Vancouver Fashion Shows reliance on Volunteer Workers

There are at least 3 Fashion Weeks in Vancouver: Eco Fashion Week, Men’s Fashion Week and Vancouver Fashion Week. Each show to some extent relies on volunteers to do many jobs that normally, with a well-funded show, would be paid positions. Some of the volunteers are professionals that would normally be paid for their services and others are fashion students or fashion lovers who want to fill out their resumes with some experience in the Apparel Industry.

A paper  AN EXAMINATION OF VANCOUVER FASHION WEEK by Babic, Vana. (2009) VFW; Big Four; MBA. at Simon Fraser University succinctly identified some of the pitfalls of volunteering for a “fashion week”, as did a blog http://vancouverfashionweak.com/ and pointed out what can happen when volunteers are  exploited for his/her labor while the Principal of the Fashion Week either makes profit from free labor and/or increases his/her profile and private business activities.

In my estimation, there needs to be “Code of Conduct” developed and adopted by the various Fashion Weeks in Vancouver to protect and credit the hard work of the volunteers, who in effect, have made the show successful. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Have a plan with description of work activities, time needed, schedule and rewards that the volunteer can sign up to instead of activities assigned on an ad hoc basis
  2. Make the activities meaningful, useful and provide real training to those that are looking to fill out their resumes
  3. Develop a volunteer section to the Fashion Week website, profiling all volunteers especially a professional and add a profile, a contact and contribution to the show.
  4. At the end of the Fashion Week’s last runway show, have all the volunteers walk the runway and either project on the AV system or say what they did to make the show successful
  5.  Budget and pay at least an honorarium to every volunteer who has completed a specified number of hours to the Fashion Week
  6. In addition to an honorarium, have some tangible rewards for volunteers
  7.  Write a personalized, thank you letter (not an email) to each volunteer that can be used when seeking a job or contract.

In conclusion, Fashion Weeks in Vancouver should think long and hard whether they should put on an event if they do not have the financing to make it viable and/or compensate those who sign on to help out.

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