Photographed by Nina Westervelt/MCV Photo.
We've all heard about the insane salaries pulled in year after year by the world's biggest supermodels — the figures can be truly jaw-dropping. But when you get down to it, not everybody is making big bucks like Gisele. In fact, most models have an important choice to make: Should they go for the money jobs, like fit modeling, commercials, or catalogs, and risk losing their chance at high-profile fashion work? Or should they take jobs for next-to-nothing (and sometimes literally nothing), in exchange for crucial industry cred and exposure?
We chatted with a professional model who took the latter route. We'll just call her Rose, as she'd like to remain anonymous. She's been in the business off and on for about three years now, with relative success, and has had the opportunity to work with some of the most respected brands and photographers in the industry. But, she's not exactly making millions. Like most people in their early 20s, she gets by just fine, but unlike a lot of those same peers, she can't rely on a regular paycheck — not even during the busiest times of the year.
You might think that Fashion Week is a model's bread and butter, and that's true in the sense that it's your best chance for a big break and one of the busiest times of the year. But, according to Rose, "it's more about exposure. I count on things like pre-show work with a designer testing out looks. You can make up to $1,000 in a day just trying on clothes for someone." On the other hand, she's done shoots with major international magazines without collecting a single penny, and stood for hours on end in presentations for a couple hundred dollars. But there's some middle ground, as well. Many shows offer trade instead of actual monetary compensation, which means one of two things: A free-for-all at a pile of clothes after the show, or a gift card to shop the brand's own products, sometimes restricted to pieces from several seasons ago.
"My agent definitely does all she can to get me the most money possible," Rose says. But basically, her jobs outside of Fashion Week are usually the ones that pay best — especially work for online stores, which have provided some of her biggest paychecks this past year. So, when you get down to the raw numbers, what did Rose make this past week? We've broken it down below, in two categories — internationally known mass brands that are essentially run as corporations, like say, DKNY, and independent brands with serious cred in fashion but less recognition among the general population, such as Suno or Rodarte (the model interviewed for this article has not worked with any of these brands).
Internationally-known mass brands:
Runway Show: $800
Runway Show: $1,000
Independent brands well-respected in the fashion community:
Runway Show: $1,500 in trade
Runway Show: $800 in trade
Runway Show: Trade (unspecified amount)
Runway Show: $2,500 in trade
Runway Show: $300 plus trade (unspecified amount)
Runway Show: $1,000
Runway Show: $100 plus trade (unspecified amount)
Click through for the rest of the details on the money — and the debt — that changes hands behind the scenes at Fashion Week.
Rose is not pictured in this photo, nor did she walk in any of the shows used to illustrate this story.
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