#942 The glamour debate

Image /Jak and Jil

In light of the recent Daul Kim tragedy, I thought I’d open up the floor to talk about fashion’s glamour – or lack thereof. I’ve been on just about every side of the industry – writing, PR, designing, model booking, retail, fabric sales, show production, mass manufacturing, styling, hair dressing – and I’m yet to encounter a truly glamorous fashion job. As an 18 year old starting out in Auckland, the prospect of working as a shop assistant for Little Brother, New Zealand’s top menswear label, seemed like the epitome of style and sophistication. I had fun, yes, but there’s nothing glamorous about standing on your feet for eight hours a day serving customers.

The point I’m trying to make is that everything seems glamorous until you’re actually doing it. And, presumably, nothing appears to be as glamorous as modelling. You show up, have a team of people fuss over you, look beautiful for a couple of hours, then leave. But obviously that’s not what it’s really like. How about the endless castings, the sleazy photographers, the uncertainty of when your next pay cheque is coming, the constant travel, the separation from your friends and family… As some of you know, I have this girl Corinna staying with me at the moment. She’s here from Germany. She normally lives with her parents in a small village north of Berlin, but she often travels to Hamburg and Milan. After New Zealand she’ll fly to Hong Kong where she’ll work for two months. She’ll be there for Christmas and New Year’s, separated from everyone she knows. She’s 19 years old.

The late Daul Kim, one of the industry’s top working girls, often wrote of the late nights, the long hours and the loneliness of modelling. She complained to friends that the her life was “too frenetic and incompatible with forming the sort of long-term relationship she hankered for.” Where’s the glamour?

So here are my questions:

Do you consider the fashion industry to be glamorous?

What do you think is the most glamorous job in fashion?

Do you have any industry horror stories?

Do you work in a job that is actually glamorous?

Knowing the realities of modelling, would you choose to be a model yourself?

Would you allow your children to model?

Comment below.


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  1. says

    I just received this comment from oldgirl, here it is, sans swear words:

    “I am old so this is a old story,anyway in the 70’s I lived in Aussie a girlfriend was a top model there, and the one thing I learned from her was how to throw up(sorry), it was the way we all satyed thin also the use of laxative was something all the model did back in the day. I do not think it has changed for girls at all but the girls are so much younger now. In my job I see young models a lot and all they talk about is their size, one young girl came back from nzfw and told me she felt like the biggest girl there and was so upset. At 16 what do you say to her instead of a fun glamorous time at nzfw she felt like ****. Fashion is all smoke and mirrors I love it all but you just can not buy into it. As stand behind the counter because staff have not turned up I think I am over it all but like to-day I saw a great shoe range and I know why I love. We just must not feed on the young.”

  2. says

    The end results of the fashion industry are glamorous..the finished collections, the magazine editorial, receiving an award at a flash dinner for best visual merchandising of your store, a fantastic portfolio of your work as a model….but the work, the stress, the strain, the crappy stuff-it outweighs the ‘glamour’.
    Nothing is easy and although it looks it from the outside, the fashion industry is one of the toughest cos it’s so personal. All criticism starts and ends with you as a person-model,designer,editor,photographer,blogger,marketing,buyer,shop chick (that’s me)….on and on. Horror stories? Just sleeping with people to get somewhere, the toothbrush vs laxative debate, the lies and rumour spreading, the kicking others when they’re down-usual stuff.
    Would I model? Ha, doubt it, it would eat me up and spit me out. Plus, the state of me! I’d be unemployed my entire life. Would I let my kids? Only if i felt they were strong enuff as a moral, compassionate and contributing member of society.

  3. Leonie says

    The crux of any job is hard work. Glamour is by definition a facade and really quite superficial. I don’t want to get my biggest buzzes out of artifice. What I appreciate is the commitment, persistence and passion that goes into anyone’s process. And I say process because I believe that is more important than the final product. It’s that which is more fascinating and says more about a person. Any person. Doing any job.
    PS Lucky you got out of Sydney when you did, Isaac. Last weekend was a furnace.

  4. says

    Hi Leonie, I heard 41 degrees! Insane.

    I’m more product over process myself, because if the final product isn’t good then no amount of thought that went into it is going to improve it.

