Occupy Wall Street

New York Fashion Week begins today, bringing with it the news that Occupy Wall Street is back and planning a protest. The instigator: Intern Labor Rights, an OWS spin off. The subject: unpaid interns. Seems magazines and fashion houses are exploiting them and not adhering to labour law. Seems the desire among youngsters to 1) raise their employment chances by getting useful experience in their chosen field; and 2) enter the seemingly glamorous world of fashion means there are more than enough kids willing to work for free.

Numerous tweeters have weighed in on the matter, most negatively, as has The Fashion Law Institute , which pointed out that OWS tried this before – a few lonely souls held a widely derided protest outside the Calvin Klein show last February – without much effect. Will this time around be any different?

Professor Susan Scafidi of Fashion Law said: “hard to tell,” but my guess is: “not much.”

Why? Primarily because I’m not sure Fashion Week is the most effective time for OWS to target the fashion industry. It might appear so at first – it’s when the world’s eyes are on the industry – but let’s think about it some more. 

As far as strange, opaque industries go, modelling is up there with espionage and rocket science: it’s a world built on image, and invested in preserving its mystery. Recently, however, two inmates (intimates?) have started to speak out about the reality, and what’s interesting is they’re not talking about the sex/drugs/eating disorders issues we are used to, but rather employment-law-type infractions: pay inequality, ridiculously long working hours, bad working conditions, and child labour.