My Observations

What I am seeing in the Modeling Market place.

The following are my personal observation and editorializing. I have tried to keep the Modeling Advice site as factual as I can and state what I know and do not know. On this page of the site I take the liberty to state my personal thoughts, opinion, observations and what may be bugging me about the industry. Please take what is said here with a grain of salt. Also, I throw this material up on the web quickly so please forgive the spelling and grammatical errors. This show why I am a photographer and not a writer.

2/8/2007 Models to Thin?

We are in the middle of the Fall fashion show season. This year the talk is not of the newest designs or designers but of the models. What is all of the buzz about, how thin is thin. The fashion industry is once again being taken to task about the ultra thin models working the runways. The critics charge this is not only unhealthy for the models but project an unhealthy and impossible to obtain image to young women. The fashion designers claim they are artist and should be able to do or demand anything they want. And they want thin (really more skin and bones). There has definitely been a creep downward in the sample dress size. It has moved from a size eight to a six to a size four. For some designers putting a size four dress on a size zero model is the look. Some European countries have enacted laws requiring models to be of a minimum body mass to work but for USA and the New York shows only some unenforceable guide lines. This pretty well leaves it up the designer to decide how thin is thin and which models are skin and bone enough to work.

Here in Portland we have Nike taking a different approach. They have decided fit is the new look and have announced that they will be working to double the number of Nike stores. As sports and fitness cloths become the new casual look Nike is banking on America moving to a casual health conscious look and life style and away from the anorexic drug addict look of high New York fashion. We will see how the fashion world turns and what types of models will be in the most demand.


2/11/04 UPN Top Model
Second Season

At this point it is half way point on this seasons "America's Next Top Model" and unlike the first season that did a surprising good job of show what it was like getting into fashion modeling this season seem to be more focused on capturing that all important 15 to 35 male viewer. It may capture more viewers but if you are trying to get an education on what fashion modeling is all about it is not doing that good of a job. Not that there aren't little blips here and there but nothing like the first season. There are still five more shows so it is wait and see if it gets any better.

One part of the show I have to really take exception to are the photo shoots. I the real world a model would know what a shoot was about and if she and her agent thought it was a good idea to do. This is also where a résumé comes in. As a photographer doing a special type of shoot you would look to see if a model had special skills in area before selecting them. In this I am thinking of the nude body paint shoot (does the model or their agent have problems with nudity), the hanging from the harness shoot (does the model have rock climbing experience), and the water tank shoot (does the model have a swimming or scuba diving background). You don't pull just any runway model in for that type of shoot. In the case of the hanging harness shoot and the water tank shoot it would be nuts to do an actual shoot that way today. The possible liability problems with the hanging harness shoot are incredible, especially when today you could shoot it in a nice safe the studio and photoshop the final image together. As the photographer on a set you are responsible and liable for everybody and everything at the shoot. You are also responsible for protecting the client. In seeing that shoot, the lack of roping folks off, creating safety lines, the trauma the models were put through and the fact that there is no need to do shoots that way with today's technology (and cost savings), that was a shoot you would only see on TV. If anybody approaches you and suggest doing shoot like this because it was what was on this show, tell them they are nuts.

7/4/03 UPN Top Model

Ok, I have to say just a brief word about the Reality TV show "Top Model." It is down to the last episode and although I started out skeptical, I think they have done a good job of showing how the top tier fashion-modeling world works. Now you do have to get by the endless self-promotion of Tyra Banks and other folks and businesses (almost like one long infomercial) and the soap opera dramas that make for good reality TV, and trying to maintain some political correctness (considering a plus size as a top fashion model, give me a break), but the basic info is all there. I am afraid, though, that because of all the TV hype that someone who is trying to learn about this part of modeling might get to distracted by the drama and self promotion and miss some of main information. I see this especially with the one liner jewels of info that get thorn out as just subtext. But overall I think they have done a good job of showing what high fashion modeling is like.

Also, keep in mind this whole show has little to do with commercial modeling, glamour modeling (they threw the glamour model, Katie most likely to pose next to a Corvette, out right at the start), small town modeling, alternative modeling and so on and so on. But then again the top tier fashion modeling has always grab the spot light.