    Don’t you think?

  5. Anonymous says

    This post reminds me a lot of the documentary “Picture Me” (a film looking into the modelling industry by Sara Ziff). The trailer looks great and I can’t wait to see it. It looks like it highlights everything from weight to sleezy guys.
    There is obviously a perception of glamour associated with the fashion industry, modelling in particular. Why else would there be so many modelling tv shows?
    Teenage girls who want to be models don’t realise the hard work, stress, loneliness, pressures etc.
    It looks like an easy job, an amazing lifestyle. But in reality
    it can be far from glamourous, although to be far… there are some great opportunities & experiences. What other job can a 16 year old travel the world, meet amazing creative people and make some good money?
    It’s a hard one for me because I know it’s a difficult job with a lot of negative aspects but also a job which can give a young person so much.

  6. says

    I agree with Fashion Westie in that the product always come back to the person – the nature of the industry and the work that goes into it means the outcome (editorial, collection) is inherantly personal.

    And I’m all for hardwork; in fact I think people need to be more aware of how much hard work people put into the industry, as most “civilians” tend to view fashion-folk as a bit shallow, vacuous etc. I often feel like I get looked down on and judged when I tell people I workin and study fashion.

    However it also breaks my heart that the pressures and ideals of the industry can be painful, difficult, and as we have seen lately fatal on so many young people (both in and influenced by) the industry. And because glamour and beauty are some of the main ideals, any ugliness tends to be swept under the rug. or else sensationalized in the normal media.

    The glamour and the beauty is what people buy into. But the also buy into the darker side and the scandals. both of which feed into the other (everyone knows all to well the images of the tragic, drug addicted beauty etc). It’s all very much a double edged sword i think.

    Wow long comment. sorry isaac!!

  7. Leonie says

    I understand your point Isaac. I’m just trying to be a little philosophical here! What I’m probably getting at is, to use a cliche, that it’s the journey, not the destination, that impresses me.

  8. k says

    In addition/response to Emma’s comment above – as well as the view that fashion folk being looked down on as a bit shallow and vacuous, I think that fashion folk are also seen to exist in a sort of club whereby they look down on the non-fashiony people.

    But back to the topic at hand… To me, Glamour is directly related to abundant wealth. And no matter what anyone says, financial wealth is a huge priority in many peoples lives. And people love to see shiny, pretty images of people with amazing lifestyles (or people who look like they have these extravagant lifestyles). I think people love the glamorous(-looking) aspect of fashion. It’s one of the appeals of the industry. I also think that your average person does (deep down) know that the fashion industry’s so called ‘glamour’ is a facade and a result of good PR/Branding/Marketing, but still sees it as glamorous regardless.

    In saying this, if I happened to be 5’10”, super hot and super thin, I would still go consider modelling as a career. As much as there are bad (and sometimes really quite bad) parts to the industry, it’s also an industry that creates so much opportunity for young (beautiful) people. I think who you are as a person counts towards how you would handle modelling as a career. Granted it sounds (I am not a model so I wouldn’t know for sure) like a very stressful job, but who’s to say that other jobs aren’t just as stressful?

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but the first thing I thought after reading the article, was ‘If the industry is so un-glamorous and ‘hard’, why do so many people want to get into it?’

  9. oldgirl says

    sorry about the swear word. I have just taken on a young designer her first job out of polytech and she is so happy about the whole fashion industry. I have be thinking to-day I need to feel like that again and having her around all happy and wide eyed is going to be good for me .It is a hard industry to be in but it is so much fun and now and then a little glamorous and .never boring

  10. Leonie says

    A thought came to me, as they sometimes do. Would it be possible to have a union to protect the establish and maintain the working conditions of models? Some of the stories I’ve heard really shouldn’t be tolerated. Seems like a way to look after the rights of this group. Like Actors’ Equity.

