Modelling can be a lucrative and exciting lifestyle but just a brief glance at the history of the fashion and advertising industry highlights how the demands of the job have changed over the last twenty years. Back then, a handful of supermodels enjoyed the top brands in the world clambering over each other to secure their services. Moreover, these clients were willing to pay for the privilege, famously leading model Linda Evangelista being quoted in Vogue as saying: “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” However, the landscape is currently very different and various factors have empowered advertisers to be able to maximise their message’s exposure, whilst minimising production budgets. Meanwhile, the number of boys and girls hoping to make it in the fashion world has exploded. This means there are more models, working for less money.
The story of how our industry has changed since the start of the new millennium undoubtedly begins with the rise of the Internet. Previously, advertisers were only able to showcase their product, brand or service in print or on film. Then, almost overnight, advertising went digital and with it, came new ways to reach the consumer. Viral advert campaigns; emailed newsletters, social networking sites, pop-ups, videos and the company’s own web page suddenly offered global access to the consumer at a fraction of the cost of television, magazines or the high street. With the awareness of a much broader, inexpensive and pressure free environment to advertise from, clients were no longer constrained by traditional methods and this was reflected in the rates that models could charge for their services.
Meanwhile, agency websites allowed detailed access to their models’ composite cards, digital portfolios, videos and up-to-date polaroids. Photographs no longer had to be couriered, the need to see models in the flesh was reduced and, coupled with a sharp decline in the cost of air travel, advertisers were offered an unlimited supply of boys and girls throughout the world. In short, different markets were no longer exclusive to the models that work within them and, again, this resulted in lower days rates for all.
The internet also allowed more agencies to emerge and, whereas before an agency had to be situated in the heart of a country’s fashion capital, with an expensive office and highly paid bookers. Now, dwindling physical contact between agencies and potential clients permit agencies to be run from small offices, with few overheads and for a fraction of the cost. The website remains glamorous and luxurious, blurring the distinction between the higher calibre agencies and those prepared to negotiate unfairly low rates for their models.
A change in photography further highlighted the shift towards the digital age. Previously, film photography required a slow, well-crafted process, where the client needed immense trust in both the photographer and model to ensure the finished product was exactly as planned. However, digital cameras now permit the client to closely monitor a production. Once confident the raw image is captured, the crew can move on to the next part of the brief and the process is so much faster than before, that the volume of shots expected in a day has increased many times over. Also, digital retouching can shape photographs to appear very different from the reality; opening the door for more boys and girls.
Meanwhile, despite the decline in rates, the instant fame generated by reality television and a growing obsession with celebrity, mean more than ever, young girls and boys are viewing modelling as a viable career.
This surplus of talent has meant that for a large proportion of models, the job is only ever a part-time venture, requiring them to supplement their income with anything form bar work to personal training to club promoting. Furthermore, for these part-time models, the sporadic income offers little job satisfaction and after a couple of years they leave the industry behind seeking financial security elsewhere. This high turnover of models has lead to an industry that feels as though it is in constant flux: agencies recruiting new faces to replace those that have moved on and clients being offered a larger pool of less professional models than they perhaps would prefer.
The good news is that there are still advertisers willing to spend money on good quality models if they believe that they will reap the eventual benefits. It is the responsibility of all models to raise the standard by being more professional and understanding the needs of the client without the need to compromise rates.