#1635 From a model’s lips: “the money we earn here in NZ is laughable”

Photo: David Bailey (from back in the good old days)

It’s no secret that models don’t get paid particularly well here in New Zealand. Like I mentioned recently, most campaigns pay between $1000 and $10,000 (though generally at the lower end of the scale), with designer lookbooks starting off at just $250, and many paying in straight contra (ie free clothes as opposed to money). And bear in mind that the model only takes home approximately 60% of those earnings once tax and commission is taken out. Unless a model has a regular commercial client like Farmers, The Warehouse or Postie Plus to pay the bills, the only hope is to build a good book filled with editorial tearsheets then head out into the world to try to make it internationally. After I wrote the initial post, an anonymous model contacted me to say that she has had enough. In her email, she writes that a person wouldn’t expect to pay for rent or petrol with a dress, so why should a designer be allowed to get away with it? Read it in full, below.

“Thank God someone has finally brought this issue to light and been brave enough to discuss it. I am a working New Zealand model who can’t work fulltime because the money we earn here in NZ is laughable. Although we don’t expect $60,000 campaigns here, we would appreciate some form of payment for our work.

Eight out of 10 jobs I get aren’t paying and most pay in contra which is ridiculous, I can’t pay for my petrol or rent with a dress or a scarf, and I wouldn’t dream of offering someone my comp cards as a form of payment. The other thing that disappoints me with the fashion industry here is, even when they pay contra it’s usually pitiful, a whole day’s work for $200 contra when a dress alone is $400? Come on, appreciate the work this person has done for you and be reasonable.

It has gotten to the point where they act as though modelling is a ‘hobby’ or ‘fun’ and that the model should be happy enough to even be doing it. We take designers seriously so all we ask is to be taken seriously in return.

A message to the industry in NZ: Pay your models and pay them properly. If you’re selling your clothes at $500 a pop you can afford to pay someone for their labour.”

Well said.


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  1. Alan says

    same situation for photographers … even from large corporations be they editorial or advertising.

    as long as ‘model’ or ‘photographer’ or ‘stylist’ is considered a cool job there will be an overabundance of people fighting for work, most of whom do not understand the business side …

  2. hmmm says

    im not a model, but i do work in the fashion industry. this model is right, modelling is can be hard work and should be paid as any other contractor would be. however in my experience the majority of models in nz have a very blase attitude to call times and how much effort they put in while on a job…i think both parties need to take this issue a bit more seriously!

  3. Iambrokeandremade says

    Actually, “No”, modelling is pretty labour-intensive (labour can mean many different things). You seem so hell-bent on being sarcastic that you’re deliberately ignoring the fact that:

    – Models are expected to keep in absolute peak physical condition and ready to work at any time. These designers who won’t pay models still expect the models to have perfect skin, hair, nails, figures, physical fitness, etc. This takes time, money and hard work (even if you’re naturally beautiful).
    – As has been highlighted especially at Jezebel recently (see here, it’s really interesting: http://jezebel.com/5701608/exclusive-lawsuit-reveals-what-vogue-actually-pays-its-models), models get huge and seemingly arbitrary chunks taken out of anything they earn by their agencies. Most models who work full time and are not supermodels are actually frequently in debt to their agencies. Not to mention it’s a living job-to-job profession, with no guarantee of when you’ll get your next pay check. So while models may go a while between jobs, and without having to do any actual “labour,” the uncertainty should mean that when they do work, they actually get, you know, paid. In money.
    – Travelling to go-sees and castings can be time, labour and money intensive. When models then actually book a job, they should be compensated for it. Tradespeople get compensated for their work, and they don’t have to travel around town advertising themselves in person, only to be rejected all the time.
    – Contrary to some people’s belief, not everyone can be a model. Not even all pretty, skinny people are suited to being models – it’s not just about looks. You do have to have special abilities, and an it-factor, to look lookbook-amazing in front of a camera. I don’t see why people shouldn’t be compensated for having it, or being able to pose better than anyone else.
    – Models on shoots often have to stand/move around all day. They sometimes wear painful shoes, clothes that don’t fit, injure themselves jumping off things and doing weird poses, and must be willing to dye their hair, wear wigs, do crazy things to their hair and face, pose outside in skimpy clothes while cold/wet/etc, and for what? No money? This is all a form of labour, and if you think it’s not, I’d like to know what you do for a job. I sit at a desk all day, and I get a salary, and models almost certainly work physically harder than I do.

    In short, I don’t really understand, “No,” why you’re even on a fashion blog, if you don’t think those who work in the industry actually do “work” or deserve to get paid? It’s kind of weird.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m not a model… Just a fashion lover who has some model friends. And even I can see it’s a difficult, intensive job.

    Oh, and thanks, Isaac, for drawing our attention to this issue :-)

  4. emily says

    yup i agree it must be difficult to budget as a working model in new zealand…
    and it really doesn’t seem fair that they essentially have to PAY the designer to be part of their shoot (petrol to get to there/parking/strapless bra/new knickers etc).

    i also feel like it is arrogant and condescending of designers to think that paying solely in contra is okay. but before we jump to one million conclusions it is important to consider the size/scale of the brand and the shoot. sometimes it’s just a teeny tiny new brand that genuinely doesn’t have the money. other times it’s a low scale shoot where everything is done cheaply.

    in response to “hmmm”…in my experience new zealand models are on time and genuinely enthusiastic to be part of the things we do. it’s usually a long day and it requires experience to look like a babe for the fortieth time after 10 hours of babe-posing.

  5. L**** says

    I was once offered a casting for a job that paid $120 for the day!
    If you factor travel (say $14 each day for a day bus pass x2 to get to both the casting and job) you are already under $20 an hour… you can earn like $14 an hour working in a cafe or restaurant + tips and that is consistent work and they don’t care if you have 37in hips.
    I am not stupid I am studying politics and psychology intending to do an MA and I love fashion and spend some of what I do earn on fashion/magazines but it is just a waste of time even if you love it. Not to mention one agency that charges $600/$700 for comp cards etc. to even get started.

  6. Leonie says

    Oh Grace. Do you really think that? Do make sure you avoid any fashion magazines. Wouldn’t want you to have to suffer the vacuous gaze of a pretty little thing.

  7. Ruby says

    I love this. Good discussion. It is bizarre that some people actually believe that models ‘don’t use their brains’, this is 2010, let’s drop the stereotypes. A ‘proper’ job? How do you measure what is proper and what is not?

  8. Matthew Brown says

    We take designers seriously so all we ask is to be taken seriously in return?
    Are you talking about being taken seriously in a monetary term?
    Do you really think NZ designers get taken seriously?
    If so how come there is a lack of support like arts or music or other creative industries?
    How come no one supports NZ designers financially – even consumers opting to wait for sales or off-shore manufactured designs.
    Why is the life span for new designers so short and even large companies having to downgrade or close.
    Do you understand how many years of extremely hard work it takes to be a designer, learning an expensive craft and then spending your life’s savings and loans from banks etc to provide clothing to NZers and abroad – only to make a loss or break even foor 100’s of hours spent on a collection?
    You think models have a rough deal in NZ. NZ designers have it the worst – there is no money in it for a long time. It is a labour of love for designers because they love the craft and fashion, the same should be true for NZ models.

  9. Guccimane says

    ‘Isaac Likes’ to display his lack of understanding concerning simple economic principles like supply and demand. Fucking idiot.

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