Will Fashion Workers take action to end exploitation in the fashion industry?

As the recent attempt to unite writers, editors and others at Condé Nast revealed, the reality of life in the fashion media is often very different from the perception of the public. “I have been a model for 25 years and there have been countless times where I have flown around the world and have no idea how much I get paid,” says Karen Elson, who has appeared on more than 30 magazine covers, and who is involved to the Union, told me. “If at this point in my career I have to wait nine months for a paycheck, what’s happening to a beginner?” she speaks. “You almost need a trust fund behind the scenes if you’re starting right now. And if you don’t have that, you have to work to the bone. You might have a Vogue cover, but your bankroll might be zero.”

This is because models often work in debt with agencies, who have powers of attorney, giving them the ability to receive payments and manage other aspects of their clients’ financial lives. surname. After receiving their commission, agents often add dubious fees, even charging for sent emails under certain circumstances. Sara Ziff, founder of the alliance and a former model who graduated from Columbia’s Kennedy School and Harvard, recently wrote about an experience she had years ago in which money was taken from one of her paychecks to help finance the agency head’s purchase of artwork. Management companies also often double as landlords, housing models in dorm-style apartments, for which they can add an additional charge to the market rent.

Ms. Ziff told me Alliance runs a support line and most calls are about scam companies soliciting nudity, harassment and late or nonexistent payments. “I don’t think establishing job protections for models is anyone’s priority. But when you connect the dots and see how vulnerable this workforce is, it becomes incredibly clear,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you’re talking about an immigrant workforce, which is largely female.”

This is not to say that the men in the industry have operated to any great advantage. A decade ago Alex Shanklin, currently works in real estate and construction in Houston, making a modest living as a model in New York. “I never hit it really big, but I always keep my head above the water,” he told me. At a certain point, as the fashion image shifted from art to commerce to the explosion of digital content, that became more difficult to do. It was in 2012 that he noticed that it was getting harder and harder to pay his bills. In his view, organs seem “worse”. “Maybe money tightens,” he said, “but things have changed.”

In his case, outrage also piled up. “I can tell you as a Black male model in New York, there was a time when I was told to my face, ‘We’re not taking any more blacks.’ There are brands that would do a great job of comprehensive representation, but when it comes to dealerships, they’ve been discriminating against people of color for years,” he said. Mr. Shanklin left New York in 2013 not long after he noticed an advertisement for underwear with his body taped to other people’s faces. He made sure his agency was compensated for that, he told me.

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