The Truth About Fashion Internships

First of all, I am in no way mocking internships in fashion. Credit to you if you're currently doing one or you are yet to start one. Internships are great and whilst you should feel lucky you have landed yourself an intern position within a fashion environment; you also need to consider the general etiquette of internships. You know me; I say it how it is so this post is going to be considerably honest.

So, what is an internship?
The opportunity to work for a company as an 'intern' for a fixed period of time; typically offered to students and undergraduates.

Now, let's look at my history of interning. From what I can remember, I have done three internships. 

Social Media and Blogger Outreach Assistant
Utter throwback! Who remembers receiving an email from me regarding blogger reviews for iPhone cases? I landed this internship through an advertisement for interns that Iconemesis posted on social media. I popped them over a short email with a CV and soon found out they wanted to take me on. The position began in the summer so I was on the summer break from Uni. My job role involved creating a database from scratch for the blogger outreach side of things, constantly looking for new bloggers to work with, scanning blogs for coverage, running social media channels and creating graphics for the blog and website. It was initially just a two week placement but it ended up being extended to SIX months! I was over the moon and absolutely loved the placement but it was also not paying me for my time so when I returned to Uni, I found the workload quite a lot to handle.

Fashion PR Assistant
As part of a second year Uni module, I had to carry out a live industry based work placement. Even though I studied photography, I didn't exactly want to "be a photographer", so I managed to bag myself a placement working in a busy fashion PR office which looks after many sports brands including Bench and Puma. The placement was only two weeks long but it was around the time that their press day was happening so it was the perfect time for me to get an insight into the job role. There was a lot of packing samples to magazines, stylists and celebs, returning samples, tiding the showroom, scanning media for coverage and of course, setting up for the two day press day at a huge venue in central London. 

Model Booker
Until then, I still had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I had now graduated and was now sitting at home wondering what on earth I could now do with my life. That was then when a brand new model agency followed me on Twitter. We got talking and I ended up landing myself a role which allowed me to really bring what I am all about to the table. I am a menswear photographer so I was given full control at heading the men's division (it was the dream, trust me) and I found myself attending amazing events with my boss. I quit my part time retail job I had (also my only source of income as this was a paid travel expenses plus commission position only) but soon found it difficult to live on next to nothing money. This was when I left the company and made the rash decision to become a full time blogger (something else I will talk about soon).

There appears to be more bad points than good points to interning so here is my little good vs bad list!

Good points:
- Interning as much as possible makes your CV look amazing - it really does!
- Your confidence will grow - I used to be shy until I did my Fashion PR placement.
- Meet like-minded people - People who are just like you; ahhh-mazing!
- Future opportunities - longer placements, the opportunity to return in the future etc.
- Get a real look in at the job - distinguish whether you would like to do it as a career or not.
- Make contacts - soon enough, you'll have the whole team on LinkedIn...
- Learn new things - things you didn't know before!
- One step closer to your dream job - one step closer than you was before anyway...
- Possible paid position at the end - if you impress, it's possible.

Not so good points:
- Slaving away unpaid - interns are usually unpaid so you are considered 'working for FREE'.
- May end up building a brand from scratch for nothing - especially new companies.
- Sense of being used - as a blogger, I know all about social media engagement so e.g if I get a brand's Twitter following from 150 to 1500 in a week, I am essentially building them for free when most freelance social media engagers would charge.
- Full time job problems - it's hard to commit to full time internships if you work full time already.
- Usually travel expenses only - sometimes not even that is paid!
- Waste of time - I haven't touched Fashion PR since I interned in it. Pointless??
- Easily replaceable - Why would a company employ YOU at the end of it when they can get another intern in after YOU to work for free too?
- YOU are always considered 'the intern' - 'Hello John, this is Ashleigh; my intern'. (My slave, my dog's body, my unpaid working bitch...)

Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that various companies have given me but it's also ME that has gone chasing them. Nothing in life is handed to you on a plate. Whilst I think interning is somewhat essential if you want a job in the fashion industry, there are also a lot of things to consider. The majority of companies will not pay you and it's usually YOU that has to mention about paid travel expenses; and even then you feel like you're taking the piss. However, we shouldn't feel embarrassed to ask. Whilst we are essentially learning the job and getting training, we are also bringing something to the table. It could be customer service skills, blogging experience or social media control so technically we ARE working for free. 

There are so many dodgy internships out there so if you're a naive person, then do your research into the company. On the other hand, there are always fantastic opportunities available which could potentially see you in a paid position at the end of your completed internship. 

Whilst I don't think internships are completely wrong, I don't think they are completely right either. I would consider interning more in the future, but I would always make sure my travel expenses are covered and that the company is reputable.

Have you interned in fashion before? Would love to read your thoughts below!


