sad thing is that we can think of many young students who’d jump at the chance to intern for McQueen in exchange for food vouchers. Sounds better than flying to Milan for fabric and not even being allowed to step outside the airport. And even after Condé Nast’s intern guideline revamp, the internship would probably be able to squeeze through a few Labor Department loopholes. Here in the land of the (working for) free, interns at Condé can work nine and a half hour days so long as they don’t stay past 7pm, and they receive an average stipend $550 for the semester. That’s about $7 per work day – just $2.50 more than McQueen’s intern would get. And many work for less than $550 per semester. Just over a month ago two Condé interns filed a lawsuit against the publishing giant for paying them less than $1 a day to work as employees.
Let’s hope the embarrassing ‘error’ makes McQueen realize the importance of paying interns who are essentially working as entry level employees and casts the dodgy dealings of America’s fashion heavyweights into harsher relief.
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