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Fashion Assistants Explain Why Their Jobs Are Really, Truly Terrible

Photo: Driely S.

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Vice France interviewed three anonymous fashion assistants and asked them to explain just how awful their job really is, in detail. Each assistant described the bad parts of being an entry level stylist or design team staffer — working constantly, getting no respect, tons of pressure — and then basically said they accept this because that's just how it goes in the fashion industry.

"Despite the constant psychological and physical torture they are subjected to, the amount of respect they have for their guru generally has no limits," Nilufar Khalessi writes. Here are some of the fashion assistants' most memorable quotes from the Vice interviews:

Sexting as part of the job description. "This job is an addictive nightmare. My relationship with my boss can largely be likened to Stockholm syndrome. I just can't say no to anything they ask, no matter how absurd the demand is. Another stylist I used to work for when I started got me to reply to her boyfriend's sexts."

Making $112 a month. "When I was 20, I started to work with some relatively known stylists for French and British magazines. I was only paid 100 euros [about $112] per month, so I decided to try and get a job at a couture house to make a better living."

If you get paid at all, that is. "I started working as a fashion assistant when I was about 20. I mostly worked for free. That is how it is in fashion—nobody gets paid at the beginning. I always knew that it would be difficult, but I was motivated and determined to succeed. My job is assisting a famous stylist, helping them choose each season's trends and create stories and looks for magazine editorials."

Your boss might refuse to speak to you. "It's a dog's job. The first time the famous stylist I currently assist saw me, she didn't talk to me."

The hours are nonstop. "Of course, there are no working hours. During the shows, I get to work by 7am and never leave before 11pm — sometimes it's way after 2am. I never complain: Secretly, the whole ordeal gives me a little pleasure."

You're totally replaceable. "I almost cried when a PR could not get me a specific dress from a great couture house out of our selection. If you fail, you're fired. What you can never forget is that you have a job everyone wants, so you are totally replaceable."

You can't overstep your role. "We have a very particular relationship. She often asks for my advice but at the same time I can never overstep my place as her assistant. I've noticed that the people who have power in the world of fashion, those who are respected and admired, are often like children. They always need to be comforted, they have whims and they can not stay alone for long."

But all the fashion assistants interviewed would never quit their jobs. "I accept all this because my goal is to be a star stylist, just like them," one said. "It could be worse," an assistant to a stylist said. "When you work for a magazine, you're stuck between your evil fashion editor boss and the rest of the manipulative, jealous assistants who only dream about one thing: you failing. At least where I am, I am on my own.