The Insider

A unique insider perspective on the inner working of the Fashion Industry and how it effects Interns and employers.

The Intern & You

May 16, 2020


Fashion Intern has created an employment guide to provide a clear structure on what the law states. Whilst this is a guideline only, the consequences, however, are clear and employers should note that there are no circumstances in which an individual who is contributing to the commercial aspects of your business should do so without being paid at least the National Minimum wage.

Nature of Relationship is key:

By law, an individual’s employment status is determined by the nature of the relationship given to that individual by an organisation. An interns rights depend on their employability status and there is a grey area surrounding whether someone is regarded as a worker, volunteer, undertaking work experience or work shadowing. It is imperative that an organisation is clear as to how they are engaging their staff. An individual’s employment status determines their rights and their employers’ responsibilities in law.

Definition of a worker 

The definition of a worker means they have an arrangement to do work, their reward is for money or the promise of future work, they have set hours and have to attend even if they don’t want to and they are relied upon by an employer who has work for them to do as long as the arrangement lasts. If an individual is going to be required to work specific hours, on certain days and to undertake specific tasks, they are deemed as a worker and not volunteer by law. A worker is entitled to getting the national minimum wage.

Definition of a volunteer 

In order for an individual to be considered a volunteer under employment law, the nature of the relationship must be truly voluntary, with minimal obligations on the part of the individual. In general, a volunteer is someone who has an arrangement which does not entitle them to a financial reward for work they perform. They do not have to turn up for work if they don’t want to. Businesses cannot avoid paying NMW where due saying that it doesn’t apply or by drawing up a written agreement that says someone is a volunteer when they are in fact a worker by law.

Definition of an Intern

The term intern has no legal status under minimum wage law. Entitlement to the minimum wage does not depend on what someone is called, the type of work they do, how the work is described (unpaid, expenses), or the profession they are in. What matters is whether the agreement or arrangement they have with you makes them a worker for minimum wage purposes. You should pay an intern if they are graduates studying undertaking internships or whether they are students performing work that is not related to their course, such as help finance their studies or during a gap year. If an organisation needs an intern as part of its essential working requirements and the focus of the relationship is on productivity rather than personal development then they are regarded as a worker.

Definition of a work placement

A work placement refers to a student spending up to a year working in the industry as part of their university course. Work placements not exceeding one year undertaken by students as part of a UK – based higher education can be exempt from the National Minimum Wage. Work experience generally refers to a specified period of time that a person spends with a business, during which they have an opportunity to learn directly about working life and the working environment. If work experience only involves shadowing an employee for a short period and no work is carried out by the individual then they are not eligible for Minimum wage.

Best practice guide

Businesses should foster a professional, hard-working and friendly environment for individuals to thrive in. Under no circumstances should anyone be victimised, harassed and suffer emotional or verbal abuse. Regardless of whether someone is regarded as a volunteer, on work experience or an intern, Fashion Intern recommends paying National Minimum wage after 4 weeks. Put simply, unpaid internships are blocking opportunities for people who cannot simply afford to work for free which in turn limits the industry and the potential of employers. Through widening the access to internships you automatically increase the pool of talent. If you cannot commit to paying those who fall under the student placement wage you should ensure that they are not out of their own pocket from undertaking a placement at your organisation. 

What an internship should look like if you are not paying NMW

1) The training is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school. If a company’s internship programme is structured around a classroom or academic experience, it is more likely to be viewed as an extension of the intern’s educational experience. 

2) The training is for the benefit of the intern. This means that an intern is able to observe the practical application of what the individual learned in school to the workplace and such exposure will enhance the intern’s marketability in the industry.

3) Interns do not displace regular employees but work under close observation. Occasional or incidental admin work is acceptable however as long as such work does not unreasonably replace the educational objective of the intern and effectively displace regular employees. 

4) The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the interns.

Image credit: Unsplash

Covid-19 update with Lord Holmes Richmond MBE

May 16, 2020


Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE has been attempting to increase social mobility by changing the law through a Private Members Bill that aims to limit any unpaid work experience or internship to four weeks. Chris is committed to shining a spotlight on the impact of unpaid internships and is doing all he can to change the current culture across industries where it is common practice for employers to insist on having young people give of their time, efforts and labour for no return. Chris’s commitment to improving social mobility and above all, increasing equality of opportunity, informs much of his work in the lords. 


