Like the entertainment industry, the reality of working in the fashion industry is not always glamorous. Only a small percentage of actors working in the ‘glamorous’ Hollywood film industry earn a living wage. The same is true of fashion models.
Pay inequity is high. Pay per show can range from $0 to $25,000+. A well-known supermodel once quipped that she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.
A Fashion Week Miscellany an article in the The New York Times by Ben Schott stated, “Top models can earn between $100,000 and $200,000 during a Fashion Week and between $400,000 and $800,000 in a season.” The high salaries and publicity given to the very few top models, clouds the reality of the working conditions for the majority of models. Models are independent contractors and many are unable to afford health care. The Model Alliance website lists systemic disregard of basic workforce rules such as lack of overtime pay, meal breaks, and sexual abuse. Young hopefuls are required to be slim enough to fit into the sample sizes of various designers and to walk in 6-inch stilettos. Connie Fleming, a walking expert for Trump Model Management commented on the towering heels in a WWD article by Taylor Harris, “you can’t wear these for long because your toes go numb. They hurt but they really allow you to get to know the balls of your feet, which is everything.”
Models are referred to as girls, not women. They are not perceived as vibrant, intelligent young women with potential. They are simply walking clothes hangers, whose numbers exceed the demand. In the same article, Michelle Lee, a casting director for the KCD Agency, described what she refers to as ‘the weeding-out process’. The process of “trying to find the unrealized needles in the oversaturated haystack that is New York’s modeling market. Those new faces that make the grade.”
Unfortunately, the reality is often this season’s fabulous new face is next season’s disposable employee.