The Power of Instagram: How @fashionassistants Gives Voice to Fashion Workers Fighting Abuse

Social media is a weapon – and it can be a very powerful one. For a long time now, brands, freelance workers, bloggers and companies have used it to promote their work, build their image, reach new consumers and become more impactful as a whole. And when it comes to the fashion industry, using apps such as Instagram just makes sense: what better place for an industry based on imagery than one of the most visual social networks there is?

But earlier this year, people realized that social media could also be used as a platform where they could talk and actually be heard. With the #MeToo movement, women and men around the world started denouncing episodes of abuse, and no industry (from cinema to music, politics and even fashion) was spared from scandal. For the first time, abusers where the ones who were afraid.

One could think that these new voices would stick to denouncing sexual harassment and sexism, but the interesting thing is that, especially in the fashion industry, insiders used their power to tackle other equally important issues. A particular fashion Instagram account gained a lot of attention after openly reporting one of the biggest problems in our industry: general abuse on workers, but in particular interns and assistants. Starting as a funny memes account, @fashionassistants took an unexpected turn when they started sharing terrible stories about abusive bosses which were sent to them via DM by anonymous interns and employees. Between dark humor memes about the struggles of being a fashion assistant, we can find testimonies of bosses screaming for minor inconveniences, throwing objects at their employees in front of clients and other despicable episodes. These stories did not go unnoticed, and in a few months, the account had gained more than 19k followers, many of them being industry insiders. The anonymous account’s administrator answered our questions about this unexpected success.

How did you start posting stories of abusing behaviors in the fashion industry?

A friend suggested I follow the lead of the model Cameron Russell and post confessions, so I put a shout out asking if anyone would care to share. People were reluctant at first but I think they then found courage to pen their sad experiences down and it was a relief for some.

Did you expect so much success for your account?

No, never. A few thousand followers and I would have been over the moon! The traffic really came from when the anonymous confessions started being posted.

Have you heard of some abusers who realized what they did thanks to your account ?

Not individuals as such. I’ve been told that some people have started taking a little more care with their staff and I have had to remove a post before, after apparently some staff in an office recognized the story and started gossiping. An editor has contacted me directly once acknowledging a story was about them. I hope it has caused people to look at their actions and interactions with staff and reflect.

Let’s hope that more testimonies will come and shed some light on abusing behavior in the fashion industry – open discussion about these issues will hopefully lead to some tangible changes. It is indeed essential that assistants and fashion workers in general know good work conditions, so they can continue to build and be a part of an industry we all hold dear to our hearts.

Words by Claire Roussel (instagram and linkedin).