Private Eye 1281, 4-17 feb 2011
Stella McCartney can’t afford to pay interns who work for her for months at a time – but she can afford to pay a PR man to threaten legal action against those who complain.
As graduate unemployment hits 20%, competition for jobs and even unpaid internships is fiercer than ever.
Nowhere is that feld more keenly than in the fashion world where, it seems,e ven illustrious companies are lapping up free labour even if it means potentially flouting national minimum wage laws. At fashion house Stella McCartney, for example, unpaid interns in the press office outnumber paid employees by more than two to one.
One fed-up intern posted her story on the website of the intership cmpaign group, Interns Anonymous. In the post bluntly entitled “I had a horrible experience working for Stella McCartney”, she described how interns regularly steamed clothes and mailed envelopes and worked until midnight, all unpaid. “One intern had been at Stella for five months and I could see she could never get a real job out of it,” she wrote, adding that she left because the atmosphere “was toxic”.
Zealously safeguarding McCartney’s image, the compnay’s worldwide communications director, Frenchman Stephane Jaspar, immediately contacted the intern, reducing her to tears, and then the website’s administrator. “I was shocked and baffled,” said the administrator. “Jaspar began threatening me, saying ‘I’ll make it very difficult for you with your employers’ and ‘this is a big man’s world’. It was totally bizarre and more like a parody from ‘Allo ‘Allo.”
Jaspar then told the website administrator that the intern had signed a confidentiality agreement and that if the post wasn’t taken down he would be calling in Mc Cartney’s lawyers. The administrator duly obliged. But not content with that, Jaspar began personally contacting everyone on Twitter who had re-tweeted a link to the post. In one email he wrote:”You don’t want to be associated with this messy situation with legal ramifications.” When asked what they should do, Jaspar wrote: “Just remove your re-tweet.”
Clearly the Gucci group, which owns McCartney and made €455m profit in 2009, is not paying Jaspar enough for his dedication to the job.