The fashion industry’s illegal unpaid internships

Here’s an ad (chosen at random), typical for the fashion industry these days, that brazenly flouts the federal and state minimum wage laws:

Production Intern

The Cynthia Rowley Production Team is currently looking for interns for Summer 2012. [We are also looking for interns to start IMMEDIATELY as well!!] — Summer 2012 interns would be expected to start at early-mid May to August. [if you can start sooner, that is even better]

Cynthia Rowley has long been a fashion and style authority, with a namesake collection that includes women’s wear, beachwear and wetsuits, men’s wear, eyewear, handbags, shoes, baby, home sewing products, tools, legwear, shapewear, and ‘dress-up’ band-aids.

Cynthia has appeared on “Project Runway” and “America’s Next Top Model,” and her work has been featured in nearly every major magazine and newspaper domestically and internationally. She is also a judge on the new show “24-Hour Catwalk” with Alexa Chung.

The intern would be required to work closely with the production team and would have a range of responsibilities which include running errands from our studio/offices to the garment district in midtown, working on tech packs, specing garments, organizing production pieces that come in, deal with showroom/runway samples and fit samples, source trims & fabrics for production, taking pictures of garments, assisting in fittings etc.

-Interns should have basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Microsoft Office programs (Word & Excel)
-Interns should be familiar and comfortable with specing garments
-Comfortable doing light pattern work & pattern corrections
-Know how to cut patterns and fabric for samples
-Interns need to be energetic and outgoing… they will be interacting with many people within our offices (design team, PR team, etc), cutting rooms, and domestic factories in midtown
-Organized and responsible
-Have good time management

**THIS IS AN UNPAID INTERNSHIP, but it would be a great hands-on experience in the fashion industry and a resume booster! If you need the internship for school credit we would be more than happy fill out any required paper work and/or complete letters of recommendations.

Please send all resumes and cover letters ASAP to: (please do not send cover letters and resumes as attachments… put them in the body of the e-mail)

Plainly, this should be a paid, entry-level position. It requires computer skills and fashion industry knowledge. There’s no pretense of close mentoring or vocational education. The intern will “be required to work.” This is employment, and this is exploitation.

But it’s a “resume booster!” That’ll help pay your rent, your student loans, and the cost of food and transportation.  Not!

According to the brand’s website, its fashions are “sold in better department, specialty, and online stores, as well as approximately sixty Cynthia Rowley retail shops around the world. … Cynthia Rowley’s collections have been featured in nearly every major national and international fashion publication, and she maintains a regular celebrity clientele including: Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Parker Posey, Kristen Wiig, Rebecca Romijn, Anne Hathaway, and Maggie Gyllenhall.”

Cynthia Rowley and most other employers in the fashion industry can afford to pay the minimum wage to their skilled, organized, and responsible employees. The New York Department of Labor should monitor “internship” postings by the fashion industry and begin enforcing New York’s minimum labor standards.