When I left uni, I had to make a decision: do the sensible thing and opt for a well-paid job with a 13 hour day and an abundance of spreadsheets (and the means to afford all the things I lust over on a daily basis…Chanel Jumbo, check…Hermes cuff, check…), or become an impoverished fashion assistant, playing with YSL Tributes and Tom Binns necklaces all the livelong day, without the hope of ever being able to buy said treats. It didn’t take me long to decide – self-induced fashion poverty it was, and I figured, if I hadn’t been put off by sitting on fashion cupboard floors for several months, then I was made of hardy enough stuff.
Of course, it’s not all bad. There are the occasional parties and fun events and the freebies. Oh, the freebies. They certainly make the fact you can’t afford heating a lot more palatable. Previous bounty includes cashmere scarves, an Anya Hindmarch purse, generous gift vouchers, about a million bottles of perfume/lip glosses/hair products/candles/nail polish, a few hundred books, countless cupcakes (free Red Velvet will guarantee you exposure in most of the major magazines…FACT), watches, Kain t-shirts, bags, shoes…need I go on?
Whilst I was interning, I saw more impressive gifting. The Fashion Directors at a fashion bible once received a beautiful tailored coat from a big fashion house and left it on her chair for a week (I would have happily given it a home). Bags would arrive – Chanel, Prada, Loewe – only you’d know they weren’t samples because of the telling handwritten gift tag addressed to the Editor-in-Chief. And it doesn’t matter how senior an editor you are – if there was a sample going free even the big cheeses would go a bit gaga. I remember telling a Junior Fashion Editor that there was an extra pair of the new PVC Les Chiffoniers leggings in the bag of samples – not included on the product list they’d sent through – and without 5 seconds she’d whipped them from my hands. ‘I’ll take care of those.’
Only those editors for whom freebies had lost their lustre many years ago would even consider sharing the love – one blonde bombshell Editor-at-Large gave an intern a Longchamp bag (buttery soft kid leather in navy…). Sadly, the intern herself already had a sizeable collection of designer bags (she once took me to Bond Street in our lunch hour…I didn’t realise it was possible to spend so much money the time it would have taken for us to wolf down our cucumber maki) – I have nightmares of that navy piece of heaven lying neglected in its dustbag, in a corner of her walk-in wardrobe. Shiver.
The freebies certainly haven’t lost their lustre for me quite yet, and I can’t imagine selling any of my press gifts on eBay, but one can see why it happens. Fashion assistants are rarely paid a decent wage – at one broadsheet newspaper which shall go unnamed, the fashion assistants are paid £100 a week (legal only because on paper they’re ‘fashion interns’), and so you can imagine the dilemma one might have if a Wang Coco winged its way into your lap. The Alexander Wang It Bag vs. Rent…
Several beauty editor friends sell their perfume samples, but only the brave auction off their It Bags. When I was interning at one of the big names, there was a rather stern sign tacked above the photocopier announcing that anyone who dared sell their gifts would be reprimanded, signed Ed-in-Chief. What was most curious was the positioning of the poster – after all, everyone knows that no editor worthy of profit-making, ebayable press gifts would dare step near the photocopier….