  11. says

    I think there is a problem in a lot of industries with outside appearance vs. actual job these days due to the rise of “reality tv” and other such forms of media. When I was working in hospo I forever heard chefs complain that young people getting in to the industry have unrealistic expectations about the amount of glamour involved and little interest in putting in the hard yards.
    I think the hope that we can all be a “Celebrity/Tv” Chef/Designer/Plumber/Builder/insert career here has corrupted a lot of peoples expectations of their jobs, fuelling them to pursue something that may not be their true talent or passion because of a false impression.
    Tend to agree with Isaac about process! It gets marks at uni/school and maybe a bit of respect amongst your peers but it won’t sell a product…

  12. Carbunkle says

    Fashion theorist Elizabeth Wilson in her piece ‘A Note on Glamour’ has highlighted the extent to which glamour cannot exist without a certain amount of suffering or tragedy present. She mentions Beau Brummell the dandy who went to great lengths, and through much anguish, to tie the perfect cravat. Or Greta Garbo who was the epitome of glamour only to become a recluse due to her fear of the ravages of time. Capucine jumping from her apartment building is another more extreme example. Am I condoning the death and exploitation of women? No. I am just emphasizing the fact that the glamour we see is in fact one that is so bound up in the notion of tragedy and has been since the beginning of time. It’s about a endless and tiring search for perfection and the need to maintain some sort of sheen. The fashion and media industry is the best example of this.

  13. Anonymous says

    to be totally honest… you’ve got to be kidding yourself if you try and pretend that fashion isn’t a relatively glamorous industry. ALL industries involve the boring admin, the standing around, the office politics, the rumours, the sleazes – that’s just life. waiting around for a show is still better than waiting around to plug a blocked toilet and standing up all day selling $1000 jackets it still more glamorous than standing around all day selling slurpies at 7/11.
    models can whine but if they don’t want to do it they should just go get a regular job – problem solved.
    it might not be as glamorous as a jak n jil photo would have you believe, but it sure as hell ain’t as ‘woe is me’ as everyone makes it out to be…

  14. says

    Re: Carbunkle.. awesome point.

    Re: Anon at 12:23, I must admit having some of the same thoughts myself on reading this post.
    Say what you like about unreliable pay, work etc. In general people seem to get very well paid for being a model (just looking at an hourly rate basis).
    I suppose you could complain that working on an oil rig or in a mine is dangerous/demeaning/bad for your health (hence the high pay “Danger money” you can get for some of these jobs). So surely the pay for modelling is “danger money” of sorts to cover some of the more unpleasant aspects?
    Although no one in any job should have to put up with sexual harassment, no matter how high or low paid..

  15. Anonymous says

    I agree anon @ 12:23. But many models, especially local ones are lucky to get paid anything at all. They spend hours and hours going to castings and go-sees, when they may not get booked at all, therefore no money. This time is valuable.. most local models are still at school or uni and could be spending their time doing more valuable things such as study. If they do get booked NZ work pays pretty low… I mean I’ve heard of models being booked for a national campaign, working 12 hour or more days for about five days and getting paid no more than $500, works out less than min wage. Not to mention no lunch and fairly bad conditions compared to international shoots. But TBH if I was scouted to become a model, I would jump at the opportunity. It’s a different story for the lucky few who make it big, they get paid fairly well. But considering most models don’t make it big, modelling in general is not really as glamourous as it is made out to be.

  16. M. says

    Good on the person who commented two above mine. Other than that there are a lot of very ignorant comments going on here… if it’s really not that bad, if their are similar pressures in any other industry, or even other jobs in the fashion industry then i ask you why there have been two model suicides in the last 18 months… and those two girls whom were actually doing particularly well let alone the hundreds that are struggling.
    Unless you have actually been there and experienced the life of a model for yourself i think you should bite your tongue and keep your uninformed opinion to yourself, because you, my friend, just have absolutely no idea what a hell-ish occupation it can be? And if that’s the case then why do it you ask? Possibly because when pulled into this industry at such a young age (often missing out on higher education) your naivety and innocence last just long enough for you to be in too deep, to have compromised too much, and dedicated so much hard work, time and effort to simply just walk away. Not to say that their aren’t many who have done this, but their are twice as many who can not.

    Think before you speak.

  17. Anonymous says

    Because no one in any other industry has ever committed suicide…. and those two suicides are in fact the only two recorded suicides in the world this year…. just a thought.

  18. says

    anon @ 5.30, wow, that kind of sucks. How does pay for models generally work? Do you sign a contract when you first get cast telling you how much you will earn for the whole project?

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