THE BLOG

A Fashion Intern's Diary: The Highs and Lows of Unpaid Life in London

24/01/2014 12:46 GMT | Updated 25/03/2014 09:59 GMT

As my time at Hand & Lock comes to an end I've been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of being an intern.

Of course I've questioned the morality of interning, how can any company get away with 'employing' unpaid workers? Particularly in London, where one of the most favoured conversations is the extortionate price of rent. It seems as though the people with money or the lucky few can elbow their way into the fashion industry. How are young graduates or students supposed to live in the capital city and support themselves with no or low income? I am one of the lucky ones who have managed to find incredibly generous people who have allowed me to stay with them for free; it's is the only way I can manage this.

Since my last blog I've had one interview and have sent several applications and cvs. The interview was for a paid internship, it lasted less than ten minutes,was rushed and disorganised. The interviewer didn't have my details so didn't know who I was or anything about me. She told me she would let me know by the end of the day, five days later it was a no. Apparently they needed someone straight away and "that if things change, I will contact you". Because apparently. I'll just hang around, still unemployed, waiting for that email.

Which funnily enough, I probably will be doing.

An extremely annoying habit of being a graduate intern is you become addicted to checking your emails every five minutes as if a life changing job offer will suddenly appear in your inbox. Which of course, it doesn't. And if you're lucky you may get a 'thanks but no thanks' email.

I've really enjoyed my two months at Hand & Lock, I've learnt so much and contributed a lot to the company. Although there have been times that I have probably slowed down the pace of work. In my head, I may have come close to being fired from an unpaid job a few times. Anywhere else and I might have.

I've done a lot of slip stitching and unpicking, typical intern tasks. One day I was asked to cut the threads off a machine embroidered order, in my head I heard 'unpick the embroidery on this cushion'. I'm used to unpicking, pretty much three years of my degree were unpicking... so I began it. About twenty minutes in, I'm pretty impressed with my fast paced thread removal when I'm asked why I'm unpicking a part of an order. I'd just been asked to remove lose threads but instead I'd just completely unpicked a design. Embarrassingly for me, it's still brought up every so often and used as an example of what not to do to the new intern.

When I came back in January after Christmas, the studio had been refurbished, the interns got a new white board with daily and weekly jobs to do. The first job back after the new year was to design and carry out the window display. We had a lot of freedom and were encouraged to utilise our own skills, so I created an illustration that is 1m x 1.5m and now sits in the window of Hand & Lock, it was nice having a creative task to do and it makes me realise how much I want to be designing. A lot of the jobs you get as an intern can be quite monotonous and boring but it's balanced out with stuff like that and I've also been lucky enough to work on a piece for one of my favourite designers.

My next placement is part time and I am going to try and support myself with a part time paid job, possibly bar work or as a sales assistant. After that I'm not sure what I'll be doing, (in my head I've already spent my first pay cheque from my non existing job) but I can imagine I may be interning for quite a while as still don't have enough experience, even for a lot of entry level jobs. After nearly 2 months of interning it's a little soul-destroying thinking that your time and skills aren't worth being paid for but I've had an amazing time, met some great people and learnt so much. I am looking forward to the next rung of the career ladder.

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