What was [17 year old model Hailey Hasbrook] paid for her 23 hours of doing looks, plus her 6-8 hours of working in Jacobs’ two shows? Not one cent. Jacobs is just one of many New York designers don’t pay their runway models; this reality means that girls can become ubiquitous for a fashion week, working for some of the most high-profile names in the business, and still end the season heavily in debt to their agencies…LVMH made a net profit of $4.13 billion last year. When the conglomerate reported its 2011 financial results last month, it revealed that its revenue grew by 16% over 2010’s levels, to €23.66 billion, or $32.94 billion…And Jacobs has been handsomely rewarded for his services to his parent company….Jacobs’ talks to take over the creative directorship of Christian Dior reportedly broke down after he and Duffy asked for $10-million-plus salaries each. And this is the guy who’s having high school students from Oregon work for him for free?
I cannot believe this isn’t front page news. In one respect, this is just another example of how companies are getting away with paying their employees nothing because there are hundreds of people that will do anything to simply break into an industry. But considering that most models are underage, many do not speak English, and they are under intense scrutiny about their appearance, and that these are major multinational corporations…this is perhaps more insidious. Are there really that many high paying makeup/chain store gigs that its worth it to take time off from school to work for free? Likely not, since any magazine will show you that at least half the ads use celebrities or the same ‘supermodels’ (Kate Moss, Gisele, Lara Stone) year after year. More likely is that modeling agents convince 15 year old girls and their not-fashion-savvy-parents that they will make it big (look at Gisele!), pull them out of school and whisk them to NYC, Paris etc. to work overtime FOR FREE, and when they realize that shes not going to make it big (or when she turns 17 and puts on 10 pounds), dump her for the next 14 year old in line, potentially in the same place she started, or in debt to the agency. Many (if not most) of these girls are from developing countries and are probably eager to help their parents, but not mature enough to navigate the adult atmosphere of the industry and big cities. Given the reputation of people in the industry (Terry Richardson etc.), I also have a hard time believing that anyone along the way is really looking out for their well-being. How is this in any way justified?
There was a time in my life that I was ‘obsessed’ with fashion and thought it was my destiny to work in the industry. I am so glad that I grew up and realized that A) it was never going to happen and B) its a terrible industry that exploits women at every step in the production process (factory workers, models, interns, impressionable observers). Vive the thrift store.