Model Rates Falling As Everything In Fashion Goes Half Price

I was talking with some non-fashion people recently when one asked, "So. This 'Financial Crisis.' Does it affect anyone? Really?" Then I thought how slow the major cities have been since, oh, precisely last September.

There are fewer castings. The jobs pay less. Some friends who aren't already with agencies in New York, Paris, London or Milan are having trouble getting representation. Some friends who were represented in those places have been dropped, or told that they shouldn't bother coming to town for the shows. Some of the top names, including Coco Rocha, were missing from Paris couture week (which did not actually last a "week" but rather ran for three days); I wonder if it was because rates had fallen to a level that Rocha found untenable (but which a 23-year-old Ukrainian you've never heard of did not)? Ali Michaels is apparently sitting this whole season out.

And that's logical enough, because this fashion week, everyone's putting on a group show or a less-expensive presentation where models pose in a tableau vivant or even a showroom presentation that involves using only a couple girls who change into dozens of outfits each. Or not showing at all. Financial backers are in retrenchment. Some labels simply won't survive. A few weeks ago we learned Marc Jacobs was canceling his famous after-party; this morning came news that he's slashing the guestlist for his show by more than half.

If I could have one wish, it might be that news stories about fashion models losing income would not lead with canards about us getting free designer dresses and being paid $15,000 to walk on the runway. I can't imagine anyone who's not Naomi Campbell has ever, in the history of fashion, been able to ask that kind of a fee. What we're talking about here is, in 99% of cases, a matter of a dress, and, if you are very lucky, $100. Those dresses aren't "free", they're earnings. Models do shows for the luster, the allure of being seen by the right editor in the front row, the chance at getting enough buzz to book a campaign: it's hard to imagine buzz featuring highly in a fashion season defined mainly by its lack of after-parties and economic austerity.

This business has a more direct connection to consumers' whims than perhaps some others. As soon as people stop buying dresses, I get paid less to advertise them. Fashion is a tenuous concern at the best of times because it involves convincing women who earn a third less than men to spend $1200 on a dress to do certain things that perhaps include attracting the attention of men. As soon the light changes and that particular creative distribution of priorities takes on a sudden aspect of farce, consumer spending falls, and people get laid off or, in my self-employed case, have fewer opportunities to work for less money. It's that simple. So, yes, CNN Money and lady at that dinner, this crisis is real and it should be no surprise "even" models feel it.

Fashion Models Feel Financial Crunch [Reuters]
Ali Skips The Season [Fashionista]

Related: Revolutionary Thinking [Fashion Week Daily]
Monique Lhuillier And Naeem Khan Decide Against February Runway Shows [WSJ]
Iodice To Give Away Free Dresses Instead Of Staging Runway Show [WSJ]
Sass & Bide Drop Out Of New York Fashion Week [The Cut]