Vivienne Westwood reported for five unpaid internships

Vivienne Westwood*GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE!*

REVENGE OF THE “POOR PEOPLE” AS YOUNG WORKERS CHALLENGE TOP DESIGNER

A top British fashion designer has urged “poor people” to “buy less” and “be careful” when spending money on clothes – while brazenly advertising for interns to work for her unpaid for up to three months. So Graduate Fog has passed the details of her internships to officials to investigate.

Dame Vivienne Westwood, who showed her Spring / Summer 2014 collection at London Fashion Week yesterday – told journalists that people should:

“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes. I mean, I know I’m lucky, I can just take things and borrow them, but I hate having too many clothes. And I think that poor people should be even more careful.

“It doesn’t mean therefore you have to just buy anything cheap. Instead of buying six things, buy one thing that you really like. Don’t keep buying just for the sake of it.

“I just think people should invest in the world. Don’t invest in fashion, but invest in the world.”

But the designer’s lofty advice angered many fashion interns – one of whom tweeted Graduate Fog with a link to five unpaid internships at Vivienne Westwood’s office – one of which lasts three months. The positions are an “HR assistant internship”, an “account assistant internship”, a “graphic designer assistant internship”, a “jewellery design and product development internship” and an “archive internship”. Detailed job descriptions are given for each. The suggested hours are 10am to 6pm, although it states this is “flexible” as the positions are “voluntary”.

Graduate Fog approached Dame Vivienne back in October 2011 over an advertisement for a “visual merchandising assistant internship” which was also unpaid. This one was Monday to Friday, and lasted three months. Her spokesperson said: “I can confirm that we offer a range of internship packages which vary depending on the department, experience of the student and duration. I am afraid that, as a privately owned company, we do not release details of our employment conditions so I will be unable to give you any further information.”

So we decided it was time to get back in touch:

To: Vivienne Westwood
From: Graduate Fog
Subject: “Poor people” and your internships
Date: Monday 15 September 2013, 11.04pm

Dear Dame Vivienne,

I read with interest your insightful tips for looking stylish on a budget, as I am aware that you have for some time been reluctant to pay your interns the minimum wage for their work.

It is indeed a great challenge to stay on trend when you are not receiving a salary for your labour.

Perhaps you could also supply some tips for keeping a roof over your head and food on the table when your employer is not rewarding you with an income?

I’m sure your interns would greatly appreciate your wisdom and insight on this matter.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Tanya de Grunwald
Founder, Graduate Fog

We will let you know if Dame Vivienne’s people respond. In the meantime, we have asked our friends at Intern Aware to pass on the details of these internships to their contacts at HM Revenue and Customs, who regular readers of Graduate Fog will remember pledged in November 2012 to crack down on fashion industry employers who pay their interns less than the minimum wage. Graduate Fog makes no suggestion that Dame Vivienne or her company have broken the law. We are merely passing the details of these internships to the officials so that they can investigate further.

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*WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DAME VIVIENNE’S TIPS ON BUDGETING?
Should she pay her interns a proper salary for their work? Why do so many fashion designers not feel the need to offer their staff a wage for their labour? If you’re currently a fashion intern, are you being paid?

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