Covid-19 has had quite a significant impact on the private members’ bill and Chris is still working with organisations to make sure he is still building a coalition across the public and private sector, making more and more people aware of the private members’ bill. Certainly, one casualty of Covid 19 is that all private members legislation has been seized which means everything has been pushed back, where originally the date of the second reading (which is the first major stage of the legislation process) was spring/early summer it is now far more likely to be mid-autumn. However, this means Chris is able to use this time to raise awareness and gain a wider audience and consider other ways to push the agenda. 

In a fragile graduate market, the cohort of final year students will enter a jobs market turned upside down by the pandemic and there are rising concerns about the pressure on graduates to work for free. Tanya de Grunwald, founder of the Good + Fair Employers club believes coronavirus is enabling employers to jump through loopholes and rebadge free work as a civic duty. Tanya states “It always ends up as survival of the fittest in times like this – my hope is that enough big employers have done good work in this area and behave themselves.” Thus, Josie Dobrin, Chief executive of Creative Access, a social enterprise supporting people from under-represented backgrounds into creative jobs, says “I’ve seen people talk about volunteering for roles that are staff jobs. They know that if they are volunteering it will look good on their CV.”

When asked about these concerns, Chris puts it very simply “In terms of the future of unpaid internships, there will certainly be opportunities for businesses to operate in a way to seek to exploit individuals through loopholes. But the reality is when we come back, even more so, the future is going to be about talent. Having the best people you can get, having them motivated in an inclusive, enabling and empowering environment. Whilst yes, there is always the opportunity for exploitation, undoubtedly some small organisations, small and large will take that, that’s not the way to be a successful organisation, to move out of this pandemic whatsoever.” 

Read Chris’s website to find out more about his work on the ban of unpaid internships:

How GFW has changed due to Covid-19?

May 16, 2020


For the class of 2020, graduates have had to quickly adapt to changing times and think of different ways to achieve their goals. We are living through an unprecedented global challenge, meaning sadly the end of year fashion shows like GFW have had to be cancelled and an alternative solution has been set in place. Graduate Fashion Foundation is doing all they can to listen to the class of 2020 and understand their needs. 

With Graduate Fashion Week cancelled in June, the Graduate Fashion Foundation charity has launched a series of new partnerships and support platforms to aid its UK and International class of 2020 fashion enthusiasts. Organisers were determined to ensure that  “the magic of GFW is not lost for the class of 2020” and therefore there will be a series of activities that will allow students’ to still showcase their work. 

Image Credit: Google GFW

The charity is launching a series of initiatives which include a revision of the Graduate Fashion Foundation 2020 Awards, a new webinar series, an autumn portfolio and design Showcases for industry, and a digital portfolio platform partnership with ‘The Dots.’

Hilary Alexander, president of Graduate Fashion Foundation said in a statement: “I share with all universities and the Class of 2020, the disappointment that we are unable to run Graduate Fashion Week this year. But I am thrilled with and excited by the innovative projects and platforms that have been devised to launch the creativity and skills of our graduates for the attention of the fashion world. Difficult times bring difficult challenges.

With students now delivering their final degree projects from the comfort of their own home, the annual Graduate Fashion Foundation awards have had a shakeup with each category being amended to accommodate the change of circumstances. The catwalk awards have each been replaced by a Fashion Illustration, Range plan, Technical drawn and fashion concept award. The top 10 student shortlists for each award will be announced on June 10, with winners being announced in the Autumn.

Graduate Fashion Foundation is also offering guidance and advice in a series of webinar talks from industry experts across multiple disciplines.

Furthermore, the class of 2020 will still get the unique opportunity of showcasing their portfolio to potential recruiters in an event planned for Autumn. The foundation has teamed up with the professional network The dots to enable collection portfolios digitally.

