In March 2008 I really wanted some work experience somewhere creative. Everybody I knew and admired told me that they got the creative jobs they are in now through work experience. I really wanted to leave Heathrow and have the creative job I deserved after years of training. I applied for a few places but for months NOTHING came back! Eventually I applied for a placement in the 'TOPSHOP PRINT STUDIO' - they asked to see my portfolio. Just to get a reply from somewhere was exiting enough.
I genuinely thought Topshop were interested in my work. I sent some files with an email, I also think I come across much better in person so I asked if they would prefer for me to come to the studio and show them my work. The next day i got a reply ...' you're really talented, but we're now full up for the year. sorry' Why ask for my portfolio then? I thought
I was gutted and I didn't really understand what the point of contacting me was. I decided that I would ask for feedback and since im 'so talented' to be put on the next years list.
I'm still waiting for the reply to that email. .
Wounded, I decided to aim for stuff that I never thought I'd get. Urban outfitters housewares buyer internship, Alexander McQueen menswear designer internship, Elle decoration stylist internship etc etc. The theory behind this creative suicide was 'if i can come with my first rejection, i can cope with many more'... speculate to accumulate.
Alexander McQueen's studio ACTUALLY replied!!
I sent 5 pieces of work in an email and they asked me for an interview.
The interview went really well and they offered me a two and a half month internship. wowzers. I work full time so I made a million and one called to my head office and they allowed me to use up holiday and swap shift with myself. meaning I would work at McQueens Mon-Fri and weekends at Heathrow.
this is the beginning of the end! finally some kind of recognition.
So i started the next week. i was told the internship was Mon-Fri 10-18.30 (wicked!). Within 15 Mins of arriving I was set to work.
"draw this, like this, on this, copying this, in this style, using this"
"hhhmmmmm... do it much bigger"
"hmmm, we might be able to use this bit... do some more"
3 hours later another intern comes in and asked if i want to go for lunch.
so i go to lunch and 15 mins later I'm back in the studio because the other interns 'don't want to take the piss, they (the designer and his two assistants) seem really pissed off today'
So i carry on 'ripping off' someone Else's work. "do it more like this" they kept saying.
an hour later the assistant designer came in and said
"right can you just clear this away, we need you to do something else"
" er.. okay"
"right i want you to create a honeycomb style pattern on this tshirt, using paint. make it look like the tshirt has been ripped to reveal this pattern. do it all over the shirt...oh and do it in blue"
"ummmm, ookaaayy, where are the paints and stuff"
"oh... they're in a box on the floor in the other room"
I went into the other room and underneath a pile of rubbish and junk was a tatty, broken box, full of old Tesco bags with dried up paint brushes stuck to the inside with a few opened and rusty tubes of acrylic paint.
The resources were so bad i thought it was a joke. It wasn't but i got on with it to make out i was keen and eager to do anything... I was, of course, at Alexander McQueen.
I began to do this crappy pattern on a shitty tshirt. I'm so rubbish at painting too and i thought, the moment she told me to do it, I'm defiantly not skilled enough to do this....but I'll give it a go.
for the next 2 hours i ATTEMPTED this grand task of creating a suggested honeycombed patterned tshirt, underneath a real life tshirt (but it was in fact on top of) in paint. it didn't go well
it got to 18.15 (yes, no other break other than the 15min one) and I'd arranged to meet my boyfriend outside to go for a drink after my first day.... I asked another intern,
'what sort of time do you get off???'
"well last week we stayed until 22.45 and the makers were here until 00.45 last night, but I'm really not sure"
it got to 18.30 and i didn't sense things were coming to an end... I'd text lance from the loo's (you weren't allowed to use your phone in the studio???!!!) and told him what was going on... trying not to cry...
19.30 my painted tshirt was getting worse
20.30 my painted tshirt was getting really bad
21.30 my painted tshirt was awful!!! I was tired, bored and the atmosphere in the studio was so odd, and not at all creative.
"okay" said the designer "I'm going home now, you can go too but can you be in for 9.00 tomorrow???"
"ummm yeah, but also, this painting isn't going well and i will only make it worse, i think it might be an idea to give me something else to do"
i went to the pub and cried my eyes out. it was horrible and i didn't want to go back, i couldn't draw photo-realistic things, i had no creative control over what i was doing, i had to start over and over, the atmosphere was cold and rushed and I was so pissed of at not being asked to stay until 21.30...it was just assumed that i would... how could i keep this up Mon-Fri and work at the weekends too ?????
i went back for the rest of the week.... it was pretty much like the first day everyday... but instead of painting i was
-drawing ripped fabric with a Biro so it looked like a photo-
-finger painting to create a skull smaller than a5 (i.e smaller that my fingers)-
-dying 8m of jersey fabric blue in a bucket with 2 packs of different coloured machine dye without getting it on the white walls -
-dying 8m of jersey fabric orange in a bucket with 2 packs of machine dye without getting it on the white walls -
to name a few activities i got up to, none of which I was allow to interpret in any other way. The atmosphere was very similar to pre-school, but without the kind hearts of teachers. My patience had run out. The other interns kept saying 'This will look SO GOOD on your c.v' but it got to the point where the duties I was asked to perform couldn't be sustained for 2 1/2 months. I was tired, un-motivated and sick of being another idiot who would give up everything to work for McQueen, but ultimately the feeling was not mutual. I realised that there was no prospect of a job at the end of this. the interns FAR out-weighed the paid staff. We were working illegally long hours for NO money. It was fast becoming NOT WORTH IT . but I was driven and wanted to pursue this for a little bit longer.
