Frankly, it’s about time. For years, Graduate Fog has heard rumours about unpaid internships at British fashion house Alexander McQueen – but we couldn’t find any interns willing to lodge an official complaint. It seemed the label – which designed Kate Middleton’s wedding dress – is so powerful and prestigious that none of its young, unpaid staff would ever be prepared to talk about their time there.
Until now. This weekend, news broke that the fashion house is being sued by a former intern who says she worked unpaid at McQueen for four months in 2009-10. With the help of campaign group Intern Aware, Rachel Watson — not her real name but the one her lawyers want used — is claiming up to £6,415 in “lost wages”. And Graduate Fog can exclusively reveal that coverage of Rachel’s case has already sparked several more McQueen interns to come forward to this website, asking how they can claim what they are owed too.
Have you interned unpaid at Alexander McQueen? Drop us a line and we’ll show you how to claim your wages
Watson says she accepted the unpaid internship because she saw “almost no other way into the fashion industry.” And summoning the courage to speak out has not been easy. “I quickly realised I was being exploited,” she said. “How could I confront my employer at the time when they held all the cards to my future in the industry?” Her placement at McQueen included drawing artwork for embroidery, repairing embellished clothing, and dyeing large quantities of fabric.
And Graduate Fog has reason to suspect Rachel may not stand alone for long. Since the news broke, we have already been contacted by several other former interns who say they too worked at the label unpaid. In response to Rachel’s case, a spokesperson at Alexander McQueen said:
“We understand this relates to an intern who was with us four years ago. We had no idea until now that she had any concern about the time she spent at Alexander McQueen. We’ve paid close attention to the debate in this area and we now pay all our interns.”
But this is not the first time Alexander McQueen has been in trouble over allegations of unpaid wages.
Last year, the fashion house was forced publicly to apologise about an unpaid internship, after University of the Arts London student union president Shelly Asquith brought attention to its advert for a “talented knitwear student” to work five days a week for up to 11 months, without a wage. McQueen said the advert was “issued in error and was not in accordance with our HR policy”. Hmm.
And we suspect it may not be the last. If this has been going on for as long as we think it has, there could be hundreds of former interns owed thousands of pounds.
HAVE YOU WORKED UNPAID AT ALEXANDER McQUEEN?
Get in touch and we’ll help you claim the unpaid wages you deserve. All cases will be treated in strictest confidence.