A fashion designer has angered graduates by appearing to suggest that fashion interns should work for the “love,” not money. She claimed it was difficult for the fashion industry to understand the outcry about its use of unpaid interns, as to them the practice seems “very, very normal.”

Speaking to Elle magazine’s website, Cozette McCreery — one of three UK designers behind award-winning knitwear brands SIBLING and SISTER by SIBLING, whose fans include Jessie J, Noel Fielding and Patrick Wolf — complained that small labels like hers face collapse “if there were a compulsory minimum wage.” (IF!)

Defending her views, she said: “We need the workforce.”

Here is our critique of some of her other scarily warped views about why the crackdown on those who exploit their interns is deeply unfair…

Cozette McCreery: “Everybody should be paid for their time, whether they’re stacking shelves at a supermarket or working for a big-name designer.”

Graduate Fog: Hey, you’re talking sense on this subject, Cozette. Are you sure you’re a proper fashion designer?

“Their time is important and their input into the workings and production of a collection is really vital.”

Oop, you seem to have slipped up there. Did you just admit that fashion interns do real work?

“It’s a difficult one though, because the other thing is that any of us who have worked in the fashion industry have come through this route, so it seems very, very normal.”

Er, it’s not really that difficult, is it Cozette? And just because your view of what is ‘normal’ has been warped by your own experiences, that doesn’t make it right to exploit others. Or legal.

“Most people who are starting out in the industry just don’t have the funds. It’s just done with love, and that’s it. When the main designers aren’t getting paid-if you can’t find money to pay yourself-it’s really difficult to find money to pay others.”

Cozette, when you’re starting your own business, you pay other people before you pay yourself — not after. You can invest all the unpaid work you like in your own company — just don’t expect others to do the same. You will reap the rewards if / when your company becomes successful in the future. They won’t.

“Internships are still seen as getting your foot in the door.”

No s**t, Sherlock. But do they actually lead to paid jobs anymore, or are they now just a handy way for people like you to get something for nothing, effectively lining your own pockets?

“So even though you might not be getting a regular wage, it’s almost like you do the time, and then you make the most of your short time that’s spent there, and in the end, quite often, what happens is that the company really wants you to stay and takes measures to actually keep you.”

Yeah we know — to do yet more unpaid work for them…

“We normally have just a couple of interns, but we bring on more in the run-up to LFW. We have interns who we’ve had since they were doing foundation courses coming back to help on certain things-we can’t be that bad.”

We think you mean, “They can’t have many other options,” because your whole industry behaves just as disgracefully.

“I don’t want it to be seen as an excuse for people to not get paid but…”

Uh-oh — we don’t like where you’re going with this, Cozette…

“…but you learn a vast amount at internships that you just don’t learn at college.”


“Just people making tea is a godsend when you’re in a really busy studio.”

Are you for real? We thought you just said you learn lots of useful stuff during internships. Now you’re talking about making the tea. Make your mind up, Cozette.

“You arrive, and you’re given specific jobs.”

HMRC, are you getting this?

“You get to learn how studios work and what you can bring to that environment, which is invaluable.”

Your interns could do that just work shadowing — we wouldn’t have any problem with that. It’s the fact you get them to do lots of dogsbody work while they’re there that we object to…

“And we do help. If we can help interns with re-looking at their portfolios or helping them with CVs or giving them references, of course we do that.”

*Slow hand clap* You look at their portfolios and CV and offer them a reference? Wow, that’s so kind of you to spare the time, Cozette. Especially after these interns have given you weeks (months?) of their time for absolutely nothing.

“Payment is normally worked out on a project basis.”

So you do pay your interns? We’re confused. Or do mean you sometimes give them lunch money, and other times you don’t?

“If there were a compulsory minimum wage…”

There IS A compulsory minimum wage, Cozette!!! It’s £6.08 per hour (for those over 21).

“…we would seriously have to restructure our company.”

Well then we suggest you crack on with doing just that, if you intend to staying on the right side of the law.

“We need the workforce.”

Diddums. Your interns need to eat!

“It would be great if the government could think of some incentive to actually say that there’s a way of helping to fund it.”

WTF? The Govenment (ie the taxpayer) should pay money so that you can have unpaid workers to help you build your business, so that you can make lots of money in the future? Run that one past us again Cozette?

“None of us want to be in a position where we don’t want to pay people-we don’t all sit here on moneybags, going ‘Ha ha ha, we don’t have to pay you.'”

Your personal finances aren’t our problem, Cozette. If your business doesn’t make enough money for you to able to pay your staff, it’s not a proper business. Sorry, does the truth hurt?

“But that’s taken from a very small company’s point of view. I don’t know how it would feel if you were a major designer, but then again, they must have people queuing up to work with them.”

The last time we checked, the national minimum wage law was pretty rigid. The number of people desperate enough to offer to work for less than the minimum wage doesn’t actually change whether hiring them is legal or not. Unless you know something we don’t?

“Their first step in filtering people out is the idea that if someone wants this enough, they will be willing to do this for free, which is really a pretty despicable attitude when taken at face value.”

That viewpoint is despicable at face value only? No, it’s despicable, full stop. We feel sick.

“But then again, it’s become a traditional thing in fashion so to us feels very appropriate.”

*Graduate Fog barfs* Let us get this straight, Cozette. You’re saying that because in your teeny, tiny brain, having unpaid interns seems like an entirely okay way to run your business, the hundreds of thousands of young people who are standing up to you are in fact wrong to complain about it? And HMRC are wrong to crack down on it?

We understand that a lot of young people want to work in the fashion industry. But if they end up spouting rubbish like this in a few years’ time, we will consider it a tragedy. Cozette, you sound absolutely insane. If it’s not making enough money for you to pay your staff, you need a new business model. It is not your interns’ responsibility to prop up your company. And it is not young people’s responsibility to prop up your entire industry.

Do you care if small fashion labels like hers go bust – or do they not deserve to exist in the first place, if they can’t pay their staff? Will the fashion industry collapse without unpaid interns? Or should designers simply look for new ways to fund their labels?

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