Tucked away on Carnaby street is the office where magazine giants such as ELLE and Harpers Bazaar are created, take a left into the building and the glamour disappears somewhat. And while the staff are impeccably dressed, you realise that a large number of people in the offices are not actually being paid to work there. Modern times have seen a rise in the use of interns particularly within the creative industries; it is seen now that going straight into paid work is quite rarely heard off.
Among the hustle and bustle of a 15 girl manned fashion cupboard, Phoebe Parry who interns at ELLE sits donned with a Mongolian fur coat and Prada glasses to chat about the whole experience.
Getting an internship can be as competitive as getting a job itself, to work at companies such as ELLE past internships are essential. Phoebe who has previously interned at Grazia magazine and PR firm Fever believes that working for free is the only way to guarantee paid work later on ‘It can be hard working for free and some days you do have to remind yourself why you are doing it, but there really isn’t any other way to make strong contacts within the industry’. Contacts and networking seem the be the most vital part of any internship and although you are hardly going to be grabbing coffee with Anna Wintour, knowing someone on the inside can lead to other work. Phoebe tells me how she has recently started Freelance styling after assisting on an ELLE spread, ‘I’ve started reaching out to people I have met through other internships to help assist with styling and slowly but surely the paid work is coming in, I have a week long shoot next week which will make up for the month I have worked here!’.
Pay seems to be a big part of the intern debate, along with long working hours and menial tasks. BBC news reported earlier this month that taking an unpaid internship in London can cost an individual £926 leaving those without a supported background without a chance. Looking around the corridors of ELLE this idea seems to support itself, for students working for free there is an abundance of designer labels strutting the halls. Phoebe tells me that travel to work itself costs her £300 a month as she lives outside of London, The Sutton Trust is working to get all interns working over a month onto a minimum wage.
So aside from pay what is it really like to be a fashion intern? How much is it really like The Devil Wears Prada? Well apparently aside from copious coffee runs its not that bad, ‘It’s really not as glamorous or daunting as its made out to be in the films, the closest experience I’ve had is running around London with £25,000 worth of clothing and jewellery which was certainly an experience’. As a delivery arrives on the 3rd floor from Versace, Phoebe swigs back her black coffee and runs back to work. As I sit there, a part of me wishes I could stay, that I could stay surrounded by beautiful clothes and people but instead I leave for the outside world where I have to work for money and going to Zara is the most luxurious part of my week.