Now, I did think Elyse was the only high fashion model in the lot right from the start and would be the ringer to win (they like them skinny). But now as it is down the last three and since they only did one fashion shoot and everything else was editorial, glamour, bathing suite and lingerie, it may end up that she is not versatile enough for their final pick. Getting into the fun of the show I would pick Elyse for fashion, Adrianne for Hollywood (with the looks, distinctive speech, and hardcore background she could be the next Mai West) and Shannon for the return of the California beach girl. We will see what happens.

The show did get picked up for 10 more episodes and they are looking for the next round of wannabes. If interested check out UPN Top Model. But then again if you really have what it takes to be a top model skip all of this just send your photos and stats to one of the top New York agencies. You will start working and earning much faster.


A couple of quick observations

It looks like "fashion week" in New York cut the number of runway shows in half this year. The shows in 2001 started the week of Sept. 11 and had to be canceled and rescheduled. This year in order to avoid conflict with 9/11 activities the shows had to squeezed in between the Paris shows and the London shows. Of course half the number of shows, half the number of jobs for fashion models walking the runways and maybe half the number of models needed.

Another note I saw was that there seems to be fewer photographer shooting catalogs in the "south beach area" in Florida. Fewer catalog shoots mean fewer models needed. The question comes in is this a sign of fewer catalogs (Fingerhut went under, along with several other catalogs plus some catalogs have reduce pages and mailings), a shift to just styling cloths without using models like Cold Water Creek and other, a shift of the work to other locals like Arizona or Cancun, or are they shooting in the studio and then using Photoshop to digitally drop the models into unique location (saw some of this in Spiegel last catalog). Again all of this can have an impact on the number of models needed and what they might get paid. The slow down in the economy may be finally having an impact on some of the high-flying ad budget of the past. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Free speech is anything but free

With a fellow online free model information site being taken off line this week by scare tactics of the attorneys for one of the questionable online listing services, the point comes home that American free speech is far from being free. I look back to the mother of all examples of this when 60 minutes failed to air a story on big tobacco because of the fear of the cost of a law suite. Failure to have the money to fight a possible law suite renders the first amendment mute especially against wealthy corporations. In this case it also leaves the consumer (a hopeful model) with only one side of the story, the sales pitch from one of a number of questionable modeling service businesses. These organizations have found that just the hint of a law suite or just the vaguest request from their attorneys to a web site hosting company will have the result of getting the plug pulled on any web site that might report any criticism of them. So this week another site goes dark that had information to help the consumer, the wannabe model, make an informed decision.

You have to realize that most of the online model information sites (this is not referring to the paid model listing sites that poses as information sites) are just run by individuals who have taken on the challenge of spreading the word about the real modeling business. For other model information sites, just like the Modeling Advice site, there is no money in it. You, the web surfer, get valuable information about the modeling industry for free. This also means there is no money to hire an attorney to fight any legal action that might be thrown at you. So without the ability to stop a web hosting company from pulling the plug on your site, any criticism of one of these questionable organizations means death to the site, the death of a valuable opposing point of view and a death to free speech.

You also need to realize that large news organizations who might have the means to fight one of these shady organizations just don't care about model wannabes or their parents. I flash back to an old beauty TV commercial where the tag line was "don't hate me because I am beautiful." This attitude exists toward model wannabes. Although we love the successful supermodel the struggling wannabe is viewed as vain and foolish for desiring to be a model. Why should a wannabe think they have those special star qualities to be a model? So the regular news media thinks that vain, foolish wannabe model deserves to be taken advantage of by these questionable organizations. So they never take on the story and without the small model information sites you left with only the sales pitch and promises from one of these questionable model service organization.

The small voice silenced, the news media ignoring the story, all of this leave the young, unaware, ill-informed, and trusting wannabe model open for the costly trap of one of these questionable organizations. And it shows me how unfree free speech is in America.


A Good Quality Test Shoot
is hard to find

One bit of advice I have often given a beginning model is to try and track down test shoots. This often means trying to find free or a model's time-for-prints (TFP) shoot. These shoots give a new model experience being in front of the camera and valuable photos for his or her portfolio and comp card. What you need are top professional photographs that show you are a first-tier model and ready to work. Twenty years ago test shoots with professional photographers were fairly easy to find. Creative, independent, photo studios did most of the fashion photography. These photographers needed to do test shoots to keep their shooting skills honed, to test new equipment and film, and to experiment with new creative photographic ideas. Photographers were always looking for a warm body to put in front of the lens back then.

