Interns and Assistants

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As a business owner in a fashion business, Interns and Assistants are a staple of the biz. If you are lucky the road in your business with interns and assistants is smooth sailing. But it appears to me that nine times out of ten that is not the case. I have heard horror stories near and far from assistants and interns who have really messed up.  I thought it might be fun to share some of those horror stories with you.

Click Here to find out some interesting Intern stories for a good laugh.

I am noticing that so far the interns and assistant I have had really do not understand the fashion world. They do not understand because they are just people who want some extra money or someone who is a stay at home mom or a dad or grandpas who just wants to fill time.  They evidently have never seen The Devil Wears Prada or seen reality TV Shows like The Hills or others of this kind. The fashion business is brutal. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence and many long , hard hours. Interns and assistant are supposed to be there to make the job easier for a designer.

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Here is another little story segment about what happens with unpaid Interns in the real fashion world

As one designer pointed out to British Elle, younger, less established designers are in a particularly difficult position because they may not even be able to pay themselves, let alone their interns. And on the other side of it, major designers have tons of people dying to give them free labor just to have the name on their resumés.

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My first intern issues was earlier this year. After changing my business around from showcasing ALL fashions to just fashions about my niche and desire I had issue number one. The intern no longer wanted to be a part of the business I was changing it into and fell off within one day stating the dream and vision of the company I was going in was not something she felt comfortable with.  I learned head first and head on that not everyone is going to see your vision and on top of that they may not be willing to wait to see it yoru way and see what you see further down the line.  Not only was this frustrating to me because I had professional guidance from a Business Coah to go in the new direction but with the coach’s inspiration I was able to see a vision that the intern could not see.

The second issue with an intern was regarding payment of work provided. She felt that the amount I was paying was not worth the amount of work I was requesting. However, I did tell her to do things in her spare time and I also told her that she needed to be open and honest with me about the workload.

In my business there has been such a big controversy from my interns and assistants about paid versus unpaid interns, how much I pay them or how little. What I realized in all this is that is this may always be the case for one thing. Second, I need to align myself with those who are familiar with this in the fashion industry and we actually desire to be a part of a growing and young business such as mine.  To add to more stories for you to read check out this story on the Fashionista website all about this issue.

The good news: According to our better-educated colleagues at Above the Law, interns who are unpaid but receive college credit are fine. As are interns who are being mentored and educated by their superiors

This Intern horror story talks of a business that it appears never paid anyone anything. Read on

“I was hired as an intern to work in the fashion closet at an independent fashion/entertainment magazine. This was when the recession had just hit and all magazines were cutting their budgets. On my first day working the fashion closet I was introduced to my boss who ran the complete fashion closet, working weekends and often into the night. Except…he was an unpaid intern. He had been there for six months, and would even miss school to work in the closet. In addition to this guy, there were, I’d say, around 20 interns whose sole job it was was to organize the closet and act as messenger service for the magazine and they usually worked until 9am to 9pm every day. Again, unpaid. We found out later that the magazine had to cut their messenger service budget and instead decided to hire a huge roster of interns. My whole time there, I think I interacted with about one person who was actually an employee. After I quit, I saw job listings that they were hiring interns to work their mailroom as well and selling it as a ‘way to learn about the magazine business.’ I swear they probably hired interns to work as janitors as well.”

I may not always pay my interns the best but at least I TRY to pay them. I feel as adults it is their responsibility to alert me if they feel they need more pay or less responsibility. Most of my interns work from home, so often I don’t see how many hours a day they put into doing things. Perhaps this is another Lessons Learned for me that either I need to hire a studio intern to work where I can see them or at least ask them to fill out time cards to let me know where they are putting their work hours.

