With the many unpaid internship lawsuits that have arisen in the past year, I was recently struck by something designer Haider Ackermann said. After taking courses in fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and working for an array of brands, including Bernhard Willhelm and Patrick Van Ommeslaeghe, Colombian-born, Paris-based Ackermann launched his collection in 2001. In between the time of his study and the time he launched his label, Ackermann interned for John Galliano for five months. Of the internship, Ackermann says: “You know, at the time, I had no money, nowhere to stay, so I was sleeping on the street and going every day to work." He also says: “It was the best study ever."
Since then, Ackermann has gone on to receive industry-wide praise. Described by fashion critic Suzy Menkes as “one of the rare hope-for-the-future designers” and named by Karl Lagerfeld as the designer he would like to succeed him at Chanel, Ackermann was considered one of the front-runners to replace Galliano at Dior, the job that finally went to Raf Simons. In 2012, Ackermann accepted a Fashion Group International Award from Karl Lagerfeld, and it seems his months of an unpaid or very low paying internship paid off. Maybe not right away, but in time.