It is no surprise to those who know the ins and outs of the fashion industry to hear of its toxic work culture. For those who don’t know much when it comes to fashion, allow me, a third-year fashion design student to be your guide.
While movies such as “The Devil Wears Prada” can make a job in the Fashion Industry look desirable when it comes to the travel experiences and free designer clothing, accessories and makeup, there are other aspects of the film that are just as true to reality that one should focus on. The main aspect here is the treatment of the employees. The near-unrealistic expectations and harsh treatment are just the tip of the iceberg
In a world where equality is pushed so heavily, it begs the question, why are there still such toxic work norms in the fashion industry?
While doing research I found a profile written by Jazmine Foxx. In the excerpt, Foxx relays a toxic experience while interviewing for an internship at a high-end fashion company as she finished her college degree. Foxx says she was “shocked” at what happened at the interview.
She first notes how everybody in the office was dressed in black, which had seemed odd, seeing as strict dress codes, such as limiting the color an employee can wear, seemed to her something that was only imposed on retail workers. Foxx goes on to note how everybody working in the office was “tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, with no diversity in sight.” Foxx then realized after speaking to the human resources representative that she would not be getting the job, simply based on her looks. It did not matter that she had experience or was completely qualified. “I wasn’t fitting into their mold,” Foxx declares.
If discrimination wasn’t enough to convince you of the label “toxic” being placed in the description of this interview, there is more to note. Foxx goes on to talk about how uninterested, and disrespectful the HR representative became as the interview progressed. “She began playing with her cell phone and avoiding eye contact” which Foxx says ultimately led to her decision to end the interview, as she wasn’t being taken seriously as a potential employee. As Foxx also mentions following the story of her interview, the situation is not rare. The fashion industry is known for its cruel recruitment processes. So many corporate workers are subjected to harmful work environments where they are required to put in long hours, without receiving adequate compensation or recognition for their efforts.
Regardless of the obstacles in the fashion industry, there are still large amounts of people who dream of pursuing a career in the industry. Their passion and drive for fashion can be what leads them, but in such a harsh industry you can find yourself asking, is it enough?
Now, as a fashion student myself, I can’t say I have had much experience in the industry, but even as a student, the culture of hard work and long hours for little payoff is rampant. I have lost count of the sleepless nights, trying to get assignments done. It has been detrimental to my mental health, but still, I persist. I’m told by friends and family time and time again that it is not right, and I need to tell someone how much work is being put in. What they don’t realize is fashion students have been told time and time again not to whine about their all-nighters or how they “just worked so hard” on an assignment or project. It makes no difference, because “everyone” has had to work all night, “you’re not special.” I ask myself too many times why I’m here, why I chose fashion, why I want to be put into such a toxic industry. The answer always comes back: because I love fashion, fashion is how I express myself and maybe I can set out to help change the rampant cruelty of the fashion industry.
I urge any fashion student to ask themselves the same questions. Why are you here? Why did you choose fashion? Why throw yourself into such a toxic industry? Perhaps a couple more: Why is putting your mental health in jeopardy the standard? Lastly, what can we do to spark change?
To read the articles mentioned within this profile, or to learn more about this subject, check out the links below: