The super-luxe fashion label Balanciaga – a favourite of Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss – has advertised for a “intern sales assistant” to work on the shop floor of their London store for up to four weeks, paid travel expenses only. This is despite the fact that this season’s “soie double face sleeveless dress” currently retails at £3,950 and their “papier A4 serpent peint” handbag is on sale for £2,050.

Apparently, the lucky candidate will “have the opportunity to gain experience” in tasks including “customer service” and “how to replenish stock”. Previous experience is not essential, but scruffy-looking interns need not apply, as “Personal appearance has to be in line with the company standards.”

The advert – posted on the University of the Arts London website (what were they thinking?) – reads:


Deadline May 29, 2012
Industry Fashion
Placement type Unpaid work placement
Placement length Up to 4 weeks
Expenses Employer has agreed to pay Travel Expenses during this placement
Role Type Retail
Supervisor Michaela Nostinska (Store manager)

During this placement you can expect to gain the experience and/or skills outlined below

Reporting to : Store Manager or Assistant Store Manager

Role objective : learn the basic skills in selling

You will have the opportunity to gain experience in:

– To develop a good product knowledge and provide customer service

– Understanding of the current product / collection

– Learn how to replenish stock

– Learn internal procedures and ensure that they are understood

– Use the sales techniques which have been tought by the tream

– Competitors analysis (visual merchandising, customer service, windows…)

– Adhere to Security and Safety procedures

Who would benefit from this placement?

Skills :

– No specific experience in similar role is required

– Ability to adapt to change , flexibility

– Ability to initiate contact with excellent communication skills

– Motivated by being a team player

– Personal appearance has to be in line with the company standards

We have written to Balenciaga to request an explanation for how they feel this role fits with the minimum wage law, which states that anybody who fits the criteria of being a ‘worker’ must be paid at least the minimum wage (£6.08 for over 21s) for their labour. (The employer must pay this – and the intern cannot waive their right to pay, even if they say they are happy to work for free). Several months ago, HM Revenue and Customs vowed to crack down on the fashion houses who use unpaid labour – yet this advert is a clear sign that some of the big labels still haven’t got the message. We will let you know when Balenciaga replies…

See the ad for yourself:

Does this sound like a proper job to you? Are you disgusted that a high-end fashion label has advertised for an unpaid ‘intern sales assistant’? Do they have a responsibility to pay their shop staff a wage for their labour?

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