In regional markets, independent studio photographer's need to do test shoots have change quite a bit. More and more fashion shooting has moved to large corporate or in-house studios. Just as the fashion boutique and even the fashion department stores has given way to the big box stores and Wal Mart-type discounters, so have the independent fashion photographers given way to the corporate and in-house studios. Just as fashion individuality has been replaced by fashion-for-the-herd at a discount, so the creative, independent photo studio has been replaced by the corporate photo sweatshop - cranking out the same looking photo again and again. Independent studios have moved away from mainstream fashion photography and into specialty niches. So today the independent shooters have no need for doing unpaid test shoots. The corporate shooters, on the other hand, are tied to a system that looks at the bottom line and free test shoots just produce red ink. These days it is far more likely that a model will find work related to fashion then an independent studio photographer (and get paid more). So this makes the search for good quality free test shoots a lot harder.

If a new model can find a free test shoot these days, it is most likely with a beginner or a semi-pro. Neither have the skills to produce first tier photographs. You will get some experience in front of the camera and even some prints from doing shoots with these types of photographers, but you portfolio will say, ‘I am a beginner'. This leads to not being trusted with the big, important, well-paid shoots. Photos from beginners and semi-pros may in fact scare away work and certainly will not get you the best paying work.

So it is much more difficult today to get the type of free test shoots a model needs to launch his or her career.

Translating - "I want to be a model"

Since creating the Modeling Advice site, I have had numerous emails proclaiming, "I want to be a model." There are all types of modeling assignments so this wanting to become a model would allow for almost anyone to be a model. So I would email back, "Sure, if you work at it you can do some type of modeling." As the years have gone by, I have come to realize that for someone not in the business there is only one type of model. Here is where I had to learn to translate "I want to be a model" to "I want to be a very high paid, high fashion, runway model - preferably a supermodel." Now that type of model, only a select few will ever become. There is a better chance of winning the Power Ball lottery then becoming a top fashion model. Having now learn this model wannabe lingo, I respond to emails about "I want to be a model" with a new line of advice. I say, "it depends on what type of model you want to become. Please read the Modeling Advice site to find out about what types of modeling are out there and what might be right for you." I hope this new line will get wannabes to explore all of the possible modeling options and opportunities and look beyond just the high fashion runway.


It is better to be turned down

One of the most difficult things about working in the modeling biz is telling someone they do not have what it takes to be a fashion model. I have experienced this in my work as a photographer and through emails to the Modeling Advice site. We are often told when growing up that if we want something badly enough and work hard enough we can achieve anything. Fashion modeling is an exception. You may dream of being a fashion model and be ready to work very hard, but if you were not born with the right genetics it will never happen. The height and body size for fashion modeling is very restrictive. The camera either loves you or shows up your shortcomings. Perhaps the worst is when you have everything going for you except one feature (like a too-broad nose) and that one feature can keep you from getting work. The modeling business can be very harsh in this manner.

I always find it upsetting to have to tell an excited and hopeful young person, that because of some body trait that they are born with and have no control over, they will not be able to achieve their dream. Modeling is one of those few things in life that you either have what it takes or you don't; and if you don't, there is no way to get it. There is, unfortunately, a sub-part of the modeling industry that survives and thrives on praying upon wannabe dreams. These less-then-reputable organizations make an art of avoiding telling someone that they will never make it as a fashion model. Some modeling schools, model searches, and the questionable modeling agencies survive on "we don't know what they want but we are sure you have it" and "if you take our class and work hard you can achieve your dream." These lines are usually followed some dollar amount you need to fork over right away if you want your dream to come true. I would much rather tell someone up front (as painful as it is) that he or she does not have it and here is why, then to string them along to soak a few dollars out of them. But these days, apparently, over half of the organizations out there have a different view then mine.

Perhaps the most difficult task for a wannabe is how to get an honest answer to, "Do I have what it takes to be a fashion model?" Unfortunately, finding the right person to answer that question is very difficult.

Fall buying is on, Spring Fashions Delayed

The Sept. 11 attack definitely had its effect on the fashion industry. Spring fashion week was just getting underway in New York when the attack occurred. Almost all showings were canceled and moved back to October. With the new fear of flying that has gripped the world, the question is, will the buyers return to New York?

