So, the models are the latest to feel the squeeze. In the February 3-4 edition of the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition Strike a Pose, Count Your Pennies, models are being hurt by reduced fees and foreign models coming to the US to take "their" work. The chance of becoming successful as a model was already slim-to-none, and Slim just left town it seems. Models from the former Eastern Bloc are being imported, much to the chagrin of the locals. During the 2006 Fall Fashion Week, Calvin Klein had all foreign models, and over half were from the former Soviet Union and environs.
The article cites industry experts that say "it's a client's market" and that NYC fashion houses are no longer paying at all, instead, you (might be, but not always be able to) "work for trade", meaning you get to keep a dress (or two) you've worn. This a far cry from when models were paid $10k (or more) per show. Now, Milanese houses are paying about $650, and ply the girls with "think of the exposure you'll get";, which is something that many a still photographer has heard over and over and over again. The article follows the travails of 18-year-old Bianca Gomez (above, right) in New York, who, among other things, footed her own $4k bill to fly to Milan for auditions. "After four days and no bookings, Ms. Gomez sat outside the Milan office of her agency's partner firm, and cried. 'I hate it here,' she said. 'They don't treat models as humans." This is similar to the treatment that photographers have had to endure for years, by many unapologetic clients who have been known to say, on more than one occasion "If they'll work for peanuts, then that's all we'll pay them." To save money elsewhere, "Ms. Gomez takes the subway, cooks macaroni and hot dogs for dinner". All this while the fashion houses and media conglomerates make their millions, Ms. Gomez works for a trade for next seasons' frocks, and unknowing photographers make their images "for photo credit and exposure."
Worse, the WSJ reports that the coveted cosmetic ad contracts are going to celebrities and not models, for the most part, and the fashion houses fear that big name supermodels will overshadow their lines, so they prefer the unknowns. Further, the model pays all her expenses for auditions overseas, the agency does not participate, yet when they do get jobs, the agency takes their 20% off the gross pay, not the net pay, before the model even gets her portion. Gone are the days when an agency signs a girl and then nurtured their careers, and yet there are no shortages of girls. For Klein's show their casting folks looked at between 700 and 1,000 girls for their 22 spots, according to the WSJ.
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