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Which brings me back to my second intern. She was angry and frustrated at me stating no one could live up to my expectations and said that I demanded way too much. She stated that I was a hard ass and rude and I did not know how to ask for the assistance I needed and that I required far more than the job could have paid. Funny enough, she knew going into this it was a low paying job. It was not meant to be the bread and butter of her life. she wanted to help and I needed the help. I didn’t properly interview her, taking others word as a reference and sadly learned the hard way that after her not to hire anyone who did not understand fashion, never hire anyone without an in person interview or at least Skype or video interview at least and never never hire a teacher because they will always want to teach you and not be open to learning themselves. Lastly, had to she told me as the workload got harder and harder that she was unable to do as much as I was asking I would have lessened the load. Interns and Assistants I have figured out, expect you to a be  mind reader. They think because you own the business and are the designer that you should just know it all. Well, I am here to say to al and any interns or assistants who might be reading this, “We don’t!” We don’t know it all. We know what we know. We cannot read minds and as adults we , the owners, expect you to be forthright in communicating with us.  I also do feel, and I will say however, that all was well and fine with this woman until her mother got involved into the mix. Her mother had a business and sewed more than the intern so once the mother had a toe dipped in she decided to dip her nose in all the way and up my arse. I promptly removed her mother out there and informed her that if she was going to sub contract for me under her daughter she had to sign non disclosures and non competes. Well, of course that set her mother off so they both bailed and sent me nasty emails.

Their cousin wrote maybe four blogs for me and never signed any documents and then demanded to be paid. Payment was said over and over that it was conditional upon receiving this information. The mother of the daughter tried to come after me and berate me some more of which I informed her that the persons in question needed to be big boys and girls and contact me directly. Funny how I never heard from them again.

Since these two I tried my hand at having a couple of male friends help me which to my dismay one did not end so well an the other, well, let’s just say I also need to start having “Can you tie a ribbon” test because what I needed help on was bows and fascinators and small things and a man with larger hands just isn’t capable of those things. It was great he wanted to help, but if you can’t do the job at hand (literally) then it doesn’t really help me. The other male was a friend and though he was a tad overbearing at times , meaning always telling me how I should do something, I liked his personality. But what I learned actually had nothing to do with him but had to do with those around him. There is real knowledge in the friends you keep. I can’t always know these things up front, but in this case I did know how dramatic and crazy his friends were and hired him anyway. Mostly because as I said, he was a friend and I liked him. But he took info and drama home with him and sadly brought their words and drama back to the workplace. I just couldn’t do it anymore so I had to let him go. Luckily I think we are still friends but one never knows when there is drama invovled.

My last two assistant have been the most unique to me.

My assistant seamstress is a former college student. Again I didn’t really research  what a Certificate Design student means.Holding a degree in Fashion and having a Certificate are two very different things. As a business owner it is essential to know the difference and for me this had been a hard lesson.

Earning a Certificate of Fashion enables you to pursue a rewarding career in the thriving world of fashion. 

A Fashion Design Degree is about more than sketches and runway shows. It’s a field that requires an in-depth understanding of essential details such as apparel conceptualization, illustration, construction and marketing. Successful fashion design professionals must also develop skills in predicting consumer behavior and trend forecasting

Though on the up side of that she has been a great help in both of my fashion shows. She has helped me sew things when I didn’t have the time. she taught me some things from school courses I didn’t know (because I never went to Fashion School there are things I am still learning how to do). She has been a great help and I do truly feel though I would not have been able to get through the fashions shows and many other things with out her.

I also have a head seamstress who I call my assistant but really at present she is the head seamstress. I know without a shadow of a doubt I could not have moved this business as far as it has. He mad sewing skills have helped unveil my line of Couture Aprons that look like dresses.  She is understanding and patient and doesn’t mind that I have high expectations and high demands. She helped me with things for the fashion show and fully takes care of me as far as sewing work goes, but I would really like to get her more involved into other day to day things of the business. Many people, even her I think, don’t really understand how much goes into running a business. Plus I am honestly just not sure yet how much of the decision making I want to let go yet either.

I have often told my interns as they are storming out the door that they should be glad that my name is not Kelly Cutrone. Don’t get me wrong. I love Kelly. I adore her and admire her in fact which I am sure if she heard that she would probably care less either way. That is the charm of her that I love. Kelly is know for her bitter, hardcore essence and hard nature about her. She released her memoir, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, and published a second book, Normal Gets You Nowhere. She is known to be hard, very hard on Interns and Assistants and believe me, I have nothing on Kelly Cutrone!

I aspire to be as thick skinned and rough and rugged as her with a career in fashion and if I am ever compared to her I will greatly say “Thank you. that is a HUGE compliment!”

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