None of us would have ever predicted finishing our university degrees within the four walls of our home and celebrating graduation with our friends and family but in these circumstances, we are all having to find new ways of being innovative and creative. Every cloud has a silver lining and we are given a gift of time, taking away all the background noise and allowing us to tune into our talents and hone in on where we want our degrees to lead us. 

Image credit: Google GFW

Summary of McKinsey & Company’s Covid-19 Report

May 16, 2020


McKinsey & Company have released a Coronavirus update on ‘The State Of Fashion 2020’ and Fashion Intern has summarised the key points to help make sense of the current issues the industry faces and what the future holds.

Consumer priorities have shifted

Fashion’s outlook has become dramatically and suddenly bleaker and is now an industry on red alert. The sudden freeze on consumer spending is disrupting the supply-side crisis. With lockdown forcing people to stay at home and stores to close, consumer instinct is to prioritise necessary goods such as food and household items over clothing and personal items which has consequently depleted cash reserves. If stores remain closed for a further two months then approximately around 80% of fashion companies in Europe and North America will be in financial distress and for the workers in fashion manufacturing hubs such as Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Honduras and Ethiopia extended periods of unemployment increases the risk of hunger and disease.

There will be a continued ‘lull’ in spending

Undoubtedly fashion is to face a recessionary market once the dust has settled and life returns back to some normalcy. McKinsey expects “a period of recovery to be characterised by a continued lull in spending and a decrease in demand across channels.”

Discounts are the way forward

For brands to succeed, a discount mindset is imperative to drive in “cash-strapped consumers back to the store.” Brands will need to tailor future discounting strategies by aligning promotions and reinforcing value to make buying worthwhile for consumers to shop at full price. It is said in “Europe and the US, more than 65% of consumers expect to decrease their spending on apparel.”

It will all be about ‘investment pieces’

When looking at consumer behaviour after the 2008 financial crisis, it looks as though the luxury sector will have a good chance as consumers are expected to return more quickly to paying full price for quality, timeless goods. Many consumers will be looking for so-called “investment” pieces- minimalist, last forever items, that feel more responsible given the state of the world.

Digital is an urgent priority

Everything has turned to online and this has elevated digital as an urgent priority to reach the mass market. Consumers now expect to spend more online in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. Therefore brands should take the opportunity to become not just more digitally adept, but to become digital frontrunners. 

Sustainability credentials will gain consumers trust

The coronavirus provides the opportunity to reassess the values by which we measure our actions. “Consumers will develop a growing antipathy toward waste-producing business models and heightened expectations for purpose-driven, sustainable action”

China will lead the pack

Now that China has passed the peak of its outbreak, western countries now have a playbook to follow. 

Read the full report here:

The Girls Network

June 16, 2020

Fashion Intern interviewed Stephanie Archer, a mentor working for The Girls Network a charity that aims to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with a mentor and a network of professional female role models. The Girls Network believes that no girls should have their futures limited by their gender, background or parental income. All girls should be supported to realise their ambitions, to discover their self-worth, and to develop their capacity to shape their world and their future. In the climate we currently find ourselves in, now more than ever, there is a need for a network helping young women harness their potential and feel supported throughout their career journey. 

Image credit:

Stephanie, could you just talk through the meaning behind The Girls Network & its ultimate aim?

The Girls Network is a charity that helps underprivileged girls by matching them to mentors, like myself who can help with their confidence and steps towards their future career. The idea was really born from two teachers, who noticed that girls were a lot less likely to put their hand up in class and contribute. They found that the network we all have is very much linked to factors such as how much financial income your family has or whether any of your family have been to university before, ultimately influencing how confident you feel towards your future. For example, if everyone in your family has a certain type of job and hasn’t gone to university, there are certain jobs you might not feel you aren’t allowed to have or even can have. 

