Fashion models may epitomize glamor, but many of them are mired in debt because designers pay them with clothes rather than money, the Daily Beast reports. The logic: Fashion shows lend models prestige, and that can lead to paying gigs like an ad campaign or a mass-market lingerie brand. But meanwhile they scramble to sell their gifted clothing in an attempt to recoup travel and accommodation costs. And they can "rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt without really even knowing," says models' advocate Sarah Ziff.
Imagine flying over from Brazil or Eastern Europe without quality photos, cab fare, or a place to stay—and being paid zip for a magazine spread or fashion show. A model may well be "paid with a tank top or a beautiful dress," says Ziff. "The quality of the trade can really vary, and in some cases it may never be delivered." The good news: A few big-name designers, including Alexander Wang, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein, have begun paying their models. The pay isn't huge, says a modeling agency president, but "it’s a step in the right direction."