Alexander McQueen was coming in the following Friday I was told...
I worked at heathrow all weekend and went back to Alexanders the following week. For the first time in my life, my full time job felt like a holiday. I wanted to end my 'internship' but just get to Friday' was my mantra
I was so sick of hearing
"hhhmmm its not really working"
"hhmmm, try again"
"do this, with this, on this, using this"
"oh we don't want to piss them off"
"Can you come in for 9 tomorrow?"
I managed to get to Wednesday where there was a fitting for the current collection, Alexander was supposed to come in and choose the collection from the samples us interns had slaved away on alllll day everyday. I thought that we would have more involvement in this, as we made the samples, however, the designer, two assistants and some people from Italy were on the top floor discussing the samples... the interns weren't invited.
All day the interns where in the studio, waiting for them to phone down asking us to get them their lunch, make some pin cushions, general slave labour .
It being a quiet and boring day I thought we where bound to go home at 18.30... but no....
all day I thought that It was a waste of time being here. I thought 'i could be at work right now', 'i could be doing some stuff for my grad cert right now',' i could be asleep right now'
I resented the idea that I was trapped and unable to escape.
I used the relaxed atmosphere (since the designers were upstairs) to talk properly to the other interns. I was shocked to here of their backgrounds.
These people where the top of their year at university. They graduated the previous summer and never had a paid job. They where the best of the best in their field from all over the UK, and some had moved to London especially for the internship.
It was sad to hear that some were forced to sleep on couches to keep their living cost low. most where on benefits to get by. I asked if they'd known anyone to have ever been paid by McQueen, or eventually got a job through the internship? 'no' was the reply. 'but it will look so good on our c.v' and Im sure it would, but there using you. I believe an internship should teach you new skills and introduce you to the working environment in your field. But at McQueens, that environment was full of unpaid workers, with no life experience, that change every 3-6 months. The interns do learn anything, but are told to do stuff without knowing why. They get no experience in the design aspect, or creative side. They just learn a harsh lesson in doing what you told, the long hours one has to put in to being successful and arse kissing.
the best comparison to this hell was Devil Wears Prada, but she got a job at the end of it, and learned how to do something well. At McQueens its a glorified sweatshop that teaches you, if anything, how not to do things.
One girl had been at McQueens for 6 months, I'd only ever seen her at a sewing machine all day, every day. It was such a waste, but 'she'll going to do really well out of this, 6 months at McQueen is amazing'
doing 6 months of McQueen IS amazing. I could do that. I didn't even do a month!
The last straw was at 21.00. I was summoned upstairs and told to clear up their champagne glasses and plates,wash them up and put them away. They were having a bloody party upstairs (because it was the designers birthday) and us 'mugs' just sat downstairs.... waiting...
I was pissed off! I washed the glasses.. and I just laughed at how ridiculous the whole experience was. I actually sat upstairs for 12 hours for absolutely no reason! I don't think they appreciated what I had given up to be here. My sleep, My Graduate certificate, My holiday leave, My weekends. Having McQueen on my C.V was NOT worth it!
I went back upstairs and was told, like a child at school, I could go home.
Thank God...."oh, did Ron tell you.... we want you in for 8.00am tomorrow"
not 'CAN you be in for 8.00?' or 'is it alright to be in at 8.00?' but 'we want you in at 8.00'
I spend an hour and a half getting to and from work. so I would leave at 21.00 get home at 22.30, eat, sleep and have a life for 7.5 hours before I have to get up and get back in the hell hole again. For what? I wasn't learning anything, I wasn't enjoying anything, and the sacrifices far outweighed the benefits- of which I was since bemused as to what they were.
"okay" I answered.... but I was pissed off.
I walked out the door and called Lance, I wanted to leave but didn't have the balls to tell them i was leaving... maybe and email???
I was outside the tube station and lance advised me to go back..."be a grown up and tell them to shove it. you're not going back anyway, they cant kill me for it, and I'll never see them again"
so I turned around and headed back to the studio.
"Its not what i thought it was going to be. I have NO creative control. The most established artist in the world couldn't create what you ask me to create. The hours are not what you said. I am not learning anything and I feel like I'm being used. I have a job and a Masters to do. Give the opportunity to someone who actually wants it...... its not really working"
her reply was