I know myself, one of the reasons I wanted to volunteer for The Girls Network was because I knew from a young age I wanted to be a journalist, but we didn’t have a lot of money growing up and I was the first out of my family to go to University. If you do come from a background where there isn’t a lot of money, things like wanting to go and do a master’s feel a little harder, and unpaid internships can feel impossible. I was very much focussed while I was at University on how I could gain as much experience as possible so once I graduated I didn’t have to do a year of unpaid work. I remember once I finished my undergraduate, thinking I didn’t have enough experience to go out there into the industry, so I wanted to do an MA in magazine journalism. I did loads of research and I remember going to my parents and being like “I want to do an MA” and they were quite upset because they couldn’t pay the tuition fees but I reassured them it was fine and I had a plan. I laid out 4 pieces of paper, explaining exactly where I was going to get the money. I did it all myself through researching and that’s something mentors from The Girls Network can do, understanding sometimes it’s a bit harder but still able do. I had come from that place where options are a bit more challenging but I was very determined and driven and had a lot of support. I went out of my way to meet people in the industry and see what advice they had to offer. So really your network is so important and this is what really appeals to me about The Girls Network, as they aim to show girls what network they have at their disposal and how they can tap into it but also expand it. 

They aim to show girls what network they have at their disposal & how they can tap into it but also expand it. 

Stephanie Archer

How did you get involved with the charity and what is your main role?

Initially, I knew I wanted to give back and do some volunteering. I started looking up volunteering in my area and a mentoring job for The Girls Network came up, for which I explored a bit more about what they did and their goals in trying to help girls which really resonated with me. I think especially in connecting with young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, I felt like my own story could help as I have managed to navigate through these real challenges. Mentoring also reiterates to yourself how far you have come and it feels really good being able to pass on that knowledge to someone else and see their confidence grow. A lot of our conversations are about opening up girls’ minds to what they could do beyond what they know. 

I have been mentoring for about 7 months now and we look at what the mentee is interested in and what subjects they might enjoy and from there looking at what kind of job they would like to have in the future. Especially at the moment, this kind of relationship is so important because if your mentee is still in school, it’s about helping them manage school work now they are at home and not seeing their friends. Also talking through how they can keep on track with their goals despite the fact it feels like the world is on pause and actually using that as an opportunity to spend time thinking about and working towards what it is they want to do. For example, if a mentee wants to be a fashion buyer, we would talk about ways in which they can showcase their skills such as looking at outfits on Pinterest, equally a stylist could be doing a shoot with their friends using each other clothes and it’s that kind of brainstorming between mentor and mentee that help these girls work towards a goal. There is definitely an aspect of emotional support that comes as a result of the practical kind of relationship and working towards goals and confidence is such a huge thing and actually all of these practical steps, from what they are reading to the videos they are watching whether it’s an inspiring Ted Talk or helping to manage their time, we really do help with their emotional wellbeing.

Does The Girls Network offer any financial support to their mentees?  

The Girls’ Network doesn’t directly offer financial support to mentees, however our network is there to support girls find their way in the workplace, find paid work experience opportunities, and become financially savvy. Mentors are encouraged to engage in conversations about financial stability, remuneration that comes with different careers, and what it looks like, say, to make a living as a freelancer. While mentors cannot support their mentees financially for safeguarding reasons, we never want our girls to miss out on any enriching opportunities due to funds, so as much as we can we try to support with this, for example by utilising the network to access free tickets to theatre shows or exhibitions. 

What is the most common barrier young girls face? With the current #blacklivesmatter movement shaping 2020 & raising a lot of discussions, has this affected your line of work?

Confidence, I think is the biggest barrier and that transcends every kind of background and race. Black girls, in particular, are facing a bigger barrier as they are not only navigating what kind of career they want and the steps to get there, but also having to navigate their way around all of these race issues. I think confidence is a huge thing every girl needs help with. Whether it’s understanding your own worth and your own strengths and what you are good at but also just opening your mind up to all the opportunities that are out there. I think a lot of us have very limiting beliefs that we sometimes aren’t even aware of. So thoughts like “I probably can’t be in a managerial position because none of my family members have reached that point before” can be quite limiting or sometimes they are really self-conscious because everyone in the room is white so they feel they don’t deserve to be there. I think a lot of the time, it’s opening that mindset and thinking “you absolutely have a right to be here, you deserve to be here and you can be successful and there are no limits to that success.” I think a lot of the time we set our own limits subconsciously based on all kinds of factors, our race, background, etc. 

