Slaves To Debt: Fashion Models Speak Up Against Their Oppressors

Slaves To Debt: Fashion Models Speak Up Against Their Oppressors

Fashion models who had become slaves to debt and were being robbed off their remuneration have finally decided to speak out against this harassment

When you see them walking the runway in the finest of clothes, it become difficult to believe that they may be slaves of debt. But as it turns out, fashion models are being robbed off the one commodity they work for -- remuneration. 

They are reportedly only paid 'pocket-money' and most of them are in crazy amounts of debt, so much so that they are afraid the reveal the actual numbers. 

"The worst thing is that it is impossible to talk about because in this industry people only want to work with 'successful' girls," a 26-year-old Clara reportedly told AFP. The London-based model who spoke to the press agency on condition of anonymity shared that she she owed money to her agencies in New York and Paris. 

Models Are Often Given Bags And Clothes As Opposed To Cash

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This, even after working for magazines like Vogue and walking the ramp for prestigious brands like Prada, Comme des Garcons, and Rick Owens. 

But she is the only one who is a slave to debts. There are many like her in the industry who are finding it hard to make ends meet.

Many told AFP that often times they are paid not in cash but in kind. Some revealed that they are often given bags and clothes as opposed to cash, and reportedly "almost never paid" for fashion shoots for magazines.

Many also shared that they felt helpless and that debt was an even bigger taboo than sexual harassment.

It was perhaps this conversation that started a model's revolution in Paris this year. 

Models Take The Fight In Their Own Hands And Fight For Proper Wage 

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Earlier this year, a model rights group called Model Law was founded to battle such issues and to bring about equality and fairness in the modelling community. As co-founder Ekaterina Ozhiganova (a model herself) says that now is the time "to put an end to the years of abuse, dubious practices and the flouting of labour laws." 

Ozhiganova co-founded the group after she had had enough of this mistreatment herself. She said that she started out, her agency charged her for the car they provided as well the shared hotel she lived in.

This, on top of their fee and work visas.

Most Models Begin Their Career WithHuge Debts Looking Over Their Heads

But she soon realised she was not the only one and that many models began their career with a huge debt looming over their heads. She says the girls who come from poor backgrounds and cannot speak proper English get the rawest deals. 

But this organisation, Ozhiganova, 26, hope that she encourage other harassed girls to speak up. And she knows its a difficult task. Because most models who do speak up are "quickly labelled as difficult if you ask questions."

"People imagine models earn lots of money, but that is absolutely not true. It's only the case for about two per cent of girls" she told AFP. 

"Only Rarely Are People Paid For Modelling For Shoots"

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She also added that getting paid for magazine shoots was reserved only for a handful of people. 

"Only rarely are people paid for modelling for magazines even though it takes hours of work," Ozhiganova shared. 

"Okay, it's prestigious, but how are you going to pay your rent?" she added. 

Even US Models Are Slaves To Debt

But with her effort and help from French union, Ozhiganova hopes that things will change as far as employment regulations are concerned. And looks like their efforts have started showing effect. French fashion giants LVMH and Kering have joined forces. They are creating a charter that would help in better employment of models. 

A similar movement has also started in the US after the lid on 'cattle casting' was blown off by New York casting agent, James Scully. 

With the Western fashion industry taking note of this issue (as well not casting underage models), this might trickle down to Asia as well. For now, we can only hope that equitable and fair employment opportunities become major points of discussion. And that female models would no longer be slaves to debt but are paid fairly for their work.     

Source: AsiaOne

Also read:A 21-Year-Old Model With Down Syndrome Walks The NYFW Runway

(All images courtesy: Instagram & Unsplash)

Written by

Deepshikha Punj