Currently, the Fall lines are at the stores and on the racks. The dress up look and fashion designer must are out there but so are a lot of the casual cloths we have gotten use to. Will folks buy enough new designer stuff to start a trend to dresser look or will it just be a fashion curiosity?

In follow up on Spiegal, they have gone heavy with a very dresser designer look (I personally love the look). The question remains will folks buy this stuff. So far Spiegal's sales are down 22% for the year. Newport News catalogs, part of the Spiegal group, is covering all the fashion bets. They have come out with catalogs that follow the fashion dresser look but also have put out a catalog with 40 pages of blue jeans. We will see how their sales fair.

The out come of all of this will be interesting to see. If fashion continues to casual down there will be no need for fashion designers or supermodels, as you can just go to Wal-mart and get what you need. We may also see a split in fashion with the haves wearing designer labels in their gated communities (the vision of Versaci this Fall) and the masses of have nots wearing casual, functional attire from big box stores. Or will folks want to dress and look better in hard economic times and those who do, like fashion models, become trend setters again? Will those who dress up and look sharp get and keep jobs while those who look shabby and ungroomed get turned out into the cold (which reminds me I need to get a hair cut)? It will be interesting to see how this fashion seasons plays out.


 6/20/2001 Priced out of the Market

I had sometime today while waiting for a client to show up to sort through some very old magazine clippings. These clippings were pages I had trimmed out of the jewelry trade magazines back in 1983-85 and diligently placed on a shelf to sort out later. Other items got placed on top of these clippings and so they sat. I have been on a cleaning binge lately and this stack of clipping's turn was up. Most of this pile, now very dated, got toss, but in digging through this stack one point became clear, we use to do a lot more photographing jewelry on models.

Most of this stack of clippings contained new product sections of the jewelry trade magazines. Almost every page had one or more photos of models wearing jewelry. Contrast this with today jewelry trade magazines' new product sections which never contain models wearing jewelry. Model shots are so rare today they usually only found in special editorial section sponsored by one of the large trade organizations. So why almost no model pictures today? The cost of the shoots.

I had a client email the other day and was thinking of doing a shoot with a model wearing her jewelry for the cover of her Christmas catalog. She wanted to know the cost of such a shoot. In the past we had always done regular product shots of her jewelry. I knew she had no idea how much a live model shoot would cost and I knew it was out of her budget. I went through the exercise of preparing an estimate and breaking down the cost of such a shoot (including model and agency fees, casting fees, makeup artist fees, hair stylist fees, wardrobe expense, studio cost and photographer fees). Of course it was way out her budget, as it has been for most clients for the past ten years.

So what has caused this change to where model shoots are not longer affordable by clients. I believe it has come from the raise of the supermodel. In the 70's and first of the 80's a model's fee was a quarter of a photographers fee. You would also expect a model to be able to do her hair, makeup and have some basic wardrobe items. As the supermodel came on the scene modeling fees, of all types, sky rocketed. Today regular model fees are often two and half time photographer fees. Also, the expectation has become for the supermodel and regular model just to show up and have there hair, makeup and wardrobe taken care of by others. In the 70's a shoot would consist of a photographer and a model. Today you have five or more people working on a shoot. All of this has led to pricing jewelry model shoots out of the market.

What will the future hold? If this trend continues the model shoots maybe restricted only to the top tier of the marketplace. Shoots for second tier, small market and beginning models maybe gone. This will mean less modeling work overall and will make it harder for models starting out to get tear sheets.

5/12/01 Spiegel's Fall 2001 Preview

Jane received her copy of the Fall 2001 preview catalog from Spiegel the other day. The special offer with the catalog talked of discounts and helping to determine what Spiegel will buy for its big fall book. I found this preview catalog quite interesting for two aspects. One was the state of the fashion industry today and the other was as an example why fashion model have to be a certain size.