  1. I found this a really interesting read, I am yet to do any but the social media one is something I really want to get into, so it's great to see someone else view point on it who's been there themselves :) x

    1. Hi Olivia. Glad you found it interesting :) Social media internships are really fun and engaging. Good luck if you do one! :)


  2. You might not have touched fashion PR since you interned there, but it sounds to me like you transferred a lot of knowledge and skills over to the following roles you took on. It's not always about direct experience when you're working, but what you can learn and apply to future roles too.

    1. Thinking about it I really did and I am very grateful for having that two week experience under my belt. I guess every little helps! :)


  3. It's so frustrating applying to jobs that require work experience, it seems all the jobs I'm applying to recently need me to have a shed load of experience already under my belt and the only way to get this experience is through unpaid internships etc. really not sure where to go from here now, but this post was really insightful and although I might have no choice other than to do an internship, it's rais

    1. some really interesting points that I hadn't thought of before. Thank you so much for posting, this was just what I needed! xx}

    2. Tell me about it! And to get the experience you need experience. There's no winning! If you really want whatever job you are after then I do 100% agree you need to start interning and showing the willing to work unpaid. It will do you so good later on. You're very welcome. I'm glad that it's helped some people! :)


  4. Interning is always good! Unfortunately here in the Netherlands the bureaucracy surrounding internships is a bit much... Interning is only an option for students and you have to do a 3 months or 6 months internship!

    Love to have read your experiences with fashion internships!


    1. Hello Joy. Wow, I never knew other countries made it a necessity to intern. That is crazy! I guess there is less competition however if you live outside of a fashion loving city like London?


  5. Great post, and some really interesting points! I remember when I did an internship and you do feel like you’re giving it your all for essentially nothing as there’s not always something guaranteed at the end of it. It’s just annoying as so many jobs require experience these days.

    Charlee XO | CharmedCharlee

    1. Thanks Charlee! :) I do indeed also find that very annoying. I guess internships all pay off well in the end if you apply the experience towards a job :)


  6. I've done a 2 week PR placement unpaid, they asked me to stay on but I got the impression it was to cover holidays rather than because they appreciated my work...!! Did look good on my cv though and helped me realise what I DIDN'T want to do! xx

    Rock On Holly

    1. I know exactly what you mean Holly! I was offered to return during the summer if I wanted a longer placement but this would've been busy so I would've been working harder so decided against it (unless I actually wanted to go into fashion PR). Life is a game of trying new things out I suppose!


  7. I interned as a graphic designer for a whopping eight months in total, it was a lot of hard work, and lots of stress wondering how I was going to pay my rent, especially after making the move alone to a capital city (Edinburgh) but now i'm working in the city full time as a designer and I definitely put it down to all my hard work and experience interning. It's something I would recommend, but not without a financial safety net from your savings. At one point my pay was working out at 50p a day! I wrote about my experiences here - http://www.littlethings.org.uk/2015/02/life-as-intern.html

    Louise x

    1. Hi Louise. I will have a little read of your post tonight but it sounds really interesting! 8 months is a LONG time to work unpaid. However, it sounds like you have used that experience to work as a designer now so well done and all the best! I agree you need some kind of stability financially however I interned when I was still a student so I was lucky! :-)


  8. Great post! Very informative and I love and appreciate your honesty! Your first two internships sound quite similar to mine - however I did two simultaneously over my summer uni break. One also ended up being extended however I couldn't manage it with uni, especially with what I was being paid, so I had to put uni first in the end.

    Overall I'd agree with you, there's a lot you can learn but there's always that replaceable element.

    Sinéad xo ♥ fabuleuse, toujours ♥

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  10. Great post Ashleigh.

    I studied Textile Print Design at Derby University and graduated last year.
    I couldn't agree more with you about feeling like you are taking the mick when you ask for travel expenses. I want to do more internships but would need this help but you become afraid to ask for help.
    I did two internships last year. One in London for two months where I lived and worked 10 mins down the road. Thankfully my parents helped me with accommodation and I was paid £50 per week for those two months so saved quite a bit to go towards my next internship at a Head Office in the East Midlands. They didn't pay anything, no food or travel expenses. I had fives trains and two taxi journeys per day for two weeks and was very expensive. A year on I am still paying for these with an overdraft and it is such a worry and holds you back. I believe fashion AND textile internships need to change to make it easier for people but, at the same time, it is a great learning experience that involves managing your finances, workload and everything else.]

    Best of luck with blogging!! Love how you say it as it is!
    - Lisa
    http://this-haven.blogspot.co.uk & http://lisajaynetextiles1.blogspot.co.uk

  11. So much truth in this post! I've done plenty of (unpaid) internships in my time and lots of my friends/ family fail to understand why I agree to work for free but unfortunately that seems to be the only way to get ahead in the fashion industry. Other industries simply don't operate like that and people would never expect to work unpaid but because it's the norm in fashion, you can't really get away with expecting payment. That said, I've had many amazing experiences throughout voluntary work placements, so I'm still in two minds about interning.



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