LESLEY KEATING: You can be paid way beyond financially as an intern

Dame Vivienne Westwood's global empire has come under fire for saving money by hiring unpaid interns. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Dame Vivienne Westwood's global empire has come under fire for saving money by hiring unpaid interns. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire
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I was reading a newspaper on holiday when something made my blood boil. And it wasn’t the warm, sunny weather.

It was an article written by someone who’d taken violent objection to the fact that companies sometimes ‘use’ interns. In this case, she was flagging up cult British designer and activist Vivienne Westwood’s global empire.

I read on as I’m a big Westwood fan and have worked with them on a number of projects in the past. The writer whined about how internship ‘exploited’ young graduates, estimating how much money Vivienne Westwood had saved employing interns.

At approximately £19,000 each, Dame Vivienne is apparently ‘saving’ around £400,000 a year by ‘using’ them.

Oh, do me a favour. What a load of old codswallop! Can you imagine being a hopeful fashion graduate in a massively competitive industry which can be ruthless?

How incredible to be one of the chosen few who actually gets one of these coveted internships? You’d learn from masters of the craft within one of the most iconic brands to ever explode onto the British fashion scene.

Internships have been a rite of passage for countless students for decades. It gives invaluable and relevant experience, inside knowledge and contacts that money literally can’t buy.

The incensed journalist complained that Vivienne’s unpaid workforce slaves away at tasks as diverse as pattern cutting, design studio errands, assisting with photo shoots, merchandising and have even been found behind the scenes at events like London, New York and Paris Fashion Weeks. And all for free.

Oh my, what a hardship! It’s barely hard labour in a Taiwanese sweat shop, is it?

How can being mentored and inspired possibly constitute exploitation? I think she needs a reality check.

Yes, we all need to make money, but hasn’t she heard of speculating to accumulate? Imagine having that name on your CV...

And as for their futures, would you really prefer to employ the self-important graduate who’s happier to work in Tesco just because it pays rather than the one who’s shown initiative by gaining relevant yet unpaid industry experience as an intern?


Last week was Valentine’s Day, one of the biggest dates in retail. You’d have to be living in a cave to not know.

Everything from roses, chocolates and perfume to champagne, diamonds, even city breaks, is advertised for weeks beforehand. Interflora goes into meltdown, post offices brace themselves and restaurants gleefully prepare for that seasonal spike in profit.

So why is there always a gaggle of hapless men congregating around the flower section of the supermarket near closing time on the day? A whiff of desperation in the air, they grab the first cellophaned bunch they spot, then hurtle to the checkout to nab that last, battered box of Thorntons?

Valentine’s Day does happen at the same time every year, you know…


I quite fancy having eyelash extensions so I told a friend who’d had them done once – on impulse before going to visit her son and his family in wales – to see what she’d thought.

Initially pleased with how they’d looked, she’d found them increasingly irritating. It was all she could do to not pick them off on the train to Cardiff, but she restrained herself.

On the first morning, she awoke with them a bit skewiff, resembling two squashed spiders. Not a great look.

Then, on the second day, to her horror, she found most of them on her pillow. Her granddaughter eyed her curiously, asking: ‘Why do eyelashes fall out when you’re old, nan?”

I think I’ll stick with mascara.