I think a lot of us have very limiting beliefs that we sometimes aren’t even aware of.

Stephanie Archer

Can women have it all, the dream job, the family, the beautiful home? Or is it still a case of juggling & sacrificing a career and a family? Due to Covid-19, does this ‘return’ to home mean the burden of home-schooling & childcare falls on women?

I think there is a lot of work that still needs to be done to facilitate women’s success in particular as they approach motherhood. There is very much a feeling amongst women that they have to make a choice between having a career and having a baby and a lot of really successful women that I know who are mothers (I’m pregnant myself so I have all of this to come) have had to make really hard decisions in order to try and ‘have it all’ and I think the key lessons that I have learned from my own network of amazing, successful and inspiring women is that ‘having it all’ is a bit of a myth and once you understand that, it frees you to make decisions ideally without guilt. I know a founder of a really successful business in Brighton, who didn’t take much of maternity leave because she didn’t want to leave her business unattended so she had to try and juggle time with her baby whilst also managing her business for at least the first year and she didn’t feel like she was doing either perfectly or even very well but she did it and is doing amazing now. There is no perfect solution and it’s about finding the right balance for you. There is a lot more that society, the government, and companies can do to facilitate women who want to work but equally spend time with their kids. Having more child care support and pop up crèches in offices is crucial. More companies need to be open to flexibility with women working at home and open to hybrid working where women are able to manipulate their hours around the time of day. That would really help a lot of women to stay at work so they don’t have to choose. 

‘Having it all’ is a bit of a myth and once you understand that, it frees you to make decisions ideally without guilt.

Stephanie Archer

How does The Girls Network select the right people?

I have gone through interviews and training so that I understand the role of a mentor and safeguarding. We have a ‘matching day’ which is a bit like speed dating, you move around and get chatting to the girls and at the end, you are matched. From that day on you, both are working together throughout a whole year. So you build up a real relationship and rapport and in the end you have a ‘graduation ceremony’ where we all come together and celebrate the goals that have been achieved. It’s quite a lovely celebratory day which is really nice and such a lovely thing to do. I do think that it’s important to help younger women navigate first job dilemmas and send the elevator down, helping other girls navigate the route to success. 

If you could give any advice to a younger you, on stepping out into the big wide world of work what would it be? 

I think I would say not to worry about what people think as much. For a lot of women, it is so natural for us to feel like we need to censor ourselves or our thoughts and opinions as we don’t want to come across as too assertive or bossy. We have been told for such a long time that women are very soft, lovely, emotional, and caring and it’s okay for men to be really blunt and efficient with how they direct people. I think my main learning has been to be more confident in my own voice. It’s learning to say what you feel in a direct and confident way without mitigating anything of what you are saying. It’s the only way you can really have influence in a work situation, if you start with a conversation saying “I’m not sure this is really right” you have already lost half the room.

What does the future look like for The Girls’ Network?

In the next 5 years, we see The Girls’ Network growing to support even more girls in more regions across the country, working with girls not just in cities but also in more rural and isolated areas. We see a powerful network of women and girls championing each other, providing a platform for girls’ voices to be heard. We also see us supporting individual organisations to achieve gender equality in their workplace. Finally, we see the charity as an expert voice both in articulating the challenges faced by girls in the UK, but also in sharing the amazing impact of mentoring in helping girls be ambitious for their future and achieve those ambitions.

If you are a woman and you are based and work in one of the regions we work in, you can apply to become a mentor with us. If you can’t commit to attend our training or to a full year of mentoring but would still like to be involved, you can support us in other ways (e.g. by running a workshop, organising an event, providing work experience to some of our girls, fundraising, donating, or connecting us with other potential mentors, partners or schools. These are great options for men who want to support our mission, too!). The Girls’ Network also works with corporate organisations to create bespoke and mutually beneficial partnerships, with the ultimate aim of securing unlimited futures for all young women. If you work for a school and you are based in one of the regions we currently work in, you can approach us to put forward a cohort of your girls to be mentored. You’ll need to contact the relevant network manager in your region to get started. 

Image credit: The Girls Network