In the past fashion designers new designs would set the fashion trends. Buyers for fashion retailers tried to know these trends and buy new trendy garments that suited their customer base. In many ways fashion was dictated to the consumer. The fashion designers with their superior sense of style and good taste would design the clothes. The fashion magazine editors who had even better taste and fashion sense foretold the consumer what was to come. The fashion savvy store buyers then loaded the racks with what one should ware that season. Then the fashion trend-setting consumer who followed all of this would be the first to purchase these new styles and would be admired for their good taste. The rest of the masses would then follow. The bulk of the clothes sold through department stores, special fashion boutiques, and a select group of catalogs. This structure held up pretty well until the first part of the last decade. At that time the fashion designers got silly and tasteless, the fashion magazines simply reported on what designers put out and waited to see if any body bought it, buyers bought the silly stuff designers put out and then could not sell it at the mark up needed, specialty catalogs and specialty chain stores popped up everywhere, the casualing down, blending in, anti fashion trend grew and this went full circle with the designers following the casual trend rather then leading. This casualing down, blending in, anti fashion trend ultimately leads to putting designers out of business as Old Navy becomes as hot as fashion gets. (i.e. designers shot themselves in the foot with doing this in the nineties) So last fall the designers tried to bring back a more fashionable, dressier look. Most stores stocked some of this dressier look but also carried lots of dockers and cotton T-shirts. The exception was Nordstorm who went heavy into this new designer trend and ended up firing the CEO as sales stagnated. This new trend was not widely accepted and did not make it to the street. So now Fall 2001 fashion collection comes out and they were shown in February. The designers continue to show the dressier look hoping to save their world. The fashion editors respond with "who cares, nobody wears this stuff." The retail buyers, like Spiegel, don't know what to do. So Spiegel produces a preview catalog as a market research tool to see what people will buy. If consumers order from the designer's selection in the catalog, then Spiegel will fill those orders this Fall and buy more for their big book. If no orders, then Spiegel is back to selling jeans and T-shirts. But at least they are not stuck with inventory they can't move and mounting losses, so Ottos happy. Now this is truly a change in the fashion industry. Finding out what the consumer wants and not what the designer dictates (Something the lifestyle catalogs have been doing for years).

The other part that I found of interest in this preview catalog was its timing. Since the Fall shows were just in February and considering the time it takes to design, shoot, layout, print and distribute a 280-page catalog (even with the new digital technology) all of the clothes shown in this catalog had to be samples straight from the designers. Designer samples come in one size and therefor the models who wear and show these clothes must come in one size. This is an excellent example why fashion model guide lines for height and size are so strict. If you fit the sample size you work, if you are any other size you do not work. It may not seem fair but that is how the business works.

1/22/02 Update to the story

Spiegel ended up putting everything from the preview catalog into their big book. A much more dress look then the general market place. There sales for fall and Christmas dropped 20% and were one of the big losers for retailers this in the second half of 2001 (quick sell my share in the company). We have also seen a number of the designer labels file for bankruptcy and top designers retire. WalMart, Target and casualing down were the winners. I am even seeing the fashion magazine putting movie stars and pop stars on their covers. The days of the super model may be coming to an end and those high modeling fees my be coming back down to earth. We will watch and see.

2/11/04 Continuing Story

Spiegel Group filled for bankruptcy almost a year ago. There January sales have gone from $183.9 million in 2000 to 98.6 million this January (almost half). It looks like their gamble did not pay off and it will be surprising to see them even stay in business.


Fashion News 1/26/2001

The big New York ready ware runway show happen next month and it will be interesting to see what direction designers go for Fall 2001. Spring lines are out and are running middle of the road. The big fashion news is no big changes. Summer looks like cotton, bright colors if you wish or not, pant length anywhere, skirt length anywhere, heel height anywhere, dress it up or dress it down but keep it neat and simple. I don't think any one is taking a big risk for summer especially with so may department stores in trouble. We will see what makes it on the racks and out the door.

Thanks for stopping by,


Fashion News
Jan. 2001

I have been following the Fall fashions from the ready ware shows last spring, through the fashion magazines and on to the racks in the store. The fashion designers tried to change the fashion trend from going casual (even grung) to more rich and dressy. The high end stores bought into the look but the low end stores did not (Nordstrom yes, Wards no). Now the top retail analyst on Wall Street say that it has flopped and fashion retailers are not doing well. In theory this lack of sales could effect fashion designers bottom lines and next year's promotion budgets. Fashion designer's promotion budgets effect how many photo and modeling jobs might come up and lower budgets per job. It will be a wait and see if this comes about but I would not buy stock in Nordstrom any time soon.

Thanks for stopping by,




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