Endemic Abuse of Fashion Assistants Across The Industry by Amy Odell For The Cut .

Endemic Abuse of Fashion Assistants Across The Industry by Amy Odell For The Cut .

Reading the recent article by Amy Odell for The Cut, it is hard to compute (but clearly rife) to see that fashion is still in the dark ages, when it comes to worker's rights, unionisation and HR.

From the UK's @fashionassistants anonymous Instagram account, which reveals numerous stories of in-work verbal abuse and intimidation, to first hand reports which are extremely worrying, it is clear that fashion needs to clean up its act. Fast.

Here is an extract: "To the average person, The Devil Wears Prada is a farce. But to those who have worked in fashion, the 2006 film can feel like a documentary. When the movie came out 12 years ago, pre–social media, assistants who had experienced emotional abuse were virtually powerless to do anything about it. But today, emboldened by the #MeToo movement that brought down powerful alleged sexual abusers in the industry like Terry Richardson and Mario Testino, they’re finding ways to organize and share their stories — and managers have noticed.

Assistants and former assistants interviewed for this story described working conditions that seem like fashion industry parodies. One former PR assistant said she was required to stand outside in 15-degree weather without a coat for hours to check people into a New York Fashion Week show. Assistants — who earned salaries in the low $40,000 range — were only allowed to wear black coats, and hers was the wrong color. “I couldn’t use the iPad because my fingers were so cold and so numb,” she said.

Another said her boss, furious that a certain shipment didn’t arrive to a designer’s appointment overseas on time, screamed at her and threatened to take the money to overnight the items out of her paycheck (they never did). During Fashion Week, she was expected to work until 3 a.m. and come back to the office at 6 a.m.

An assistant who is called fat on a daily basis by her manager is, understandably, less protected by the law than a sexual-assault victim. Unlike sexual or physical assault, emotional and verbal abuse aren’t illegal. “In the case of an actual assault, there might be some kind of criminal action,” said Susan Scafidi, the director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham. “The likelihood of that, unless you’re seriously injured by a flying stiletto, is small.”

Tamara Cincik, CEO and Founder of Fashion Roundtable said: “I have worked in the fashion industry for most of my adult life. It can be amazing, creative and you can be around the more brilliant and lovely people. However reading this article, by Amy Odell for The Cut: books being thrown at assistants, interns being made to stand outside in the cold with no coat for hours, staff degraded and belittled, it’s just not and never should be acceptable. We have to join the dots and appreciate that however glam, exciting and well-paid the industry can be that doesn’t excuse in work abuse. And never should. That’s why I was happy to Chair the first ever Panel discussion for @fashionassistants and that’s why I am speaking to the film union Bectu; to work on a way to bring workers protections and support into fashion. Watch this space.”

 

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