Many Fashion Models Secretly Broke

Big-name designers pay with clothing, not money

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 16, 2013 3:11 PM CDT

(Newser) – 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."

Models wear their runway shoes backstage before the showing of the Badgley Mischka Fall  2013 collection during Fashion Week, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, in New York.
Models wear their runway shoes backstage before the showing of the Badgley Mischka Fall 2013 collection during Fashion Week, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, in New York.   (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano)
Models parade at the conclusion of the Theyskens Theory Fall 2013 runway show at Fashion Week in New York, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.
Models parade at the conclusion of the Theyskens Theory Fall 2013 runway show at Fashion Week in New York, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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