The companies that churn through young workers

By Alex Christian

After working for less than a year in fashion retail, Sarah secured an e-commerce assistant role in the head office of a global luxury brand. In both jobs, she was surrounded by like-minded twenty-somethings, all of whom wanted to succeed in the fashion world. “It’s like any creative industry: young people always see it as cool to work in,” she says. “And the perks are great, even in sales: we’d get heavily discounted items all the time.”

However, Sarah adds that there was always a high office turnover – particularly among low-level staff. “Young employees would quit all the time: an 18-year-old intern only lasted a week after realising her job was essentially unpaid manual labour, and long hours just carrying and packing away clothing returned from shoots. The interns who lasted months would eventually quit from burnout. There was just a steady churn of young, impressionable workers and nothing was ever done about it – it just became a test of who had the thickest skin.”

While Sarah lasted in her job for two years, the excitement of working in fashion soon gave way to frustration and tedium: “Admin tasks with long hours and bad pay.” Without management offering her a clear career trajectory or a sense of progress, she says her job eventually ground her down – she quit. “Both management and employees knew it was a competitive workplace to be at – that your job would always be in high demand. If you left, you’d be replaced with another young worker excited to be there.” ..